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  1. #1
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    Default Small Cell Studies

    Here is a link to one of the small cell studies, and abstracts for the other two: http://beebehavior.com/small_cell_comb_varroa_mites.php

    I wanted to discuss these because they are often mentioned in discussions about the use of small cell comb. This IS NOT a thread about the use of small cell comb in hives and pros and cons thereof. This thread is to discuss [small cell] studies only. The forum rules still apply.

    For my own part, I don't want to be seen as someone who ignores scientific evidence and instead runs with disproved crackpot theories. So there are these three studies which seem to say that small cell comb is ineffective at controlling varroa mites and may in fact exacerbate the problem. But there is so much anecdotal evidence that says it works or at least has an effect.

    To me, these studies are flawed. They take a complex issue, varroa parasitism, and distill it to simple variables, cell size and mite counts. But the issue of the varroa mite does not come down simply to mite counts and cell size. Ultimately there are many more issues involved. I don't know of anyone who's been doing this for any length of time who thinks that cell size is the only or even just the main issue. Dee Lusby said it was a third cell size, a third genetics and a third management. One thing I really want to know is were the combs they used treated before hand. Even more important than that is how well they survived even with the mite load they had. I do no mite drop testing whatsoever, my only metric is survival. If they survive, they get to move on to more nuanced levels of investigation.

    Whether or not it can be proven that small cell comb helps with varroa, I have been keeping bees for years with no treatments whatsoever and with only small cell comb and whatever powers the bees have to keep the varroa to manageable levels. I'm interested in other's views of these studies in light of what they have seen and experienced.
    Last edited by Solomon Parker; 12-01-2011 at 02:57 PM. Reason: Correction in scope of thread. It was originally intended that all small cell studies be discussed, not just 'these' studies
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Small Cell Studies

    "I wanted to discuss these because they are often mentioned in discussions about the use of small cell comb. This IS NOT a thread about the use of small cell comb in hives and pros and cons thereof. This thread is to discuss these studies only. The forum rules still apply."

    Seriously! How can you discuss these studies without talking about the use of small cell comb?

    I dont know how you can discuss these studies only without getting into to opinion and theory which moves on to........

    So x me out for this if you wish. I think good science is just that, good science and if you dont get the answer you want after several valid trials you need to look for another answer to explain what you thought was true. These studies are fact. If you repeat them enough times you will most likely keep coming up with the same answer. Small cell is not keeping the mites under control. Something else is responsible for small cell beekeepers bees and mite coexisting. I have thought for some time that the answer may be with the mites, not the bees or small cell. If you only make splits from surviving colonies, you are also making splits from surviving mites. Hmm, could you be raising less virulent mites?

    Here you will find a Audio of lecture by Dr. Thomas D. Seeley that sums up what I am saying.
    http://www.makingbeehives.com/blog/a...ell-university

    Here is a direct link to the lecture. I dont know if this link will work so I posted the link to it above.
    http://www.makingbeehives.com/arnot_forest_bees.mp3

  3. #3

    Default Re: Small Cell Studies

    Quote Originally Posted by Solomon Parker View Post
    Many of these questions have been asked many times over the years. Some have been answered, and some like #1 cause massive arguments still today.
    Seems, in my opinion, to fit this topic as well.
    I'm staying out of it this time.
    Dan www.boogerhillbee.com
    Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Small Cell Studies

    Quote Originally Posted by WI-beek View Post
    So x me out for this if you wish. I think good science is just that, good science and if you dont get the answer you want after several valid trials you need to look for another answer to explain what you thought was true. These studies are fact.
    The trouble is, this isn't good science. Good science explains something. In these studies, small cell was treated like any other treatment. That's why we get the whole "I tried small cell and it didn't work" paradigm. Small cell isn't a treatment. One can't just stick it in there and expect it to work broadly like one of the miticides. That's what the studies prove. But really, that proves nothing toward the overall effectiveness of the treatment-free philosophy. Mite counts as the sole testing parameter show very little about the overall health of the hive, especially over such a short time period and with such an arbitrary measure.

    "It is worth noting that Varroa densities in this study (3.3–5.1 mites per 100 bees, Tab. I) were not within the action threshold of ca. 13 mites per 100 bees shown for the region by Delaplane and Hood (1999)."

    This further shows how irrelevant the results are. If survival was the test criteria, who cares how many mites there are? Survival is the only true test criteria. These studies did not test according to relevant criteria.
    Last edited by Solomon Parker; 10-31-2011 at 09:21 AM. Reason: Staying on topic.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Small Cell Studies

    "It is worth noting that Varroa densities in this study (3.3–5.1 mites per 100 bees, Tab. I) were not within the action threshold of ca. 13 mites per 100 bees shown for the region by Delaplane and Hood (1999)."

    This is out of date data. We now know that because varroa spread disease the the threshold for varroa is much lower than this. The standard recommendation for varroa population was suggested to not exceed 10% before. Many recommend that you dont let it get above 2% so you treat at 1%. I noticed a difference right away between USA recommendations and Europe. The Europeans have dealt with varroa longer than we have and understood that the spread of disease is potently more problematic than the damage from the mite itself. DWV is a good example and is something we can see, but what about what you cant see. 13% is way to high of an infestation.

    I cant even believe that 13% was ever even a recommendation being that in three months you could have 100% infestation. The lower you keep varroa populations the less chance they have to get out of hand. At 13 percent they really have the ability to hitch hike etc. WOW!

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Small Cell Studies

    The nature of any properly done study, IS to distill out all the variables.

    If that could be done, we would then know why some people succeed with small cell, and some fail.

    These particular studies have not distilled all the variables, for example, they do not discuss wether the combs used contained residual insecticides, which may be a factor.

    However, these studies were done using proper scientific investigative method, and should not be ignored. The problem with doing more studies, distilling out more variables, involves considerable time, and cost. Hopefully more work will be done, a better understanding will benefit all, more knowledge can only be good.

    As per WI-beek, the mechanism for the survival of some bees living on small cell, may be different than what is commonly thought. And we just don't know at this stage, until all those variables have been seperated. How many small cell folks even know what strain of mite is on their bees? There is still work to be done towards a better understanding and more studies should be encouraged.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Small Cell Studies

    They take a complex issue, varroa parasitism, and distill it to simple variables, cell size and mite counts.
    I believe the main reason for that distillation was the claims by "small-cell proponents" (for lack of a better name) that simply converting to smaller cell dimensions would eliminate Varroa problems.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Small Cell Studies

    I'd say that would mostly be due to newbees who may take something they read and run with it. None of the long timers I know of make that claim.

    In my experience, it's impossible to entirely separate small cell comb from all the other treatment-free management practices enough to say exactly how much it is contributing. I have one hive of eleven with visible mite problems and they're all on small cell. Before that, I haven't lost a hive obviously to varroa in at least four years. And this current one is not dead yet, so we'll see how much of an infestation it takes.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

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