View Full Version : Confusion
12-26-2003, 07:19 PM
Ok here goes.
I have no personal experience with small cell mainly because im not convinced on it but Im generally willing to at least look at new things. From what I gather about the small cell the common practice is to get the bees to draw all frames of 4.9 which seems to be somewhat difficult from the sounds of the postings. There seems to be some thought that maybe all small cell frames arent necessary but the more the better seems to be the theme.
A couple of folks from the chat room have heard me ramble about this swarm ive been looking at in an attic. It supposedly has been around for 50 years but I doubt that. I found out about them this past spring but I dont generally touch anything like this because its more hassle than its worth for me. So they were left all summer because the owner didnt want to kill them and they didnt seem to be hurting anything. Since the owner is a friend I told him I would look at them this winter when I had some time. Well ive looked at them and thought maybe i could move them out for him come spring and he could do all the clean up and sealing off the area so nobody else moves in. However, the owner just told me they gotta go this month because of remodeling that is scheduled real soon.
So the bees are most likely goners but im curious about the comb. So far ive pulled some of the combs out and looked at the main cluster area but havent yanked the bees out yet. The outside combs are full of honey and look to be extremely large storage cells. The comb overall looks to be many different ages from relatively new to VERY old.
Heres the puzzling part....the comb by the cluster seems to be MANY different sizes. If "large cell" is wrong but "small cell" is correct, I would think that I would find a large section of just small cell. It is appearing that there is just a patch of very small looking cell to the outside edges on a few center combs.....definately not covering the full comb nor covering a huge area relative to the entire mass of comb hanging. Now i havent begun to look at all the combs or do any precision measuring but I think what ive seen so far is fairly accurate of what is there. Does this make any sense to anyone who has messed with small cell or old swarms hanging in buildings?
12-27-2003, 06:03 AM
It sound similar to Joe W.'s feral swarm he found in PA. The pics are at yahoo's biological beekeeping photo section. In his colony the bees had a core section in the broodnest that was 4.9 or so cell sizing. Above the broodnest was I believe up to 5.2 cell sizing and a little below. There is supposed to be several sizes in a feral colony! But what beekeepers do isn't exactly normal to a feral colony either. Bees have wild combs, there is no frames, combs can't be moved around, and they sure aren't straight either. Also the beekeeper will often build (or try too) build up a much stronger colony to gather a surplus. Following the example of the bees in our langstroth colonies it seems logical to have the core of the broodnest small cell as the bees do (not always, but most that survive usually do). Since we build strong populations, rather than swarms (hopefully) it makes sense to have this core of small cells large enough to accomodate a larger cluster to keep parasitic mite more in check. Don't forget the way we manipulate and have the tendancy to move combs in and out of the broodnest, which makes sense to have as much uniformity as possible.
WM is it possible that as they stored honey the flow pressed the bees below the small cell area? No broodrearing will occur for some time. As they eat there way up will they then find themselves on small cell later? Just a speculative question?
12-27-2003, 07:22 AM
I am always a skeptic, so I didn't just put all my bees on small cell foundation. I put them on small cell starter strips and plain starter strips. I watch what they build. They do build a variety of sizes. They also may use comb that had honey in it previously for brood. Basicly, from what I have observed after they have regressed, they build anywhere from 4.6mm to 5.0mm for brood. They build anywhere from 5.6 to 6.6mm for honey. If they are fully regressed they build about 5.9 to 6.0mm for drones. But they also use what's handy. So if the queen needs to lay more and she finds some 5.3mm cells she may lay some workers in them.
If you want to see for your self, make some blank sheets of wax by dipping a wet board in hot wax and peeling off the wax and cutting it into strips. Put these at the top of the frames and see what the bees build. The first generation won't build 4.9mm but if you keep putting in blanks in the center of the brood nest they will get down to 4.85mm to 5.0mm.
From all of the research I've seen an early capping time by 20 hours would slow the mite reproduction enough to reach an equilibrium. An short postcapping time that is shorter by about 20 hours would also slow the mite reproduction enough to reach an equilibrium. I've observed both an early capping and a short post capping time in my small cell bees in my observation hive. I am constructing an experiment to try to measure this down to the hour instead of the day for 4.9mm workers, 5.45mm workers, 5.9mm drones and 6.6mm drones. I'll let everyone know how it comes out. Of course I won't be able to do this until spring.
12-27-2003, 07:58 PM
right now its relatively easy to take the full honey combs out and they seem to be "huge" cell. i have them saved but need to look closer at some point. i wish they would use up more honey near the cluster so it would be easier to get the comb out without having to deal with the honey. however, they seem pretty conservative so that doesnt look likely. at some point im gonna have to deal with the bees but hopefully the temps continue to fall and they become lethargic. after i get more comb out ill try to figure out how to actually measure the cells. any suggestions on the preferred method of measuring?
12-27-2003, 08:18 PM
Oppss almost forgot your question Clay.
I can see for sure that there are definate areas of just honey storage even on areas of very old comb....seems to be to the outer part of the whole structure. I see no indication of anything but wax and dont think brood has ever been on it. Must be the natural version of a super....lol.
As I have whittled away at the honey and moved inward there is currently one area of brood nest that is open and up high....nothing stored and no bees. I would imagine that they were on that area most recently and it was layed but then abandoned as bees emerged and the winter set in. The bees are clustered off to the side of that comb now in an area with some pollen and honey. I see zero brood but I wouldnt expect more than about a golf/tennis ball sized patch now from most stuff so there could surely be brood i cant readily see.
Below the cluster there also seems to be empty brood combs. Im not sure if maybe they moved down there and now have moved back up but I suspect that they were still up high late in the fall. If they move in an up/down pattern as in a typical hive they would normally fill the top with honey and push her down but I suspect there was not enough fall flow for that to ever happen and that accounts for the empty brood looking comb down low.
Overall there are more than enough stores for wintering this sized cluster of dark bees. On the other hand, there is also a tremendous amount of empty brood comb. However, itt was a relatively poor honey year with absolutely no fall flow....the worst fall ive seen in 30 years.
12-28-2003, 06:18 AM
On really old comb it's hard to say what the inside of the cells are now with cocoons in them, but the standard method for measuring cell size is to measure across 10 cells in mm and divide by 10. If you want more accuracy, measure in three directions. and in several places.
12-28-2003, 08:43 AM
Hi Wineman and Everyone,
I ran a top bar hive to actually see what the bees did naturally. Check out:
It describes what I found. And it didn't match the either large or small cell concept. The bees build a variety of cell sizes but in a nest that had a definite structure.
The bees want a wide range of cell sizes, mostly determined by location within the broodnest structure. Throughtout the broodnest about 60% of the cells were large worker cell size, about 20% were small cell size and the remaining 20% were drone size.
Location is everything. Drone sized cells made up about 40% of the comb in the peripheria. And about 40% of the comb in the core of the broodnest was small cell size.
This core area is critical to colony health. It's the area that the bees rear brood in during the spring and fall. They actively remove mites and infected brood during these times from the smaller brood cells.
The bees don't generally construct patches of larger or smaller sized cells in the core of the broodnest area. But the worker cell sizes gradually taper from one size to another. The larger cells are generally toward the top of the comb and the smaller will be toward the bottom. It's very easy to miss the change in cell size.
I thought I could spot the difference based on my experience with small cell sized foundation but couldn't until I saw the structure display in Joe Waggles feral hive picture.
Comb building is not a very simple process. I watched the bees change their focus under varing conditions. They would work horizontally and then suddenly work comb vertically to handle nectar flows and still develop the broodnest structure. When I inserted small cell sized starter strips, the bees reworked them to a larger size while constructing small cell sized comb on the bottom of the adjacent comb. It was in the wrong location.
Cell size is just one factor in natural comb building, although an important one. It appears that much of the speculation promoted with small cell beekeeping is based on several oversimplifications connected with cell size and bee size.
And it is confusing for a small cell beekeeper who has seen the advantages of small cell based comb when confronted with truely natural comb. It was for this beekeeper, hence my top bar hive confession.
I had assimilated much of the rhetoric and speculation as fact but found out it taint necessarily so. Looking back, many of the problems associated with small cell beekeeping are connected to these assumptions. When the erroneous assumptions and the management practices associated with them are divorced from small cell beekeeping, it should become much easier and very natural.
I think beekeeping will move from one cell size, whether small or large, to all cell or natural cell sizes.
You have a great opportunity with this feral hive. Keep track of the combs orientation, especially in the broodnest. Take lots of pictures if the comb can't be salvaged. Include a metric ruler on the comb face for each shot and the measurements can be done without the mess or the stings.:> )
12-28-2003, 04:24 PM
your webpage is very interesting. the concept of natural cell size is the first thing that has been put forth that makes sense to me.
at some point down the road i'll take a stab at trying to figure out the different sizes of cell present and what percentage they comprise.
01-25-2004, 05:59 PM
Here is the 1st rough pass at figuring out the sizes of the combs. This was done quickly so dont expect too much.
(1) Theres a bunch of comb at least in my opinion but maybe not by feral colony standards. About 2850 square inches.
(2) About 1050 inches seem to be honey storage to me. Maybe brood has been reared in it but I dont see any evidence. I only took a couple of measurements in this area.....it seemed to vary from 5.7 to over 6.0
(3) Then you hit what seems to be part of a more typical brood nest. This area covers about 600 inches and varies alot......like 5.3 to 5.9. The larger cells are at the top and it generally get smaller towards the bottom. Seems to have held pollen, honey, drones and worker brood and one nervous queen.
(4) Move more to the center and you find combs that have the same larger cell at top and smaller at bottom pattern. This whole brood area makes up about 1200 inches. However, now the cells seem to run from 5.5/5.4 at the top to 4.85/4.8 at the bottom. One exception was a comb, slightly off center and away from the entrance, where cells were 5.1 to 4.6. Also, within all of these combs in this area, you will see a patch of much larger cell here and there that I think was for drones.
Within this 1200 inches:
(a) Stuff over 5.2 upto 5.5 range make up about 850 inches.
(b) Stuff from around 5.1 to just under 5.2 make up about 175 inches
(c) Stuff under 5.0 was about 175 inches
Not sure what to consider small cell but if it is around 5.0 and less, then this colony had about 9% of the total brood type area.....I didnt count the pure honey storage area but just where I found brood evidence, however, not sure if that is the best if you are trying to compare to a typical hive where some outside frames are probably just stores and dont see much brood activity.
If you also consider the stuff that is just over 5.0 and approaching 5.2 then you get another possible 9% of the brood rearing area.
Well thats what I found. Hope you find it useful.