View Full Version : Question for you cell measurers out there
03-12-2004, 09:55 PM
Have you folks done much measuring of cell sizes in older brood comb?
Ive never paid any attention until you all got me looking at cell sizes. Specifically when going thru dead stuff in the past couple of weeks I have run into old duragilt combs. Havent used any new in probably 10 years but unfortunatley there is still plenty of it in some boxes. What I see is that there are some major differences in cell size on a frame and I dont mean worker versus drone brood. there are patches of cells that are under 5.0. I can only assume they work it to whatever size they want or it shrinks a bunch over time.
i recall posting something on here last summer that i saw a colony with a mix of big and little bees. it now would make some sense that there isnt just one size of cell on some of those old foundation frames. heck they take my nice new pierco frames and draw out drone brood on them where ever they feel like so i guess this isnt so strange.
curious what you guys have seen?
03-13-2004, 06:23 AM
As far as just old comb that was 5.4mm at one time. They occasionaly rebuild some of it into drone and some of it into small cell, but mostly they try not to waste it so it stays 5.4mm except for the accumulation of cocoons, which are not taken into account by the measuring method of going across ten cells (which then INCLUDES the cell wall)
As far as naturally made comb from regressed bees (no foundation at all or unembossed starter strips) I see the center of the brood nest as small as 4.6mm with most of it about 4.85mm. As you expand out from the center it grows to about 5.15 or 5.2mm. On the edges where it's just honey storage it could be 6.0 to 6.6mm with most about 6.0. The drone comb is about 6.0 to 6.2mm also. So during the early spring when the brood nest is small the workers being raised are almost all small cell. During the main brood rearing the nest expands into the 5.15mm to 5.2mm areas and you get some larger bees from there. Then when the brood nest shrinks back down in the fall it goes back to just the small cell 4.85mm area.
As far as small cell beekeepers, they are using 4.9mm foundation and trying to get just 4.9mm cells in the brood nest and some of them are trying to get just 4.9mm cells everywhere. Some bees seem more willing to draw this consitently. From my experience the first regression will build about 5.15mm cells. The second will be about 4.9mm The third may be as small as 4.85mm but probably most of it will be 4.9mm
03-13-2004, 04:30 PM
I have used brood combs that were over 50 years old. I know of some that are close to 80 years old. An empty brood frame can be almost as heavy as a full honey frame and as tough as shoe leather.
I use to raise queens and often grafted out of other peoples breeders. The difference in grafting out of new comb and older, darker comb is very noticable. After working with the older comb, it takes a couple of hours to adjust to the new comb. There's just a lot more room to get lost in with the newly drawn comb.
I've seen bees renew older large cell comb. At some point they will strip it down to the midrib and build new sidewalls on the worker brood. I haven't seen them strip down the drone sized comb. At some point the comb becomes too old or tough and the bees just use it as it is without renewing it.
My small cell comb is just 4 years old so it's hard to compare it with 50+ year old comb. The bees appear to clean it out better than the larger sized stuff. There's not much coping around the cell collar and even the brood comb looks brand new.
Just my 2 cents worth.
03-13-2004, 05:32 PM
Hey guys. Thanks for the input.
Its pretty common for me to find them actively tearing down to the midrib and rebuilding for a variety of reasons. That seems to make sense that they perhaps rebuilt in various sizes at that point. Plus, given the nature of that old duragilt, maybe it no longer has a distinct cell pattern to follow so they make whatever they feel is needed.
I thought of another thing too. I usually toss those old duragilts that have plastic exposed when the hives come in for repair but only a percentage come in so it never all gets taken out in the winter. However, when I find the exposed plastic in the summer, i always cut the whole area out with the hive tool and they rebuild. Perhaps they made some small cell then. Guess i will have to take a look and see if there is any sign of that.
I think they just like to mess with my mind!!