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Thread: Small Cell Hive

  1. #101
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    Default Re: Small Cell Hive

    OldTimer, can I offer an incomplete thought I've been tossing round for a while...

    (For the record, you know I'm speaking theoretically and not experientially, as I won't be starting on small cell trials until next season. )

    The magic 4.9 number has concerned me for a while. If it is such an effective threshold, then there has to be a 'why' to it.

    Particularly in light of the argument sometimes put forward of 'but if my bees can get smaller, why won't the varroa will just adapt and get smaller too".

    So I started to think in terms of varroa history, and original host of apis cerana. It's widely reported that varroa does not (I'm not sure how categorical that 'not' is,) infest worker cells of cerana. Next question: size of cerana drone and worker cells. I can't recall offhand the average worker size - somewhere under 4.5 mm - 4.4? 4.3?, but I have found that cerana drone cell size is commonly reported as 5.1 mm. Bingo maybe?

    At 5.0 you're under that cell size. 4.9 would give a better margin, obviously, but the difference that would make is going to be hard to quantify.

    As for the 'why', maybe the 'why' is just 'because that's the cell size varroa need to breed effectively at their natural size'. If cell size is a key issue and varroa haven't been able to size down to reproduce in cerana worker cells, then maybe they won't be able to size down to reproduce in (very) small mellifera cells.

    Obviously there are a bunch of other variables not addressed - duration of capped period, temperature, etc... but it's something to think about.

    I do hope you continue with the experiment. It's obvious you have a wealth of experience and an analytical enough head on your shoulders to draw some good conclusions out of it.

  2. #102
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    Default Re: Small Cell Hive

    Good thoughts Deejaycee.

    You must start a thread when you start so i can see how it's going with other kiwis.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  3. #103
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    Default Re: Small Cell Hive

    A thought just occurred to me-

    We know that bees tend to be slightly varied sizes in different parts of the world, thus their cell sizes can vary naturally according to the geographical location.
    Has anyone measured varroa mites to see if they, like the bees, also vary in size according to their location and climate? Maybe in an area where natural 'small cell' is 5. rather than 4.9, the mites are slightly bigger too and thus it might work the same way as if it were smaller mites and 4.9 cells?
    The little bee returns with evening's gloom,
    To join her comrades in the braided hive... -Tennyson

  4. #104
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    Default Re: Small Cell Hive

    There's one part of that theory I don't quite buy. The size of the bee is related to the size of the cell. But I don't see how a mite is similarly restricted. Some have said that the small cells are too small for the mites, but that doesn't make sense. A mite's diameter is in the range of the length of a single side of the cell. You could fit dozens of mites in a cell if you tried.

    The argument for small cell was always that the smaller bee offers less of a nutritional enticement for the mite than the physically larger drone. That's why BKs freeze drone brood. Mites prefer drone. So make the workers smaller, mites will prefer drone even more. Dee Lusby stated that the large cell worker brood offered larger pseudo-drones that the mites were more interested in, thus greater infestation of worker brood than would have normally been present. Hence, more natural or smaller sized bees have fewer problems with varroa because workers are less affected than drones. A chewed out worker means one less worker to shoulder the work of the hive. A chewed out drone means virtually nothing because drones come and go and are regularly lost anyway.

    It seems to me, the idea that varroa adjust in size along with workers morphed from the idea that smaller sized bees had smaller trachea thus limiting access by tracheal mites. Neither of which have I ever seen proved true.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  5. #105
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    Default Re: Small Cell Hive

    Oldtimer do you still have your small cell hive going?
    https://www.facebook.com/stevesbees99
    Please visit my page, Thanks

  6. #106
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    Default Re: Small Cell Hive

    Yes there's now 8 of them plus some nucs. Would have been more but two were overwhelmed by mites a few months back. I don't actually want any more now just want to hold things where they are for 2 or 3 years to see how they go then decide if it's worth doing more of them.

    Some of the 8 hives house my breeder queens, plus do the queen cell raising, the idea being to raise the queen larvae in a chemical free environment. Most of the queen cells go to large cell nucs.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  7. #107
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    Default Re: Small Cell Hive

    I thought the theory behind small cell was larva/pupa development time. Larger ones take longer to mature and the smaller ones don't give the mites enough time to develop into full strength.

    First time I have heard about smaller bees being less enticing because they make a smaller meal.

  8. #108
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    Default Re: Small Cell Hive

    Oldtimer, seems to me I recall reading a brief statement in either Bee Culture or the American Bee Journal in the last month or so that small cells do not work as mite controls. Have you seen or read those studies referenced?

    I've never used small cell, but use treatment free bees, and have never treated for mites, nor lost a hive to mites.
    Regards,
    Steven
    "If all you have is a hammer, the whole world is a nail." - A.H. Maslow

  9. #109
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    Default Re: Small Cell Hive

    i haven't tried it myself so i really shouldn't comment.

    looks to me like mite resistance is one of those multifactorial situations in which there won't be one thing or another that ends up being the answer.

    my feeling at this point is that it starts with good basic beekeeping, add a little resistant stock, requeen as indicated, and proceed with eyes and mind wide open.
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  10. #110
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    Aug 2012
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    Portland, Tennessee, USA
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    240

    Default Re: Small Cell Hive

    Squarepeg, you hit the nail on the head, so to speak. Good basic beekeeping & a little knowledge of both bees and mites will go along way. I don't believe there is a single solution to the mite problem. I think that the mite problems are going to be controlled by multiple means. Also we should not be looking for a way to eliminate the mites, only ways to controll their numbers so that the bees can defend against them naturally. That way we build resistant/tolerant stock. Just my nickles worth ( inflation )

    BTW, I do run small cell bees, since 2008, never treated for mites, never seen a mite. Is small cell aiding in this? I say yes. I also have 1 hive of large bees, and 1 topbar hive with natural size cell bees. Haven't seen a mite in them either. I know they are in my area. A beek about 6 miles from me has lost 20 hives to mites in the last 5 years. He argues that small cell is bunk, but has not comments on his losses vrs my healthy, thriving hives. Who knows?

  11. #111
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    Default Re: Small Cell Hive

    BTW, I do run small cell bees, since 2008, never treated for mites, never seen a mite. Is small cell aiding in this? I say yes. I also have 1 hive of large bees, and 1 topbar hive with natural size cell bees. Haven't seen a mite in them either. I know they are in my area. A beek about 6 miles from me has lost 20 hives to mites in the last 5 years. He argues that small cell is bunk, but has not comments on his losses vrs my healthy, thriving hives. Who knows? [/QUOTE]

    Well, you've been lucky. In this case isolation appears to be your best ally. When the mites first hit Hawaii a few years ago, I attended a meeting where I was told by someone with lots of mite experience that it takes 3 years for the mites to get you. He proved to be correct, as regards my bees.

    I've been doing small cell/natural cell for the last 4 years, and I do see mites in the drone larvae. Do I treat? I didn't for the first 3 years. Now I'm not sure, or not saying.

    But my real reason for commenting, after having read through this entire thread, is that comb spacing has not been mentioned. As I understand it. the small cell theory also involves closer frame spacing, which is said to make the brood nest too warm for the mites. Is this true? I don't know, and I'm not sure that the university experiments mentioned by TK actually did this. And also in reply to TK, the reason people do small cell is so they don't need to treat their bees. Whether it works for everyone is another story.

    As I said, it's a theory. My combs are still on 1.375 spacing; however, I'm hoping to evolve to more closely spaced combs.

    Were I am Oldtimer, (actually I am), I would look to evolve those 'test' hives to natural comb with closer spacing.

    That's my 25 cents. I understand inflation, and that still may be an underestimate of reality in 2012.

  12. #112
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    Default Re: Small Cell Hive

    Yes good points raised in the last few posts, but sorry I don't know the answers to hardly any of them! But good to throw those ideas around.

    Re the comb spacing, for sc I do now actually run frames that can fit 11 to a box although I run 10 squished to the middle, just so removing frames & working the hive generally is easier. I've noticed bees are more inclined generally, to draw the 4.9 foundation properly, if the combs are narrow, they just mimick what happens in a wild hive, the smaller celled combs are also narrower and closer. As to the idea about the tighter, warmer, brood nest inhibiting mites, I did read the paper on it, but not sure I buy it, temperature has to be considerably higher to stop mites breeding and this is not attained in any hive, regardless of comb spacing.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  13. #113
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    Default Re: Small Cell Hive

    Quote Originally Posted by deejaycee View Post
    So I started to think in terms of varroa history, and original host of apis cerana. It's widely reported that varroa does not (I'm not sure how categorical that 'not' is,) infest worker cells of cerana. Next question: size of cerana drone and worker cells. I can't recall offhand the average worker size - somewhere under 4.5 mm - 4.4? 4.3?, but I have found that cerana drone cell size is commonly reported as 5.1 mm. Bingo maybe?
    Here's at least an incidental answer to the catagorical "not": http://scholar.google.com/citations?...J:wbdj-CoPYUoC

  14. #114
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    Default Re: Small Cell Hive

    correct. is not a 'catagorical not'. but no question about it, varroa prefers drone larva. the idea is that those extra days under the cap allow for more daughters to be born and fertilized by their older brother.

    i believe the thinking is that the larger the bee,(except for the queen, but she is fed 'miracle grow'), the longer the pupal phase, and the mites know it.

    what's hard to know, is whether or not the successes some have with small cell is because of the small cell, (and the one day shorter pupal phase for workers), or because they are employing other effective beekeeping methods.

    i may try to regress my colonies eventually, but only after i have attempted and failed with other means, primarily keeping the diet as natural as possible and selecting for adaptive stock, along with other common sense measures.
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  15. #115
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    Default Re: Small Cell Hive

    Regressing bees, and keeping them regressed, is quite a drama. Straight up, it's a lot of work, even fully regressed bees are constantly using any opportunity to build larger cells, which then requires the beekeeper to melt them down and start again.

    Seems there is an increasing number of people treatment free on non 4.9 cell foundation, and being just as successful as the small cellers. Even makes me wonder if the likes of say, Sol, would notice no difference re mites, if they moved to natural comb, and even standard comb foundation. I think there are other factors at play.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  16. #116
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    Default Re: Small Cell Hive

    thanks oldtimer. maybe we will someday have multiple definitive studies agreeing that there is an effect.

    in the meantime, for me anyway, i don't think i'll invest in it until either i see the research, (comparing sc to regular cell while controlling all the other variables), or, if i can't get my bees adapted to the mite in other ways.
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  17. #117
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    Default Re: Small Cell Hive

    fwiw I've run my treatment free bees on standard foundation (some foundationless) successfully for 6 years now. Recent studies seem to indicate cell size makes no difference. I've had no problems with mites on my large (normal? ) cells.
    Regards,
    Steven
    "If all you have is a hammer, the whole world is a nail." - A.H. Maslow

  18. #118
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    Default Re: Small Cell Hive

    sounds like you're doin' something right there steve. congrats.
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  19. #119
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    Default Re: Small Cell Hive

    Steve when your bees build foundationless, what type of size range do they build? ( not counting drone cells )
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

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