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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Last year when I started beekeeping I came to the conclusion my bees were on the small side of the bee size spectrum. I grew an affinity for their petite size when I read things such as smaller bees may have a better chance against varroa or smaller bees are more successful at foraging in windy conditions than big bees. Maybe none of this is true, but I chose to really like my petite girls. When the bees came out from winter I started doubting my prior conclusion, because these bees looked so much bigger than I remember. :scratch: Then the last few weeks I've been noticing the petite bees are back.

Is it that winter bees are bigger than all other bees? I did some searching online and I didn't find much of a consensus. I did come across an article the spoke of "fat bees" in reference to winter bees. I figured if winter bees are really bigger, this should be fairly common knowledge. Is it?
 

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I definitely have two sizes of worker bees. I've attributed it to the fact I have some foundationless and some plastic broodcell frames that I don't know the spacing of. I started all foundationless and would have said I have small bees, now with the plastic intermixed from manipulations not so much. Coincidental? Maybe but that's all I got
 

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Bee size is a function of genetics and the size cell the bee developed in. Some bees are naturally small. Small bees tend to build small cells. Bees raised in small cells tend to be small bees. A similar set of statements can be made about large bees substituting "large" for "small" in each of the sentences.
 

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I just installed two packages about 6 weeks ago. The package bees were unremarkable in size, and about what I expected. But, now that the newly emerged bees are taking over and outnumbering the original package bees, they seem tiny. I'd roughly say they're about half the size of the original package bees. These are the bees that are coming and going, bringing in pollen. Inside the hive, on the frames, most of the bees appear to be larger.
I'm not concerned with the size difference since they seem to be building out and building up ok. It is interesting though and I'm curious to see if the winter brings out a larger average size.
 

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as fusion power says above.. plus, keep in mind that all queens mate with something like 15 or 20 drones. there will be a lot on variation in the 1/2 sisters evident at times. yes, old bees are bigger and they can also get "hairless". genetics have a lot to do with bee size. small bees, big bees is no big deal. you want healthy prolific bees.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I agree genetics affects bee sizes, but this doesn't explain larger bees during winter (from the same colony). Here is portion of the article I was referring to regarding 'fat' winter bees.

IMG_1768.jpg

http://scientificbeekeeping.com/fat-bees-part-1/

Is it that the concept of larger winter bees is not considered proven science or is it that this is not common knowledge among beekeepers?

For whatever is worth, I have foundationless frames.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
More info on 'Fat' (Winter) bees from the same article:


Fat bees and wintering

So the European honeybee, in adapting for the long winters of temperate climates, has figured out ways to store energy in the form of honey for the winter, and protein in the form of vitellogenin. This allowed the species to maintain a large social population year round, despite the vagaries of nectar and pollen flows. Amdam (2003) states: “the vitellogenin-to-jelly invention…made possible the establishment of a very simple and flexible ambient condition-driven mechanism for transforming a nurse bee into a bee with large enough protein and lipid stores to survive several months on honey only.” When broodrearing is curtailed in fall, the emerging workers tank up on pollen, and since they have no brood to feed, they store all that good food in their bodies, thus preparing themselves for a long life through the winter. These well-nourished, long-lived bees have been called “fat” bees (Sommerville 2005; Mussen 2007). Fat bees are chock-full of vitellogenin. Understanding the concept of fat bees is key to colony health, successful wintering, spring buildup, and honey production.
 

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Yes, it is also a nutrition thing. Having low pollen stocks, poor quality pollen, even low nectar/honey stocks might affect the size of the new bees being born. I notice this one two of my near starved hives this spring, compared to rest they are tiny.
 

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My brother has a couple of flowering shrubs in his front yard, every year when they bloom, they're literally covered with bees who aren't bashful about stinging if you get too close. They look exactly like honeybees in terms of coloring, etc. but are literally about half the size of the normal honeybee? Never happened to have a camera or cell with me when they were active.
 
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