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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

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Small Cell Studies

    No, I'm afraid that claim was pretty emphatic and clear-cut. If you search Beesource, I'm confident you'll find many posts from a couple to a few years ago that all state (paraphrasing, but along these lines), "Simply switching from 'large cell' to 'small cell' will allow you to keep Varroa-free bees with no other changes."

    Of course, if you can demonstrate exactly how much small-cell comb contributes to mite reduction, you have data that directly refutes the studies you linked.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Small Cell Studies

    Wi-Beek wrote:

    Hmm, could you be raising less virulent mites?

    I believe I postulated that a while ago and was ridiculed.

    Maybe the answer may lie in the selection of small cell producing bees. It is not the size of the foundation that the bees are on, but rather the size of foundation that the bees prefer. Someone attempting to use small cell for an extended period of time would of course select the most successful hives on small cell, and be encouraging the genes that accompany it. With time, they would have a bee that is different than those that tried it for a short time.

    Crazy Roland

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Small Cell Studies

    "less virulent mites"

    What is sad is that if we find this to be true, it does not provide any real hope for us. Why? Lets say you hop on the treatment free train. Then say after five years your somewhat isolated yards start having a 80% survival rate because the colonies you have been making splits from had the less virulent strain of mites. Ahh, success! Hold on there buba! A new beek in the area moves in with 10 booming colonies of Russian bees that swarm six times each producing 60 swarms all over the area and lots of lazy drones that make them selfs at home in your colonies bringing very virulent mite genes back into the mix. By the end of the next season your colonies begin crashing, by the end of the next season its back to square one.

    So at the end of the day we still end up needing a mite resistant bee or mite controls. I think we will have bees that do a good job at controlling mites on there own and treatments without serious side effects by 2020. I dont see anything wrong with keeping bees treatment free but I feel you leave yourself wide open for large scale disasters.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Small Cell Studies

    Quote Originally Posted by WI-beek View Post
    "less virulent mites" What is sad is that if we find this can be true, it does not provide any hope for us. Why?
    If this is true, and I'm not saying it is, then the only sustainable solution is for all colonies to be treatment free as ferals are. If we are breeding for less virulent mites, then that breeding program must be universal, just like burning AFB infected hives should be. The only way to move forward is to maximize the ability of the bees to deal with weaker mites and allow the weaker mites to kill all themselves off. The beekeepers who continue to treat are those who are harboring the most virulent mites and are preventing the host/parasite relationship from stabilizing.

    But that's a pretty big if, and I don't buy it. We treatment-free beekeepers (who live in areas where there are already many different populations of bees, feral and kept, and with commercials carrying the most virulent pesticide resistant mites trucking through on the freeway a mere 1768 feet from my main apiary) should be seeing major mite-related dieoffs every other year. I don't see it.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Small Cell Studies

    It was mentioned today at our meeting that Tom Seeley maintains that colonies w/ the less virulent mites will encounter problems when moved. Moved where more virulent mites exist, I believe. I think I have that right. Seeley will be coming out w/ an article in ABJ or Bee Culture soon, addressing this.
    Mark Berninghausen #youmatter

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Small Cell Studies

    >I believe I postulated that a while ago and was ridiculed.

    I think many people have postulated over the years, including myself, that by treating we are breeding super mites and that is the opposite of what we need. However it would take losing the colonies that have the virulent mites to leave the less virulent ones, and I have never had those kinds of losses with any survivors left to breed from. Going to small cell while I still had commercial queens and no die offs is how I got to no Varroa issues. Breeding feral survivors is how I improved winter survival. So I don't see that the sequence of events in my experience supports the theory that either the genetics of the bees or less virulent mites are responsible for the resolution. Interestingly When Seeley took the feral bees from Arnot to an apiary he put them on large cell foundation and the results were what I would have predicted based on the cell size, while he did not expect it and attributed it to the difference in the mites. I have no doubt that it is not all one thing in the end. We need to breed better bees and weaker mites, however I had no survivors to breed either from until I got to small cell and natural cell size.

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

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Small Cell Studies

    I'm of the opinion that it is a combination of small cell and genetics..... for the simple reason that I lost colonies on small cell until I got enough tolerant stock. It is my opinion that treating perpetuates susceptible genetics and creates pesticide tolerant mites. But just try to get most commercial beekeepers to give up their treatments and see how fast they go beetle browed on you.

    DarJones
    DarJones - 44 years, 10 colonies (max 40), sideliner, treatment free since 2005, 11 frame broodnest, small cell

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Small Cell Studies

    You never lose any hives Michael?
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Small Cell Studies

    >You never lose any hives Michael?

    To starvation? Yes. To dwindling and then a long hard cold snap? Sometimes. To Varroa? I haven't lost any since regressing. When I was losing them to Varroa it was obvious. Thousands of dead Varroa on the bottom board and Varroa feces in the brood cells. I always look for dead Varroa and Varroa feces when I lose a hive and I don't find but a few Varroa and little to no Varroa feces.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Small Cell Studies

    It seems to me that everytime a study comes out claiming small cell doesn't work, the SC proponents claim the study wasn't done correctly or didn't run long enough...or whatever. As co-chair of the 2012 EAS agenda, I offered one SC proponent the chance to run his own test...offered 2 years before the meeting next year. I've heard nothing.

    So, until someone who is convinced that SC in some way helps their apiary survive untreated, this is all still conjecture. I'm still waiting. How about it Solomon and others. When is someone going to do a small cell study that is done as the SC proponents require?

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Small Cell Studies

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Palmer View Post
    It seems to me that everytime a study comes out claiming small cell doesn't work, the SC proponents claim the study wasn't done correctly or didn't run long enough.
    In a scientific study, assumptions are the key. As a grad student, I know this because it's what I am engaged in for the better part of two years. Right now, I'm studying the effects of the land application of glycerol, a byproduct of biodiesel production. We make an assumption that the valid soil depth is 8 inches. Is that reasonable? While there are certainly effects in deeper soil over time, it becomes prohibitively expensive to study them. It depends on what you're studying. I'm primarily studying biomass growth and runoff, so 8 inches is pretty reasonable. However, mite counts are not a reasonable metric with which to study small cell effectiveness, nor is a time-frame of just a couple months. Ultimately, the only valid metric is survival. So it's not that "SC proponents" claim it wasn't done correctly, it's that somebody's missing the mark on what 'correctly' is. And since the studies 'prove' what most already believe, this seems to be overlooked.

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Palmer View Post
    When is someone going to do a small cell study that is done as the SC proponents require?
    You mean 'when is someone going to do a small study that is done as nature requires?' The only thing natural selection cares about is selection. Selection at this level is simple survival. You have to survive before you can become adapted to efficiently complete certain tasks. Natural selection doesn't care in the slightest what the mite count is on June 4, 2007. The information is irrelevant.

    Personally, I'd love to participate in some sort of experiment, but I have 11 hives. I'm a full time grad student. I don't have the resources to do anything statistically significant. My area is not broadly conducive to beekeeping as the population of commercial beekeepers would suggest. Meanwhile, I have seen Mr. Bush's operation and it is exactly as he suggests, and many here have complimented me on being upfront and honest about fully divulging all the details of what I do, winning or losing. I know another treatment free beekeeper just about 5 miles from me who has about six hives and is treatment-free as well. I'm not sure if some of the visitors to this forum think we're just making it up or what. But for whatever reason it is working, it is working.



    Studies show that it isn't the foundation, we aren't treating, we've been told it can't be bee genetics, so I guess we must be pretty good at breeding weak mites. My goodness, what a crock of hooey.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Small Cell Studies

    Sol:

    The key to a good scientific study is the right hypothesis and experimental design.

    If you say it's small cell, genetics, or mite virulence, then you have to be able to test for it.

    For example:

    'No-treatment', small cell, Honeybee colonies will become resistant to mite pathogens at a greater rate than 'no-treatment', large cell Honeybees, due to a density dependent increase in retrotransposition/RNAi derived immunity.

    That's a research hypothesis. Next comes the hard part, the experimental design needed to test the above hypothesis.

    What usually happens is that both the hypothesis and research design get revised because of various constraints.

    For instance, the density dependent retrotransposition/RNAi derived immunity can be difficult for many labs to test for, so they end up simplifying the whole thing.

    What the small cell folks haven't been able to do is come up with a research hypothesis and experimental design that can support their claims.

    That's the 'art' of it.

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