I have compiled some of the measurements obtained from my small cell bees in a top bar hive experiment.
Drone sized cells comprised about 18 percent of the comb. Large cell size made up about 60 percent of the comb and small cell size about 22 percent overall.
Horizontally, some interesting patterns can be seen. The smaller cell sizes generally increase in quantity toward the front of the hive and larger cell sizes increase toward the rear of the hive. Drone comb was generally drawn on the right side of the hive nearest the entrance. Worker brood was generally drawn on the left side fatherest away from the entrance.
Vertically, the larger cells were closest to the top bar and cell size gradually decreased toward the bottom of the comb.
Toward the front of the hive about 40 percent of the cells are small cell size with some individual combs almost half small cell. No small cell sizes are found toward the rear of the hive.
Large cell sizes gradually increase from about 55 percent at the front to almost 70 percent at the rear.
Drone sizes range from about 5 percent at the front to 30 percent at the rear.
Small cell sizes are traded mostly for drone size and a few large cell sizes toward the rear of the hive
It should be noted that these cell size divisions are really arbitrary as the bees donÂ’t actually construct one size cell and then switch to another. The change is very gradual and progressive. Maybe these American bees never did learn to use a metric ruler :> )
I have added a section describing the methods and tables with the results at:
[This message has been edited by BWrangler (edited August 11, 2003).]
Last edited by BWrangler; 04-06-2017 at 09:13 PM.
Reason: link updated
I have had trouble quantifying the cell size and the orientation. There is so much variation of both, but in general have observed the same as you have. There was a lot of drone brood and mostly arranged as you have said, although I'm not sure about the left and right side distribution of them. There is also a range of cell sizes for brood, all of it smaller than the enlarged 5.4mm foundation in common usage, but varying from 4.8mm to 5.25mm. But it's difficult to say what the distribution of them are. Changes are too gradual and therefore difficult to quantify.
Hi Michael and Everyone,
I have found it very difficult to measure the natural cell size in the field.
But if pictures are taken with a scale, it can easily be done at home on the computer. The scale can be "cut" out and then moved or rotated around the picture of the comb. That allows as many measurements as possible to be easily taken.
Areas of different cells can be delineated and measured out.
I have taken dozens of measurements on each comb this way, whereas I would probably only take two or three on a comb in the field.
For some reason I find it particularly hard to judge the cell sizes on natural comb in the field. Drone size is pretty easy to spot as is the stuff 4.8mm and below, but the rest ???? It just changes so subtely that without the pictures it would be impossible for me to even guess a quantity.
I like the stuff on your website, but I have pointers. Or rather one pointer. Change the names of your hyperlinks to reflect the page you are going to view. If one isn't diligent about clicking on all the links, one might assume you only have 2 pages instead of the 4 or 5 that I found.
Thanks for the pointers. I have made a note on the first page.
You say you've had trouble quantifying the cell size and the orientation. Where the bees you used to start this TBH from existing small cell comb? It would be good to get some background on them. The bees Dennis and I used for our TBH were bees that came from SC comb. I guess next year Dennis is going to try putting bees from LC comb into a TBH and see if they will construct any small cells on their own.
I started several "natural comb" hives from several sources. The TBH on blank starter strips was from a package of bees I purchased this spring. I also started a hive on frames with blank starter strips with another package and I have a couple of small cell shaken swarms on blank starter strips. In all cases there is a lot of variance in size and orientation of the comb. The smallest cells are the worker brood and it tends to be in the center of the brood nest. The largest cells are honeycomb or drone cells.
Definitely bees that make their own comb are smaller than bees on 5.4mm foundation. And, of course, the small cell bees made smaller comb than the larger bees. But these are still difficult to quantify with the large variations of sizes.
I am beginning to wonder if all these natural subcastes serve a purpose that we have not ascertained yet.
Hi Michael and Everyone,
I have noticed that the physical size and appearance of bees raised only on small cell comb varies thoughout the season, even though the cell size doesn't.
Typical small cell looking bees make up most of the hive population in the spring and fall. Typical large cell looking bees make it up during mid summer.
Maybe the physiology of the bees change as the season changes. Research has shown that winter bees are physically different than summer bees. Maybe mid summer bees are different than spring/fall bees.
Could the variation, seasonal use and distribution of cell size augment this size change in the bee? Those larger mid summer bees would be raised in the larger cells in my tbh.
Am I full of wild and crazy ideas or what :> )
I have noticed a seasonal variation in the size of my large cell bees.
My large cell hive is now producing smaller bees than were seen earlier. This smaller bee is not as small as a fall sized small cell bee but it's definately smaller than a mid summer large cell bee. This hive is located in my backyard and is not near any other hives.
I had not noticed this behavior before but I'd never looked for it either.
Before getting involved with small cell, different sized bees were not significant to me. And all worker comb was the same too. Can you image that :> )