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I’m a super new newbie, and I’m sorry if this if a dumb question. We have had our bees (from nucs) for about a month. Recently we have noticed new, smaller bees (maybe even darker?) in the hive (especially outside hanging together as a group crawling on the entrance and area around it). I had just assumed they were “baby” bees. But then I did some searching, and found that bees are born full size. So what is going on and do I need to be as worried as I am???
 

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Aylett, VA 10-frame double deep Langstroth
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Chances are the nucs you purchased contained bees that were not the offspring of the mated queens which were in them. Those queens probably mated with drones that were predisposed to smaller bees and now that her brood is emerged and starting to fly, you are seeing the smaller bees. Some believe that smaller is better and that the larger commercial bees are the result of beekeepers monkeying around with the gene pool. I would not be concerned as long as the bees are healthy. There will be significant variation of both size and coloring within the same hive as a well mated queen will produce bees with anywhere from 16 -25 different fathers. Baby bees will have their thorax covered in hair. As they age the thorax gets more bald. You will notice that the foragers will often have a small shiny spot while the nurse bees do not. There may be other reasons your bees are small, this is just one possibility.
 

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Are you using natural comb or foundation with a set cell size? Moving from foundation to natural comb will cause their size to get smaller. A lack of protein can stunt growth according to what I have recently been told and seen.
 

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I have a colony of slightly smaller and darker bees.

They seem to be a little more defensive and less productive.

At the opposite extreme, my favorite and most productive colony had the largest bees.

So now I'm wondering, is it common to observe a correlation between bee size and productivity? And if so, is the causal link usually genetics or nutrition?
 

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I agree with the theory that some were raised in smaller cells and are smaller. I tried the small cell thing to control mites, which it doesn't, and most of my brood comb is still 4.9mm. Some however is the more standard 5.4mm and I definitely have different sizes of bees. Not an issue, just a curiosity IMO.
 

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Newly emerged bees are smaller than older bees. This has been observed since Huber's time at least. Huber thought there were two different sized bees based on their job. He didn't realize that their jobs changed by age.

"Two kinds of workers in the hive
"The following observations may also furnish indications of the presence of honey in the flowers. They are based upon a remarkable fact which was unknown to my precursors; it is that there are two kinds of workers in the hive; the ones which may attain a considerable size when they have filled themselves with all the honey that their stomach may contain, are in general destined to the elaboration of wax; the others whose abdomen does not perceptibly change in appearance, retain only the quantity of honey which is necessary for their sustenance and immediately hand out to others that which they have harvested; they are not in charge of the provisioning of the hive, their particular function being to care for the young: we will call them nurse bees, or small bees, in opposition to those whose abdomen may be dilated and which deserve the name of wax-workers.

"Although the external difference by which the two sorts may be recognized be inconsiderable, this distinction is not imaginary. Anatomical observations have taught us that there is a real difference in the capacity of their stomach. We have also ascertained that the bees of one sort cannot fulfill all the functions shared among the workers of a hive. In one of these tests we painted with different colors the bees of each class, to observe their behavior, and we did not see any interchange. In another test, we gave the bees of a queen-less colony both brood and pollen and we at once saw the small bees busy themselves with the food of the larvae, while those of the wax-working class paid no attention to them."-- Huber's New Observations Upon Bees, Bicentennial edition pg 219
 
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