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  1. #1
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    Grosse Ile, Michigan, USA
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    Default cocoons and cell size

    I just dragged out a couple brood combs from my foundationless hives to do some cell measurements, and I started thinking about the effect of the cocoon remnants that build up within the cells of older brood combs, those combs that have seen maybe 10-15 cycles of brood or more. Wouldn't that be a natural regression within a colony assuming that the colony lives at least a few years? I know that the cocoons are not that thick individually, and that the bees clean out and polish the cells regularly, but over many generations those skins do build up, maybe even surpassing the thickness of the cell walls themselves, so it seems that a certain amount of regression is ongoing in a brood comb that is used over and over, or am I exaggerating this whole thing? John

  2. #2
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    Default Re: cocoons and cell size

    I have read about such as well. I'm betting someone has researched this, can give the "micron" size of bee silk, and calculated number brood cycles to be considered regressive. The logic is there though.
    I have been tempted to rotate some of my old comb out because my former bee partner treated for mites and there is concern of wax contamination. Would not the silk seal the potential problem away from the brood? Point being, why get rid of old comb? Maybe by doing so, you help the mite population. Just a thought

  3. #3
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    Default Re: cocoons and cell size

    Rick 1456, I have to think it must regress them some, how long it takes to see a difference in the bee I don't know. I don't know if enough research has been done on chemicals in the brood comb and if multiple cycles seal the chemicals away from the brood more, I tend to think not. John

  4. #4
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    Default Re: cocoons and cell size

    Grout did the research on cocoon buildup and concluded that there is a lower threshold that the bees will chew them out. I have had large cell brood combs that were 30 years old. They were noticeably smaller but only starting to approach the size of a 4.9mm cell after 30 years...
    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: cocoons and cell size

    I would think it would take a while for the silk to accumulate enough to seal the contaminated wax away from brood. I do "think" it is possible. Just don't know for sure. My "understanding" is the new bee emerges sooner from a smaller cell, foiling the mite cycle. I have read that there are instances where the bee encapsulates itself and leaves the mite out side of the cocoon. I guess what I wonder is, what about all the very old feral colonies that were decimated when the mites first appeared. Wouldn't they have been "regressed" ? I need to go and re read some.:

    Posted before no after reading MBs post
    Last edited by Rick 1456; 03-01-2012 at 06:11 AM.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: cocoons and cell size

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Bush View Post
    Grout did the research on cocoon buildup and concluded that there is a lower threshold that the bees will chew them out. I have had large cell brood combs that were 30 years old. They were noticeably smaller but only starting to approach the size of a 4.9mm cell after 30 years...
    Thanks Michael, that is a very interesting observation about your old combs, so the bees must realize at some point that they have to get rid of the buildup of cocoons over time. John

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
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    Fayetteville, Arkansas
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    Default Re: cocoons and cell size

    Check out this article written by Dave Cushman.

    http://www.dave-cushman.net/bee/smalboldcomb.html
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  8. #8
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    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
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    Default Re: cocoons and cell size

    Nice picture of chewed out combs. That's what Grout observed in his research. Chewing out when they reached a lower threshold.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  9. #9
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    Default Re: cocoons and cell size

    Would the bullet shape of the cell make a difference when the larvae spins her cocoon,,,leaving the mite behind?

  10. #10
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    Auckland,Auckland,New Zealand
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    Default Re: cocoons and cell size

    The first job I had as a youngster, we had some combs that were 40 years old and more, which could be verified because there had been a design change in the frame at that time.

    The foundation used was 5.5 mm. The cell width was very little / no different to brood comb that had only seen a few cycles. We believed the bees must clean down the cell walls regularly. What did happen though, was build up on the bottom of the cell. This may have been encouraged because we used 35 mm end bars, and only ran 9 frames to a brood box. In fact, the frames over the years got a build up of propolis that eventually went very hard on the end bars and the frames were not closed all the way up, so the gap between centres was wider than natural.

    This meant that cocoon build up on the cell bottoms could go quite thick, with no effect on the bees as they had room to extend the cells outwards. However we did get combs where buildup was so thick that the bees could no longer rear brood in that section and there would be a bald patch in the comb. At that stage we removed and replaced the comb. However this did not happen as much as, in theory, you would think it should. We would also sometimes see old, heavy brood comb, which the bees stripped right back to the foundation, and were in the process of cleaning before rebuilding and we could find the cell bottom cocoon buildup bits on the hive bottom board and out the front, so it does happen. So to me, I think the bees must have some mechanism to reduce the cell bottom, although some bees clearly could not as we had to replace combs, this probably varied from hive to hive. In any case, cell size (width) does not reduce to any significant extent regardless of how many generations have been raised in it, but bottom buildup may occur.

    So, a feral hive in pre varroa times, should not, in theory, have had too much difficulty with the "mechanics", of surviving for up to around 40 years. After that, it would have depended wether they were a bee that stripped and cleaned cell bottoms, or not. It could be, that in a reasonable sized cavity, if a section of brood comb became unusable to the bees, they would abandon it and raise brood in another area. The wax moths would destroy comb in the abandoned area and faciltate possible re-use of that area at some future time.

    All this just my opinion, take it or leave it, the musings of an old beek.
    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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