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  1. #1
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    Default Is small cell working?

    Why is it that every study done on small cell shows that it has no beneficial effect on mite populations, yet so many on this forum promote it as though it does work, so much so that they change over all their large cell colonies to small cell and encourage others to do so. Please don't get me wrong in the way I am asking this, I'm on the fence with this issue myself. Since getting back into bees a few years ago I have gone completely foundationless with all my Langs and top bar hives, but my main reason for doing so was to let the bees do what is natural instead of encouraging them to build larger cell combs with foundation. I honestly wasn't doing it this way to reduce mite populations even though I realized at the time that many did it specifically to reduce the mite counts.
    It just seems to me that many proponents of small cell go through much work going from large to small cell, including but not limited to using natural comb, even culling that out a couple times getting them regressed, installing large cell bees on 4.9 wax or similar plastic frames and having to cull out improperly built comb a couple times on the way to regression with that too, shaving down the plastic frames, shaving wood top and end bars down to get 1 1/4 spacing, and likely some other alterations I'm not familiar with yet or have forgotten about.
    My question is, for those that have been on small cell either entirely, or having experimented with it for at least 3-4 years, "without any other treatments, strictly small cell", can you see a noticeable difference in their ability to co-exist with mites and still be what most would consider to be populous, productive colonies? Thanks. John

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Is small cell working?

    My disclaimer is that my bees are on what ever size they choose to make.

    But what studies are you citing as showing no benefit?
    Always question Conventional Wisdom.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Is small cell working?

    As far as the studies, check out this thread from a few months back: http://www.beesource.com/forums/show...l-Cell-Studies

    The best posts regarding the topic are from deknow and Michael Bush. The other thing is that not every study has said what you say. One of the early ones http://www.funpecrp.com.br/gmr/year2..._full_text.htm showed a benefit. However, Africanized bees were involved.

    I've been using small cell for nine years and have never lost all my hives. There are winners and losers same as any apiary, but having never used anything but small cell, I'm not the best judge. But my bees are coexisting with mites well enough while I hear stories of others having severe problems.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Is small cell working?

    If you put the bees on small cell for a short period of time and don't follow the yearly cycle of drones and no drones and brood and no brood and you don't let the mites build up enough to become a problem and motivate bees to do anything about them (or in the case of epigeneitics, let their genes be expressed under that stress) then you really haven't proven anything at that point in time. In my experience, going to natural and small cell made literally an infinite difference. Mathematically if you go from 100% dying from Varroa to 0% dying from Varroa, that is not just a statistically significant change, it is, literally an infinite difference. There are a lot more people saying they are succeeding with it than those who say they tried it and failed and there are a lot of people doing it either by natural comb or by 4.9mm foundation.

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

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Is small cell working?

    Small Cell for me was a no brainer, I get all my bees from cutouts and swarms and the bees I keep are already drawing comb in the 4.7 - 5.0 mm range when I get them, so I'm not changing them any.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Is small cell working?

    D.Semple, please excuse my ignorance. What is a cutout?

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Is small cell working?

    Quote Originally Posted by bluegrass View Post
    My disclaimer is that my bees are on what ever size they choose to make.

    But what studies are you citing as showing no benefit?
    This pdf document that Camero7 recently linked on his website http://www.circlesevenhoneyandpollin...estructor.html (sorry I dont know how else to link it) has an analysis of all the different treatment options and the known benefits as relates to research done. Scroll down to table 2 on pages 14 and 15. Its a really detailed and interesting read.
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Is small cell working?

    It might be easier for someone to point to serious studies where there has been a significant benefit, seems to me the majority of evidence on the internet that I have read shows no benefit and in at least one case more of a mite problem. Now I realize most all these studies were not interrelated or did they follow a set of indentical guidelines, in other words, they were conducted with different bees, different set-ups, management, etc., but in the end they produced the same conclusion, no benefit.
    I don't think anyone is planning on switching over to AHB, so any study that involved them is not relevent in my opinion, maybe it was their small cells, but it could have also been hygenic behavior, its not conclusive evidence.
    Michael, I truly accept your testimony on small cell and what it has done for your bees, I just don't understand why this type of outcome is not showing up in the research and studies that I have seen. We have been trying to figure out a solution to the mite issue for 30 yrs. in this country, why has it taken this long to get an answer when you and others have the answer and have had it for awhile? I understand that were not talking about complete elimination of mites, but a co-existence the the bees can deal with and still not succumb to mite related diseases and still be productive colonies. John

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Is small cell working?

    Quote Originally Posted by whalers View Post
    D.Semple, please excuse my ignorance. What is a cutout?
    The removal of a colony that has moved into a structure or tree. We cutout the comb and transfer it to a hive.

    http://s269.photobucket.com/albums/j...02011/Pam%20D/

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Is small cell working?

    Quote Originally Posted by jmgi View Post
    they were conducted with different bees, different set-ups, management, etc., but in the end they produced the same conclusion, no benefit...Michael, I truly accept your testimony on small cell and what it has done for your bees, I just don't understand why this type of outcome is not showing up in the research and studies that I have seen.
    That's the prime trouble. They did it in all different ways, but they didn't do it how people who are doing it do it. They don't seem to have even done any research so as to even approach getting it right. One study attempted to get small cell comb drawn in honey supers and were perplexed after tons of wasted time as to why the bees wouldn't draw perfect comb. Such ignorance would have been easily alleviated had the researchers simply asked someone who was doing it how it was done. So they switched to plastic comb and compared it directly to wax comb, which if they had asked someone actually using plastic comb about the eccentricities of plastic comb, they'd have found that plastic comb cannot be directly compared to wax comb.

    As a graduate Civil Engineering student, I am engaged in my own research project. And the way it's done is you go talk to Ph.D.'s who have done similar projects before and read all sorts of papers to find methods that work and that will give you usable results. That's how research is done. If you expect to do something successfully, you ask someone how to do it who has done it successfully.

    And that's only one reason why I put no stock in 'the studies.' They were poorly designed, poorly executed, and poorly analyzed. If you want to know how it's done and if it works, ask somebody who uses it and has had a good comparison (Michael Bush). And deknow has the best insight into the flaws of the studies. Me, I've never kept bees any other way, so the only criticisms I have are the ones which relate to how I know things are done incorrectly, with too short a test period, and with no consideration toward the seasonal and yearly super-organism dynamics of a hive.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Is small cell working?

    So, what you are saying is that there is absolutely no cooperation between bee lab or university researchers and the beekeeping community concerning mites after 30 yrs., hard to believe, but sounds like its a fact the way I see it. Michael Bush is well enough known among serious beekeepers that it seems if he has a path to significant success against mites and keeping colonies alive, we should introduce him to the people who do the big studies, is that what it is going to take? I think having a large legitimate study or studies done by researchers using specifically MB's method would go a long way in educating people on a large scale, I know it sounds overly simplistic, but is this what we need? John

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Is small cell working?

    I have tried it for years and have seen no determinable difference between SC and LC. Last year 10/10 of the hives at my SC apiary, died, this year it is down 9/13 - 70%. My bees fight drawing out nice comb from SC foundation. The most dead mites I have found on a bottom board of a dead hive this year was on a SC hive. A SC hive at another site was strong till January and then like the others got a bad case of DWV. It is recovering now. I have yet to have a boomer crop on a SC hive.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Is small cell working?

    Quote Originally Posted by jmgi View Post
    So, what you are saying is that there is absolutely no cooperation between bee lab or university researchers and the beekeeping community concerning mites after 30 yrs.
    No, that's not what I'm saying. What I'm saying is that there was no effective communication between the persons conducting the study I mentioned and successful small cell beekeepers. Thus, they demonstrated that they didn't know what they were doing, nor had any advice on how to do it effectively.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Is small cell working?

    Quote Originally Posted by jmgi View Post
    Why is it that every study done on small cell shows that it has no beneficial effect on mite populations, yet so many on this forum promote it as though it does work
    The academics who do the studies and the beekeepers keeping small cell bees have different ideas of what is a beneficial effect, and what is success.

    Academics measure mite drops and L/d 50 - things they believe indicate if a hive will die or be unhealthy.
    Small cell beeks count hives that actually survive and are productive.

    To the academic beneficial effect is a positive effect on some metric they can measure in the short term of their study: studies are structured a lot more: they each have some metric used to determine "success", and, they are expected to produce a different product then the beekeepers (at least this one) are after: a research paper with a defensible conclusion.

    A researcher may use as such things as L/D 50 (Number of days it takes for half a population to die), or number and size of colonies at the end of the research period (Which may be too short to see the advantages of small cell.)

    As a small cell beekeeper I care about hives that survive, produce well, and make wax, bees, and especially honey free from pesticide contamination in the long run.

    Most treatment free beeks (which most small cell beekeepers are) who have been successful over a number of seasons will tell you that early on they experienced heavy losses (as much as 90% of colonies). The short length of most studies would interpret such heavy losses as failure.
    Many (most) commercial beekeepers would see this as failure as well, as dead bees don't generate income needed to pay overhead and stay in business.

    The small cell treatment free guy looks at them as elimination of bees that need treatment to survive from his breeding pool.

    If he is planning on going commercial, he sees being treatment free as a way to cut expensive overhead costs of treating, as well as a way produce honey with no acaracide residues in his wax and honey from treating.

    The scholar who says a thing can't be done is often interrupted the the guy actually doing it.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Is small cell working?

    Sol,

    That was really my point also, I just said it somewhat differently, you are right though in your analysis of the lack of communication. John

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Is small cell working?

    Beregondo,

    Well put, I think that is the problem with studies. But isn't the scientific community, or I should say, shouldn't the scientific community have an ultimate goal of helping out the beekeeping community as a whole, hobbyist to commercial against the mite, and if they do have that goal, shouldn't they get serious and start listening to the beekeepers who have had success in keeping bees alive over the longer period? John

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Is small cell working?

    That makes a lot of sense John.

    But there is no money to be made not selling acaricides or drugs for the hive.
    And the big bee organizations are often funded by the big commercial pollinators and honey producers...folks who really don't think that they can afford to to take the losses involved in transitioning (and most likely can't).

    So who's going to *pay* for that research?

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Is small cell working?

    I can't reply regarding small cell, as I've never used it... most of my bees came from or descended from B. Weaver stock, who use large cell in their very successful operation. I use large cell foundation or foundationless, and have never used anything else. I've never treated, and have some hives dating back to inception, 6 years. This past winter I lost 2 of 32 colonies.
    Regards,
    Steven
    "If all you have is a hammer, the whole world is a nail." - A.H. Maslow

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Is small cell working?

    Actually, that long term research has already been done.
    But the research, rather then being scientific, is practical.

    As I have observed on this forum before, while there are people who are successful keeping large cell untreated hives, most treatment free folks I've heard of employ small cell comb.

    I think that that indicates a good deal of value in using small cell brood comb.

    I won't be surprised if we discover some day that the reasons we think small cell works are all incorrect, and that it is the lack of foundation wax contaminants that makes the differences.

    With the popularity of foundationless frames and pf100/pf120, there is a lot less outside wax in most small cell hives.

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Is small cell working?

    StevenG,

    Whatever you are doing right, keep doing it. John

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