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  1. #1
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    May 2006
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    my friend and i did some hiking in the mountains over the weekend. at the summit of one mountain there was a rocky out cropping. while looking out at the valley below, i noticed there were still rhododendrons and laurels in bloom, but there were some other flowering bush like trees with clusters of small white flowers. i could hear a hum to the air, so i climbed down a bit to investigate. there were lots of honey bees working those white flowers. i noticed a lot were loaded down with pollen, but they appeared to be gathering nectar from these particular flowers. but now i'm a bit confused. these bees are almost certainly wild or feral and they were pretty big. at least as big as my package bees, maybe slightly larger. and there colour was a bit more orangish than my italians. From what i've been reading online, wild/feral bees survive better because they are drawing natural size comb. and natural size comb is small cell. and small cell makes smaller bees. why were these bees so big? we were in a 7000+ acre 'scenic area', that's one step below 'wilderness area' classification in that the forest service roads are still available for use for most of the year. so i guess, someone could have brought in a hive or 2 and set them up somewhere. but, i dont think that was the case considering how far we were from any of the roads that i know of that are in there. most all of the property that borders this area is very rural and wooded(my father's land borders it). So my only guess is that it's a swarm from a managed hive from outside the national forest bounderies. How far will a swarm go from it's parent hive before settling? these bees were on a 4000+ ft mountain summit that was at least a mile and a half from the nearest forest service road and several miles(not sure exactly, maybe 4?) from the closest private land.
    -M@

  2. #2

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    Well... I have read here and other places that they will forage out from 2-4 miles. Depending on the source that you read. So I don't see why they would not swarm out to that sort of range as well. Just guessing but I don't see it unreasonable to find them establishing 4 miles away.

    One of the other members posted a link to an interesting paper on the communication process that goes on in chosing a new location. Seems from that its a recruitment process of scouts to locate and come back and convince enough of the other bees that the location they founds is preferable to what other scouts have found. And its a numbers game. No telling what scouts come back from and with and if its in a favorable direction for returning (say downwind that day or so) then more scouts may find it and in turn more scouts relate that location as favorable, convincing the swarm to go to that direction. Seems odd they would go that far.... but who am I to predict the randomness of nature.

    Not certain I am anywhere close. Sounds like a cool find.

  3. #3
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    Aug 2002
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    Brother Adam said the smaller English bees used to forage at least five miles because that's how far it was to the heather around there and the Italains wouldn't go that far. I don't know for sure how far a swarm will travel, but I would guess at least as far as the bees would forage.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  4. #4
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    after posting my original message, i got to reading some other threads here. now i'm even more confused about bee size :confused: i read where some people have actual smaller bees from small cell. ''tiny bees''. and other people mentioning that there's virtually no difference in the mature bee's size in SC or large cell combs since they still have different size bees based on the time of year. so maybe this question is best posed to Michael Bush? you seem to be one of the SC gurus on here [img]smile.gif[/img] are your bees smaller in general? can survivor/feral bees be identified based on their size?
    -M@

  5. #5
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    I'm not a small-cell guru, but I'd like to mention a couple things that come to mind after reading this thread.

    1) SC bees are smaller than "commercial-size" bees. If they weren't, I'd expect them to build cells just as large as the standard foundation sold by most beekeeping supply places. I've been led to believe that the reason for using larger cell sizes in the first place was to promote larger bees, which beekeepers at one time preferred.

    2) After thinking about it, I would actually expect honey bees in cold climates (such as very, very high in the mountains, perhaps?) to be larger than their counterparts in warmer climates. That trend tends to hold across most animals; members of a species living in colder climates are larger than members of that same species living in warmer climates. That's why the average body size of white-tailed deer, for instance, is much larger in the Dakotas than the average body size of white-tailed deer in Texas. The larger body size provides an advantage to surviving cold winters. The same might be true for honey bees.

    I've probably opened up the proverbial hornets' nest, especially with the latter comments, but such a trend might be worth exploring. Are bees at high elevations, or bees in northern climates, larger on average than bees in warmer climates?

  6. #6

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    There is some truth to the result but it leaves out some other factors. When it comes to the Deer analogy. Minerals in the soil, overpopulation etc. Other environmental effects leading to deer size interplay that have not that much to do with climate... but then again have to do with environment. But... yea.. its all inter related I guess. Fact is that yes, the southern Species of whitetail is smaller. However large localy grown examples exist. Mostly feeding on farm crops that recieve ample lime and fertilized fields for them to eat on. So its not all cold vs hot.

    [size="1"][ June 20, 2006, 02:14 PM: Message edited by: cphilip ][/size]

  7. #7
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    "The larger body size provides an advantage to surviving cold winters. The same might be true for honey bees."

    Except that winter survival in honeybees is a function of colony cluster size and not individual bee size. There is a lot of discussion of how a change in honeybee size affects said animals thermal properties and thus performance. I have yet to see anyone present any credible data. Remember, in many instances bees act as individuals, in others it makes more sense to consider the colony as the individual. To suggest that because northern deer (or any homeotherm) are larger, with a lower surface area to volume ratio, and thus reduced heat loss etc than southern deer, that the same is true for bees is not an apples to apples comparison. More like and apples to kelp. It might hold true, but then it very well may not. If you are interested in the thermal properties of insects check out:

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/067...Fencoding=UTF8

    And

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/067...lance&n=283155

    But this sort of thing is true of many of the claims made by the more hard line small cell proponants, including increased aerodynamic efficiency, increased muscle fiber densities in the thorax, foraging on different floral sources and thus having different nutrition available to them, drones flying faster and thus having better access to queens, more efficient division of labor etc. Even the notion that the bees are smaller seems to be a matter of contention within the small cell community.

    Do small cell bees tolerate varroa better? Probably, at least there is considerable anecdotal evidence to that effect. The rest of the claims? Let’s just say they are interesting and yet unproven.

    Keith "data, we need data" Benson
    Bee Sting Honey - So Good, It Hurts!

  8. #8
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    Sure, sure, I know. But let's just say that it's not winter survival, but foraging at lower temperatures. Let's say that larger honey bees are more effective at foraging in low temperatures than small honey bees because the larger honey bees retain heat from the hive longer than the smaller honey bees. That retained heat could let them get out and back before the flight muscles become too cold to power flight.

    Again, I'm not saying that it does work that way, but that it COULD work that way.

    If there's no advantage to size, why do bumblebees forage at much lower temperatures than honey bees?

  9. #9

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    No... I agree... some part of it is applicable.

  10. #10
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    >Are bees at high elevations, or bees in northern climates, larger on average than bees in warmer climates?

    Yes. As you go up in latitude and as you go up in altitude.

    http://www.beesource.com/pov/lusby/part8.htm
    http://www.beesource.com/pov/lusby/part6.htm
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  11. #11
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    Hmmmm. . . thanks for the information, Michael! I'd assumed as much, but didn't have anything other than a gut feeling to back it up.

    Now, would 4000 feet be high enough that the bees there might be larger? I don't know, but I wonder if it wouldn't.

  12. #12
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    "Let's say that larger honey bees are more effective at foraging in low temperatures than small honey bees because the larger honey bees retain heat from the hive longer than the smaller honey bees."

    "If there's no advantage to size, why do bumblebees forage at much lower temperatures than honey bees?"

    A) Bumbles are a different organism
    b) They are generally much fuzzier
    c) Actually it is more important for bumbles to shed the heat generated by flying - and their larger size makes it harder to do this. They have several specialized mechanisms to accomplish this - and if they fail they seize up. Read the bumble bee economics book I posted - really neat stuff.

    IS there an advantage to being larger in colder weather? Maybe, but the question is, has anyone shown this? Also, and I will try to recall where I read this, but the idea that bees get larger as you go toward the poles or up a mountain is not universal. After all, the worlds largest honeybee is tropical [img]smile.gif[/img]

    Keith

    [size="1"][ June 21, 2006, 07:19 AM: Message edited by: kgbenson ][/size]
    Bee Sting Honey - So Good, It Hurts!

  13. #13
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    Um, sure. Bumble bees are different organisms, and I really shouldn't have thrown them in.

    But look at it this way: the general rule is that within a species, individuals living in colder areas tend to be larger. Sure, it's not universal, and may not work entirely among insects, but let's look at the premise of the rule. The world's largest honeybee IS tropical, but it's also a different species.

  14. #14
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    Dee has posted in the past the relationship of altitude and latitude, but I would expect it to be the same as the effect on the climate which is generally available.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  15. #15

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    Off topic a tad but .... this is a facinating discussion I must say.

  16. #16
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    "But look at it this way: the general rule is that within a species, individuals living in colder areas tend to be larger"

    Well, not entirely - this is Bergmann's rule and generally applied to homeotherms. Of course there are those who can cite numerous exceptions to this rule, and can cite examples in the non-endothermic world. In other words, don't hang your hat on this rule. If you were to apply this to honeybees, the best way to do so is when they are at least behaving somewhat endothermically, i.e. as a cluster, in which case it would not be the individual bee size that matters, but the size of the winter cluster. As people who run NWC next to Italians will tell you, cluster size is not the only determinant of winter survival

    What I find interesting is that people talking about SC bees want to extrapolate Bergmann’s rule to bees, but they forget about Gloger's rule:

    From wikkipedia: Gloger's Rule is a zoological rule which states that within a species of endotherms, more heavily pigmented forms tend to be found near the equator and lighter forms away from the equator. It was named after the zoologist Constantin Wilhelm Lambert Gloger.

    Now IIRC there is also the notion amongst the small cell set that yellow bees are tropical/low lying areas and dark bees are from more northerly/elevated climes.

    Personally I don't think the bees read any books on the matter, and the assumptions being made are a smidgeon out there. If bees are larger at altitude or as one gets away from the equator, it may be a thermal issue, but it just as easily may not be.

    Perhaps for a tropical absconding prone bee like scuts it pays to have smaller cells and a slightly shorter generation time with which to get a colony going.

    The above is just as valid a theory, given that it is not based on any data, like many of the small cell assertions of why it [sc] "works".

    Keith

    [size="1"][ June 21, 2006, 01:30 PM: Message edited by: kgbenson ][/size]
    Bee Sting Honey - So Good, It Hurts!

  17. #17
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    --other people mentioning that there's virtually no difference in the mature bee's size in SC or large cell combs since they still have different size bees based on the time of year.

    Small cell range is from about 9.7mm to about 5.1mm in cell size. Although bee sizes may vary in the small cell ranges, there is a noticable difference between small cell bees and large cell bees of above 5.1 mm

  18. #18
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    --but now i'm a bit confused. these bees are almost certainly wild or feral and they were pretty big

    According to a study by HEPBURN, OGHIAKHE and RADLOFF, mountain bees are larger than that found in lower elavations.

  19. #19
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    --IS there an advantage to being larger in colder weather? Maybe, but the question is, has anyone shown this?

    Good questions,
    All I can add is that it has been shown that smaller body size withen the same species lives longer than same species larger sized bodies. This of course would be benificial to the survival of wintering honeybees.

  20. #20
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    --other people mentioning that there's virtually no difference in the mature bee's size in SC or large cell combs

    I have noticed something when I set up my honey stand OB hive at farmers markets. Some beekeepers are oblivious to the smaller size and do not notice, while others pick up on it right away and comment on how small the bees are. So it all depends on the observational skills of the person you are conversing with.

    ---SC gurus on here,
    are your bees smaller in general? can survivor/feral bees be identified based on their size?

    My bees are small cell, ferals, and noticeably smaller. Other characteristics are common in smaller ferals also. When I find ferals that are smaller in body size, my observations are that it usually will be accompanied by uniform looking workers (similar in size and markings). Brood viability will usually be at near 100% and the queen will have similar markings to others I have found in the past. After working with small cell bees and ferals for so long, it becomes easy to distinguish the smaller bees from the larger ‘possibly domestic models’ right off when I see them foraging.

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