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  1. #1
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    Default Does small cell really work?

    Lately I have been pondering for the simple sake of pondering if small cell really works in the control of Varroa mites. I have come to the conclusion that I have no idea.

    Here's the thing, capping the cells faster wouldn't change the number of mites in the hive, nor would it impede the existing mites from finding open cells. So I don't think it would change the mite count in the hive... but since there are more cells per frame, and because smaller bees would most likely require less food per larva, it might allow the queen to lay more which would reduce the mite per bee ratio, but smaller forraging bees would also not be able to bring in as much pollen/nectar per load, so thinking about this in terms of productivity, the mite per lb. of production would remain the same, or possibly increase if the queen didn't lay enough additional eggs to offset the difference in size, or get reduced if she does... and do we even know if that would result in more eggs/bees in the hive? I just don't know.

    I don't even know why I'm thinking about this since I haven't got any plans to regress to small cell anyway. Hopefully now that I've posted about it, it'll stop pestering my thoughts.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Does small cell really work?

    There are several threads on this subject, and as with any other subject many different opinions. Some say it does, some say it does not.
    A government large enough to provide everything you need is strong enough to take everything you have. T. Jefferson

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Does small cell really work?

    Quote Originally Posted by SgtMaj View Post
    Lately I have been pondering for the simple sake of pondering if small cell really works in the control of Varroa mites...
    I have been using small-cell comb from beeswax and plastic foundation, also some foundationless frames where the bees build combs strictly to suit themselves for better than a decade. Before that I used Pierco plastic foundation and the usual commercial beeswax foundation. Curiously I never had any issues with Varroa mites either before I changed to small-cell/foundationless, nor since. I switched to small-cell/foundationless simply because it sounded interesting and I wanted to see if there were any differences that I might be able to notice by doing that. I still haven't decided if there are any obvious differences, but it is fun and interesting to see the bees using comb with those tiny cells (some foundationless comb have cells as small as 4.6mm).
    48 years - 50 hives - TF
    Joseph Clemens -- Website Under Constructioni

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Does small cell really work?

    Current tests (performed by "professionals") demonstate that mite levels INCREASE in small cell comb. But, to date no test has been "long term". Perhaps levels do first increase and for some reason (may not be due to SC) decrease after colony is "established". Many good, honest beekeepers report having "no mites" w/ SC. They can't ALL be wrong, (or giving untrue inforamation).

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Does small cell really work?

    There are plenty of people doing small cell who don't even know it. The Pierco runs (depending on size and whether it's frames) from 5.2mm to 5.3mm. The Mann Lake PF100 series is 4.95mm. Then you have the actually advertised as 4.9mm wax.

    I know with no other change than the foundation size I went from losing all my bees to Varroa to the Varroa coming under control. Now eight years later with all small cell and natural cell, I can barely find any Varroa to count or show people.

    http://www.bushfarms.com/beessctheories.htm

    As far as the commend on capping times, shorter capping times make all the difference in the world not to mention other issues. But if a cell is capped sooner and less Varroa infest it there will be less offspring. If it is capped a shorter period of time by even eight hours, the actual viable offspring drop in half.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Does small cell really work?

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Bush View Post
    As far as the commend on capping times, shorter capping times make all the difference in the world not to mention other issues. But if a cell is capped sooner and less Varroa infest it there will be less offspring. If it is capped a shorter period of time by even eight hours, the actual viable offspring drop in half.
    Not to stir up a ruckus but if this were true wouldn't it have shown up in those small cell test that Florida and UGA did with drawn out small cell, instead they showed a increase in mites with small cell, even if it would have shown equals mite population capping times still aren't slowing down mites reproducing. I have always heard capping times was the main reason small cell worked, seems through the test this can't be true or mite population would have been considerably less in the small cell hives, does this make since to anyone else, I think if someone wants to use small cell what would it hurt, nothing at all, I just have to question some of the stories when everything I read in test shows different. I know the people that preformed these test and they are Highly respectable people in the bee world. I am not saying small cell doesn't work or have benefits but saying mite levels drop considerably because of capping times when test shows this not to be true is why I posted here, just my opinion
    Last edited by TwT; 12-20-2009 at 07:07 AM.
    Ted

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Does small cell really work?

    TwT
    My back ground is in biology, and one of the first things I learned was that often what makes sense to us does not work in the real world that an orgnism lives in. Often the detail of why it works excapes us. Even though we like to think we have the answers we do not. I am not a proponent of small cell, but it obviously works at least for some. I am also convinced that it will not work everywhere. I also think there is a real good chance that there is another factor that has not been identified, it may well not have anything to do with cell size. There are beeks that use large cells that also claim to not have a mite problem.
    Dave

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Does small cell really work?

    I can agree with that but I was just questioning the capping statement, I always live by "If it isn't broke don't fix it". I am one of those that have no problems with mites and use regular sized foundation but I also have the so called feral hives I got from removals. I got some Italians last year (08) just to steal brood from for nuc production and only one of those still around but my removal hives are still going strong. I kelp the italians in a separate yard.
    Last edited by Barry; 12-20-2009 at 11:26 AM. Reason: quoting the entire previous post
    Ted

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Does small cell really work?

    Let's assume a short term study (which all of them have been) during the drone rearing time of the year (which all of them have been) and make the assumption for the moment that Dee Lusby's "psuedodrone" theory is true, meaning that with large cell the Varroa often mistake large cell workers for drone cells and therefore infest them more. The the Varroa in the large cell hives during that time would be less successful because they are in the wrong cells. The Varroa, during that time would be more successful on the small cell because they are in the drone cells. But later in the year this may shift dramatically when, first of all the small cell workers have not taken damage from the Varroa and second of all the drone rearing drops off and the mites have nowhere to go.

    In the end, as Dann Purvis says, "it's not about mite counts. It's about survival". No one seems interested in measuring that. What I do know is that after a couple of years the mite counts dropped to almost nothing on small cell. But that did not take place in the first three months...
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Does small cell really work?

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Bush View Post
    Let's assume a short term study (which all of them have been) during the drone rearing time of the year (which all of them have been)
    a 2 year study is short term using small cell and regressed bee's? I am not saying small cell doesn't work, but I believe if it works for you keep using it, all I was discussing was the statement about capping time's effecting mites

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Bush View Post
    and make the assumption for the moment that Dee Lusby's "psuedodrone" theory is true, meaning that with large cell the Varroa often mistake large cell workers for drone cells and therefore infest them more. The the Varroa in the large cell hives during that time would be less successful because they are in the wrong cells.
    and I always heard it was smell that attracted mites to drones, mites cant feel the size of cell like queens do so I wouldn't think the size of cell has anything to do with a mites choice. I do think they will choose worker cells when drone's aren't being raised.

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Bush View Post
    The Varroa, during that time would be more successful on the small cell because they are in the drone cells. But later in the year this may shift dramatically when, first of all the small cell workers have not taken damage from the Varroa and second of all the drone rearing drops off and the mites have nowhere to go.
    I thought the test were done all during the year, still if capping time does effect mite production then this time of the year when no drones are being raised small cell would have less mites than regular cell bee's wouldn't you say? but the studies didn't show this, seems capping time has nothing to do with mite reproduction or those studies would have shown this

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Bush View Post
    In the end, as Dann Purvis says, "it's not about mite counts. It's about survival". No one seems interested in measuring that. What I do know is that after a couple of years the mite counts dropped to almost nothing on small cell. But that did not take place in the first three months...
    I agree totally with Dann's statement. on my hives I can pull drone brood at times and not find any mites and sometimes just find one mite, on some hives I may find just a few, but I never find a lot of mites on any hive kinda like what you find but I am not on small cell.
    Last edited by TwT; 12-20-2009 at 10:41 AM.
    Ted

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Does small cell really work?

    >a 2 year study is short term using small cell and regressed bee's?

    I'm haven't kept up with what Jennifer Berry has published recently, but the last I heard it was only a few months.

    > I am not saying small cell doesn't work, I personal don't care and believe if it works for you keep using it, all I was discussing was the statement about capping time's effecting mites

    If a cell is capped a day early less Varroa enter the cell. If it emerges a with a day less time for the Varroa to reproduce, that's half as many offspring from the Varroa that did enter the cell. If the Varroa have a stronger preference for drone cells on small cell, which I believe they do, then there is less stress on the worker brood from the Varroa.

    >and I always heard it was smell that attracted mites to drones, mites cant feel the size of cell like queens do so I wouldn't think the size of cell has anything to do with a mites choice. I do think they will choose worker cells when drone's aren't being raised.

    If you listen to Jennifer Berry's presentation at HAS, seems like about a third of the way through, she talks about several studies on the subject. The end result is this. It's both the size, and the smell. When they put drone larvae in worker cells and worker larvae in worker cells the Varroa preferred the drones. When they put worker larvae in worker cells and worker larvae in drone cells the Varroa preferred the worker larvae in the drone cells. So, bottom line is that it is both the smell and the size.

    >I thought the test were done all during the year

    When her presentation was given at HAS, she had only done a several month study.

    > still if capping time does effect mite production then this time of the year when no drones are being raised small cell would have less mites than regular cell bee's wouldn't you say?

    Phoretic? If the Varroa were infesting the drones in preference to the workers, they may have been more successful and therefore there might be more phoretic mites. But my experience in the long term is that there were less mites. In the short term, however, it could actually result in a more Varroa at some times and less at other times.

    > but the studies didn't show this, seems capping time has nothing to do with mite reproduction or those studies would have shown this

    As I said if the majority of the Varroa are infesting the drone cells on the small cell then you could actually end up with more successful reproduction of the mites and less damage to the workers. Shorter capping times on the workers wouldn't have much effect on the results if they are preferring the longer capping times in the drones.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Does small cell really work?

    Quote Originally Posted by TwT View Post
    I am one of those that have no problems with mites and use regular sized foundation
    Could you say the same thing back in 2002?
    Regards, Barry

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Does small cell really work?

    couldn't say Barry, I started doing removals the first year I started beekeeping in 04, I missed the bad years when the mites was destroying all the hives, not all my removals or swarm catches fared well but a few hives did, that's the hives I have been expanding on, I still do removals and swarm catches but have test yards to put them in and see if they make it, if they make it 2 years I will move to a another yard and raise from them to see how their daughters do, so far my little project is working pretty good.
    Ted

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Does small cell really work?

    That's fine, but keep in mind that when Lusby's first started SC, and then others picked it up (myself included), there was no one on LC claiming to keep bees without medicating and treating. The whole reason I moved this direction was I refused to go from Apistan onto Checkmite. So there is still something else going on that wasn't there just 8 years ago.
    Regards, Barry

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Does small cell really work?

    >>I thought the test were done all during the year . . .
    I can not find ONE test that was made AFTER bees have been on SC for a year or longer. It would be difficult to make a "judgement" after bees had "survived" for a long period of time. How would you "prove" the "cause".

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Does small cell really work?

    >It would be difficult to make a "judgement" after bees had "survived" for a long period of time. How would you "prove" the "cause".

    It seems like if I had 20 hives or so on large cell in one location and a couple of miles away I had 20 hives or so on small cell and they keep dying off in one location and not the other, that is a fair indication. Granted not a perfect one as other things can happen, but if you were watching for things like pesticide kills, etc. and they are both on similar crops etc. they should have a pretty even chance. I know from the late 1990's to the early 2000's I lost all my large cell hives to Varroa several times, so when I lost none of the small cell to Varroa, that seemed dramatic enough difference for me.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Does small cell really work?

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Bush View Post
    I know from the late 1990's to the early 2000's I lost all my large cell hives to Varroa several times, so when I lost none of the small cell to Varroa, that seemed dramatic enough difference for me.
    Micheal, was there another correlation at work there, like maybe around that same time period you stopped treating for varroa and your subsequent bees (which by that time you may have switched all to small cell) might have started developing mite resistance due to your cessation of miticide treatments?
    I'm just wondering about it and wanted to ask you about that aspect.
    The little bee returns with evening's gloom,
    To join her comrades in the braided hive... -Tennyson

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Does small cell really work?

    Quote Originally Posted by TwT View Post
    I got some Italians last year (08) just to steal brood from for nuc production and only one of those still around but my removal hives are still going strong.
    To me this is an interesting observation that genetics plays a significant role in the bees ability to manage mites.

  19. #19

    Default Re: Does small cell really work?

    It's also worth noting that nothing truly works entirely 'alone' There is the very real possibility that it is the combination of factors at work that makes it achievable.

    no treatment on it's might not be sufficient.

    Small or natural cell alone might not be sufficient.

    combining no treatment and natural cell is possible to bring about the desired effect.

    I find that focusing on only one thing is often seldom the answer because few things in the natural world act on their own. It is the coinciding of multiple events or agents, etc.. that produce various actions/results/etc...

    Just my own two cent.

    Big Bear
    No, I am NOT a bee "Keeper". Anything I post is just my opinion. Take it easy and think for yourself.

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Does small cell really work?

    >Micheal, was there another correlation at work there, like maybe around that same time period you stopped treating for varroa and your subsequent bees (which by that time you may have switched all to small cell) might have started developing mite resistance due to your cessation of miticide treatments?

    No. Breeding from local survivors came later and because I wanted bees that are acclimatized to my area.

    http://www.bushfarms.com/beessctheories.htm

    >Small or natural cell alone might not be sufficient.

    I think genetics is important to things like winter survivability, but small cell was sufficient to resolve my Varroa issues. Still I do recommend people raise their own local queens or find a source of local queens that are surviving without treatments. But the only step I took before resolving the Varroa issues was the cell size.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

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