David Cushman disagreed. I have been following his work for several years up until his untimely death and his methods were meticulous. The closest to scientific study you can get without an actual study. I don't know if you have ever read his work, but he left no stone un-turned when working this stuff out.
He was also and advocate for making his own wax foundation. even went so far as to build the molds himself.
Always question Conventional Wisdom.
going from 5.2 to 4.9 in two generations of brood equals a .15 reduction per brood cycle.
just two more brood cycles would get you to 4.6, and two more to 4.3.
not saying that the cells, don't get a little smaller with time, but they can't be getting smaller by .15 per brood cycle.
That is an issue that Cushman doesn't address... In a feral colony comb is getting turned over pretty frequently by wax moths, consumed, digested, and then replaced by the bees.
But what about in a managed hive with brood combs that are years old? Do the bees scrub the combs out once they get too small?
I am just presenting the information... If making a choice on my own on cell regression I would not doubt Cushamn's method until I tried it myself. On the other hand I think he and Mr Bush are the American and British reflection of each other. What Bush is to the US, Cushman was to the British.
Always question Conventional Wisdom.
I've been reading a number of Lusby's articles. Haven't finished them all, I've gotten through about seven so far. I plan on finishing the rest, but before I do I have a few thoughts floating through my head, and I figured I'd put them down here for comments.
I fully understand and agree with lusby's historical summation of the progression of foundation cell size. I've heard it before, so I'm willing to stipulate to the idea that larger cell sizes were created to make a larger bee, in the hopes that it would make a more profitable bee. I'll also assume she is correct in her comments about "feral" bee cell size. I don't have any information to refute this (although now that I think about it, Seely did a number of studies on feral colonies. I wonder if he ever measured cell size . . . ). So I'll stipulate that feral colonies are on 4.7 to 4.9 mm (or thereabouts) and foundations have been enlarged to (according to lusby) up to 5.7mm.
I will also stipulate to the idea that bees are under a number of stressors, more so recently than historically. Personally, I can attest to that, through my own observations.
Where she loses me is her connection between the two. I can't really say that larger cell sizes caused any of these stresses, and I haven't seen any evidence put forth by lusby to prove the causation. I also can't really say, based on what I've read so far, that a smaller cell size would necessarily solve any of these stresses, and I haven't seen any evidence put forth by lusby to prove the solution.
She puts forth a number of theories on why it should work, which is all fine and well. Some of them might be true, some of them may not. But that's exactly what they are, theories. They are hypothesis that should be proved or disproved, and I'm not seeing any proof in either direction.
If we assume that feral bees, hundreds of years ago, were on 4.7mm cells. Since that time period, bees have been put in contact with dozens of additional parasites, pests, diseases, and predators. So the theory is to put them back to 4.7mm cells so they can adapt to the problems, as they did hundreds of years ago. But hundreds of years ago they weren't dealing with the stressors they are today. So by moving them back to 4.7mm cells, you are essentially putting them in a position in which they were not able to cope with those problems hundreds of years ago. Theoretically, the idea of putting them back in harmony of nature makes logical sense, but I don't see any actual evidence to show that it helps.
So while theoretically it may make sense, I don't see the connection, and I don't see any evidence proving the connection. It's an interesting idea, I'll put it at that, and it might make logical sense, but I can't necessarily say it's true.
I'm not cracking on anyone using small cell, or following lusby. I'm just trying to look at it scientifically and logically. Until it can be proven or disproven, it's still just a theory. And I know there are going to be a number of people who will point to their hives and say they are doing what Lusby recommends, and it's working. And that's great. But there are a number of people who are "successfully" keeping bees (depending on how you define success) without small cell. So neither the small cell, nor the large cell, beekeepers can definitively point to their cell size alone and say that's what's working for them.
That's the only problem that I have with small cell.
Forcing them down a path of cell size, based solely on a theory, seems extremely risky to me. Those are the reasons why I went with foundationless frames. It seemed less risky to me. I wasn't forcing the bees to do anything, based on any theory. They can just build what they think they need. But as previously discussed, that didn't pan out the way anyone expected (Except maybe Oldtimer, lol).
So, I've realized there is only one way around it. I've got to try it. I'm not willing to put all of my hives on small cell. I wouldn't be willing to experiment on all of them, and I don't have many left (two as of writing this, with a nuc on the way in April). So I figured I could take one hive and put it on small cell. If things go well, I can take it from there. Now all I have to do is come up with the cash to get the PF frames that are supposed to work the best . . . (strapped for cash ATM, all of my bee budget went toward nucs to replace losses . . . ).
that ought to be very interesting. i hope you'll keep us posted as to how things are progressing.
here's a link in case you haven't seen it yet. it's not a big study, but some interesting observations, and some additional references to add to your winter reading:
Good post Specialkayme, my thoughts when I read Lusby were exactly the same. All her theories are logical, plus she is a persuasive writer. But actual proof is not there. Doesn't mean she's wrong, and doesn't mean she's right.
If you go to small cell, my feeling is that it will "work". But I'm not thinking that for the reasons you might think.
My reasoning is, you have already been successful on natural comb. You still have two hives alive, and some here that are giving you advice have had results no better themselves and are calling themselves successful. So if you change to small cell, and continue to have similar results, by the measure used here you will be successful. In addition you may breed from your survivors, a method advocated by some successful small cell beekeepers.
So it will be the same old problem. You go small cell and achieve success, but never really know why.
For me, I would recommend you go small cell. Why? Because Lusby's theories may not be correct. But but they might be. That's about all I could say.
"Thinking Inside The Box"
One of my "survivors" will continue to use foundationless frames. All splits from the hive will also be foundationless. The other "survivor" will be switched to small cell (not sure just yet if it will be wax or PF frames). All splits from the hive will also be small cell. The new nucs will remain on 5.4mm cell foundation. From there, at the end of a year or two, we could clearly see which one is working, and which one isn't. If the foundationless and the small cell are both surviving, we'll know it's more with genetics and management than cell size. If one dies out over the other, we have our answer. If it's close, we can see how many hives of each we have. If one was split six times over two years, but the other was split twice, we know one is a little healthier than the other.
A caveat should be mentioned, though. This is IN NO WAY the end all be all study of small cell, for SEVERAL reasons. One, we are talking about a very small set of hives. Two, one could argue that my "survivors" may just be next year's dead hives. For that reason, I'm essentially taking weak and dying hives and experimenting on them. If the small cell set dies, it might not be because of small cell, but it might be because they are so far gone I can't do much about it.
Another caveat. I'm not really willing to lose almost all my hives again, two years in a row (or two out of three). For that reason, I'm going to be ordering some HopGuard and have it chill in case I need it. If a hive starts to show signs of decay, I'm treating, regardless of what type of comb its on. I'm also going to be taking regular alcohol samples, and if the % gets too high, they get hit with some treatments.
I'm not 100% sold on HopGuard just yet, but it does seem somewhat low-invasive, with zero comb residue. I'm also toying with the idea of MAQS (If I can get past it's $5 a treatment price tag . . . ), and essential oils. I know I"m going to get a ton of crap from folks for saying this, but if I take the same percentage of loss next year that I did this past year, I'm going to be out of the keeping thing real quick. I don't have the cash to buy back in, so if I had to choose I'd rather be a treating beekeeper than no beekeeper at all. Forgive my thoughts.
Sounds like a plan.
Agree with your caveats also, an experiment of one or two isn't going to give reliable results. I have the same problem with my experiment of 5.
Re regressing a hive, because your bees are already fairly large cell, it's likely regressing will not go smoothly. I found it hard enough dropping down from a cell size of 5.5 mm. If you start with wax foundation I'm thinking you will have to cut out several times and the cost will go up. So plastic, may be the way to get things started. If plastic is an issue, you could switch back to wax once you've had a few generations through on the small plastic cells. The good thing is, once you've got that first small cell hive, it can be used to build more small cell comb if you want to increase sc hive numbers. Around 6 months ago I only had one small cell hive, now I have 6, by getting the hive to build comb flat out.
"Thinking Inside The Box"
At this risk of derailing this thread, I'd like to point out a few basics of insect anatomy and physiology.
The sclerotized plates -- those hard and crunchy bits of insects -- do not change size after an insect reaches maturity. They harden, and those plates are the same size for the rest of the life of the individual insect. The width of the first abdominal tergite will be the same from day to day to day for an individual insect.
Those plates are held together by flexible membranes. The flexible membranes allow movement for the insects (they couldn't even crawl without those membranes. The membranes also allow from some expansion and contraction of the individual insects. Because of this possible expansion and contraction, individual insects can vary in dimensions somewhat from day to day, or even from second to second at times. These membranes are what allow queen honeybees to "get fat" and "slim down" at different times of the year.
I doubt that the differences in sizes from simple expansion/contraction from the connective membranes make for different sizes of cells. I also doubt the only differences in sizes of individual bees are attributable solely to expansion/contraction from these membranes.
Back to the discussion near the end of the thread, I think an important component will be doing mite counts in a consistent way. It could be that something else is or may give you grief as you go down this road. Having an idea of mite population trends could help you identify or eliminate mites as a cause of problems.
You'd be correct Kieck.
Some of the scientific studies that have been done on the effect of small cell on varroa reproduction, have gone so far as to measure the width of the thorax of the bees and compare between the small cell, and the large cell bees. The finding has been that the small cell bees had (on average), smaller thoraxes. As the thorax shell is fixed size for life, these bees were genuinely smaller, not just because of expansion or contraction of membranes.
"Thinking Inside The Box"
Don't forget.As a follow up to my HoneySuperCell trial, I restocked the hives, and have run them mixed arbitrarily in my operation of 500 colonies. In general, but not absolutely, we have avoided giving the HSC colonies mite treatments, just to see what they’d do. Danged if they don’t just keep plugging along–often outperforming the “normal” colonies alongside
Forgive me if I'm wrong, but I thought the conventional advice was to NOT use HSC frames, as it puts the regression behind by at least two weeks, right?
Alright, I'm doing my homework and reading the Lusby's articles. Quite a few quotes made my eyes enlarge. I'd like to raise them here, as perhaps I'm making a larger deal than it should be:
Mainly, she talks about doing a shakedown in early spring "right before brood-rearing begins." What? Around here, that time is roughly January 15th, if not earlier. If I did a shakedown of a hive, removing all comb and putting them on foundation, I'd have a starve-out in a day, two max. That's even with a feeder. If I waited till middle of March I'd have a better chance, but even still . . . What gives?Retrogressing domesticated colonies, established on oversized foundation, requires a different approach. First, beekeepers must separate the comb sizes within their colonies to be retrogressed. This is best done going into winter, leaving the broodnest to settle into the smallest drawn comb available to overwinter upon. Then when the honeybees are at their smallest body sizing going into Spring for the year, just before brood-rearing begins, an old-fashioned hive shake-down should be accomplished. This is done by physically shaking the bees off of the combs and restarting like a shook-swarm, into a super filled with new undrawn frames of 4.9mm foundation, sitting upon a queen excluder, sitting upon a bottom board. Honey-syrup and a pollen patty (made with honey and pollen only) may need to be supplied to induce bees to draw wax foundation. Use a tight top cover to close. DO NOT REMOVE QUEEN EXCLUDER FROM BETWEEN BOTTOM BOARD AND SUPER UNTIL FOUNDATION IS DRAWN AND QUEEN IS LAYING ON A MINIMUM OF 2-3 FRAMES.
So, if it's going to take me at least 3-15 years to successfully regress (and that's assuming I move from 5.4mm bees, and not the 5.9mm bees I have), and I'm not supposed to treat in those 3-15 years, how am I ever supposed to have any bees left over at the end of that process? If it takes three years to get the cell size down to 4.9, and I'm going to have mite issues if I'm not under 5.0, how do I even stand a chance?PROCESS FOR SPEEDING-UP RETROGRESSION: This is a definite multi-year application to accomplish. Depending upon the size of the beekeeping operation, it can take anywhere from 3 to 15 years average to accomplish.
Alright, I see what she is trying to say here, but I'm sorry, this just isn't going to fit into my schedule. Her plan to regress is to force them onto foundation. If they make it, great. If they don't, sucks to be them. Your yard is better off without them.BEES THAT WILL NOT CORRECTLY DRAW OUT FOUNDATION OVER THE COURSE OF THE YEAR WILL SUCCUMB TO DISEASE, DIE AND/OR NOT OVERWINTER PROPERLY. DO NOT TRY TO SAVE THEM OR YOU WILL PERPETUATE YOUR MITE AND DISEASE PROBLEM. TREAT THIS AS SURVIVAL OF FITTEST ONLY, AND EXTINCTION FOR THAT WHICH WILL NOT RETROGRESS TO SOLVE THE PROBLEM BIOLOGICALLY BACK TO TRADITIONAL BEEKEEPING.
That's true, to a point, when you have 100 hives in a yard. It really isn't true when you have two. I can't really take those risks this year, so if that's the plan I might have to rethink her regression plan . . . or the regression plan generally . . .
>Forgive me if I'm wrong, but I thought the conventional advice was to NOT use HSC frames, as it puts the regression behind by at least two weeks, right?
Actually it's instant regression in one step, but it does set the colony (not the regression) back two weeks while they balk at using it. Compared to three change overs of comb without over stressing the bees, I would say it puts regression ahead about a year to a year and a half compared to wax or natural comb.
Her basic reasoning is sound, you just need to factor in regional differences, plus maybe go plastic foundation.
What she's saying, is she thinks there are assorted sized cells in the pre-regression hive, which in your case with natural comb, there will be.
Therefore, she says in fall, put the smallest sized cells where you think the main cluster will be. So that by spring, any bees raised will be smaller than if you hadn't done that. Then in early spring (and for that part you'll need to factor in your own regional requirements), you shake them onto small cell.
I've noticed that bees under stress, and needing to get new bees quickly, will build smaller cells. You'll see that with extra small swarms. So that method will be the quickest way to regress.
However, Dee is prepared to melt combs not properly built and make them into new foundation, and keep doing that, till the hive is regressed. Most of us probably are not prepared to do that, so plastic foundation or comb can be easier to get a quick result. If the comb is a mess you just scrape that bit off with your hive tool and let the bees do it again, no financial cost is incurred.
When I regressed my first hive, I used wax foundation but had to sacrifice a few sheets. As I only had one hive, there was plenty of time to keep a close eye on things, and I just ensured that no brood that was not small cell size got to hatching stage. In that way, even though at first the bees were not drawing all of the comb at small cell size, in a couple of months the hive had a good proportion of small bees and started drawing the combs quite well, almost perfect. Now, that hive draws combs 100% perfect, if conditions are right for that. It's not nessecary for the process to take years.
Last edited by Oldtimer; 01-30-2012 at 10:41 PM.
"Thinking Inside The Box"
I regressed mine pretty substantially by giving them 4.9 mm plastic frames and every box they moved up into was more of the same. I scraped the badly drawn ones after the brood emerged and made them try again. All colonies are not equal in drawing either. Some switched easily, some continue to make a mess. I really need to put in some foundationless and let them have the drones they want, maybe that will help in getting good comb drawn. So far, all the bridge comb between boxes has been solid drone comb and brood. All the upper deeps they are wintering in have had the frames shaved and contain 11 frames and were the combs drawn after the early regression messes were made. Hopefully the regression will have the desired effect on varroa load. I am going to count mites til I know for sure. I will be overjoyed if the small cell alone is the magic bullet, but plan splitting and brood breaks too. What has really become obvious listening to the tales of woe---is that you can't do nuthin! Maybe if you start out with perfect resistent bees, but if they exist there sure aren't enough to go around yet.
They exist, Vance. You just have to get your order in to the breeder early enough to assure getting them when you want them.
"If all you have is a hammer, the whole world is a nail." - A.H. Maslow