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So I've been listening to a Youtube video on the internet entitled, 'Michael Bush at the Organically Managed Beekeeping Conference 2016'. (Took place in AZ I believe.)

At any rate there's this one line where he says something along the lines of (forgive me if I don't quote it perfectly): 'all the large cell foundation died of varroah...and that it reached a tipping point when he went to large cells (as compared to smaller cells).

I wanted to bring this up.

So does this mean if you concentrate on only small cell foundation will you not have hardly any varroa problems?

And how much of the large cell problems surging from varroa, are actually also because the large cell foundation in frames tends to mean its also got plastic in there, rather than the cell size itself?
(I ask this also because many people in healthcare fields claim that plastic has a tendency to have more bacteria growth than other materials used in other fields like cooking and food (not bees).)

Thanks for your thoughts and for anyone helping beekeepers try to be educated, survive, and have a better life also!
 

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If you do a search on small cell here you will find several older threads.


I believe Michael's success is more due to “natural sized” cells, meaning he lets the bees build their own comb instead of using any foundation of any size.

perhaps @Michael Bush can clarify but you can also read his site here www.bushfarms.com/beesnaturalcell.htm

I also recommend reading scientific beekeeping dot com where Randy Oliver tests various theories and methods using scientific methods of control groups and publishes his results. He did do testing of HSC awhile back and has some other researchers results of using small cell in there that you might find interesting. Trial of HoneySuperCell® Small Cell Combs - Scientific Beekeeping

I think overall, there is better success with a combination of naturally built comb instead of foundation and selecting for survivor traits .
 

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Cell size has nothing to do with the bee's ability to control varroa, there are equal numbers of varroa raised in 4.9 mm cells as there are in 5.3 mm cells constructed on foundation. Genetics are the controlling factors in varroa resistance. Natural cell size in the brood area is 5.2 mm for Carniolan and Russian, the Italian strains usually make 5.1 to 5.2 mm cells in the center of the brood area.

There are no "large cell problems" other than those in the minds of some beekeepers. Plastic foundations coated with beeswax make good brood comb and storage combs.

Ank, in what part of the world are you located?
 

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The evidence for small cell seems anecdotal at best, the controlled studies simply don't seem to support small cell varroa control. The bees have to literally "regress" genetically before they can even use the small cell and that transition appears to select against varroa mites initially, but the varroa eventually adapt to it to and nothing is gained.
 
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Ank: Many continue to tout small cell and/or "natural comb" as an effective varroa mite control. The Honey Bee Health Coalition's Guide to Varroa Management lists among its ineffective varroa mite control strategies "small cell, 'natural' comb for the rearing of smaller bees." Page 14.

However, many beekeepers on this board that I respect attribute small and/or natural cell beekeeping to their success in controlling mites. Personally, for me to invest the time and energy to attempt such a strategy, I would first require a significant consensus of researchers and studies illustrating that this strategy (or any strategy) has proven highly effective. I have not found this with small/natural cell.

I am not a pioneer. I am an adopter.
 

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At this point in time I would mostly ignore what Michael Bush says (about small cell).
Partially why I have been doing this TF experiment for, like, 6 seasons now?
And honestly reporting on it too.

Here is a good read:

If you have a good location (meaning pre-existing resistant population OR where you can yourself safely create such a population) then you maybe can do it.
Otherwise, meh.
To be sure, there plenty of examples where the conditions, indeed, allow for the TF management. The examples are available right on this board.
 

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The jury is still out on small/natural cell for varroa control. I used to think that based on the reading in my early days. The following quote from Micheal Oliver's page actually makes more sense to me:

"Skeptics point out that some small cell proponents keep bees in areas with a strong Africanized bee presence, and that the vigorous hygienic behavior of those bees is the true reason for their success."

I am in the affricanized country and treating for varroa is optional for my colonies. In fact, I have never used mitecide, formic acid, hops, etc EVER. I used to do 3 rounds of OA fogging spaced a week apart after honey harvest in July. I never did OA treatment of my out apiary which has 4 colonies.

But last July, my OA fogger died only after I treated half of the colonies (6 out of 13) on the 1st round. I was building a house at the time had no time fixing OA fogger and hence didn't bother to treat any further for the year. I accidentally created an experiment: Treated with only 1 round of OA and a control group! One colony in the control group looks weaker but all other 12 are doing fine. They are still in the danger zone until pear bloom for our region but all 12 looked healthy with more than enough bees in the middle of January. We will see how they progress into the spring.

1 out of 4 colony in the out apiary has perished so far.

I will update how they do in spring later.
 

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I, too started a treatment free small cell yard in the heyday of small cell mania. Within two seasons all had collapsed due to varroa. This was at a time when dwv was less prevalent. I don’t expect they would survive for more than a single season today.
Internet myths persist.
 

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The jury is still out on small/natural cell for varroa control.
only the jury of internet opinion...
there is one study that suggests it may work, a half dozen+ or so that say it doesnt, one that says it increases mites...

the latest unde way tested small cell, they even went so far as to use sister queens forma long standing TF line, cemical free wax form lusby, etc
  • The second bee-year of the COMB project was a time of splitting, swarming, and honey production. After winter losses of 62.3% in the chemical free (CF) management system, 13.0% in the conventional (CON) management system, and 14.7% in the organic (ORG) management system, we set out to recover our numbers.
  • If a colony had at least 8 frames of brood in the spring, it was split to make a second colony. The split colony was left to requeen itself. Subsequently, if a colony had initiated swarming by making queen cells, the colony was split. Again, the split colony was left to requeen itself. The overwintering losses in CON and ORG colonies were easily made up by splitting. Some CF colonies were able to be split, but there were not enough colonies made to completely make up for losses.
they took large losses and many of the remaining hives were too weak to split and they were unable to get the numbers back up
COMB Update November 2019
 

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So I've been listening to a Youtube video on the internet entitled, 'Michael Bush at the Organically Managed Beekeeping Conference 2016'. (Took place in AZ I believe.)

At any rate there's this one line where he says something along the lines of (forgive me if I don't quote it perfectly): 'all the large cell foundation died of varroah...and that it reached a tipping point when he went to large cells (as compared to smaller cells).

I wanted to bring this up.

So does this mean if you concentrate on only small cell foundation will you not have hardly any varroa problems?

And how much of the large cell problems surging from varroa, are actually also because the large cell foundation in frames tends to mean its also got plastic in there, rather than the cell size itself?
(I ask this also because many people in healthcare fields claim that plastic has a tendency to have more bacteria growth than other materials used in other fields like cooking and food (not bees).)

Thanks for your thoughts and for anyone helping beekeepers try to be educated, survive, and have a better life also!
I re entered beekeeping about fifteen years ago or so and the small cell theory sounded like it was worth a try. It wasn't. It had no affect on my mite levels. I tried that and drone culling and all the fads except Screened Bottom Boards. That was and is just too scary! I tried essential oils for mite control and when I got tired of producing no honey and losing too many colonies. I started treating for Mites alternating Apiguard and Apivar. Apivar is now ineffective in my area as the mites probably use it for ketchup. I would recommend oxalic acid vaporization. I think it will take the mites a while to grow acid proof feet.

Now I do like the small cell foundation I have in my cold country brood nests! I believe my small bees are able to cover more cells and thereby build up faster in the spring. I no longer chase the small cell myth but I do try to keep them in the center of my brood boxes.
 

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Like others here I too cautiously drank the small cell Kool aid in 2003. I built small cells hives, had a segregated small cell apiary, and tried Housel Positioning which immediately proved impossible to maintain. It all failed and was a waste of time and money. I came to the concluson the small cell priestess was a hoax, and am sorry to see you know who still promoting it. I melted the small cell comb down and laugh every time I come across a Housel positioning marked frame. I think I still have some SC foundation and will maybe make some candles with it one day. Or wood preservative.
 
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I am melting mine and dipping queen cups. I find it interesting that Housel himself never claimed any benefit from what became known as Housel Positioning, as with so much other BS of the small cell craze it came from Lusby.
 

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Been there done it... no thank you

The only benefit of a small cell queen-- she will not recognize/lay standard foundation cells and Queen Excluders are not needed.
 

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So I've been listening to a Youtube video on the internet entitled, 'Michael Bush at the Organically Managed Beekeeping Conference 2016'. (Took place in AZ I believe.)

At any rate there's this one line where he says something along the lines of (forgive me if I don't quote it perfectly): 'all the large cell foundation died of varroah...and that it reached a tipping point when he went to large cells (as compared to smaller cells).

I wanted to bring this up.

So does this mean if you concentrate on only small cell foundation will you not have hardly any varroa problems?

And how much of the large cell problems surging from varroa, are actually also because the large cell foundation in frames tends to mean its also got plastic in there, rather than the cell size itself?
(I ask this also because many people in healthcare fields claim that plastic has a tendency to have more bacteria growth than other materials used in other fields like cooking and food (not bees).)

Thanks for your thoughts and for anyone helping beekeepers try to be educated, survive, and have a better life also!
To be honest small cell,large cell and any prefabricated cell size on foundation for bees to build up on are just different sides of the same coin Bees of different races and in different situations build comb with cell sizes specific for their needs. While I do think reduced gestation periods help reduce mite reproduction rates it is not the only thing that the bees develop to help them control mite populations.
When we allow our bees to build their own comb they do what is best for them. We know so little et we are constantly trying to improve hive design to improve production
Bees have been around for millions of years through multiple climate changes and yet have survived
The biggest threat to honey bees and beekeeping in general is that we think we know so much more what the bees need. The survival rates of feral colonies is a sure indication that the bees know how to solve their problems
I live in France right now have friends who recently discovered a feral colony resident in the window of a farm building that has been there for over 25 years. The farmer say persistent occupation. Funny thing is this huge colony lives side by side in the same cavity with a nest of the hornets( not sure if it is Asian or European)
We need to learn from the bees rather than constantly trying to adjust their situations to suit our needs and knowledge
I keep bees without inputs like varroa control .that’s the bee’s work. Foundationless,feed honey, allow swarming, allow drones and blah blah blah. I follow most of the principles of Seeley’s Darwinian Beekeeping style and I am having better results
 

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An interesting quote from the conclusion section:
"Although reproduction of Varroa sp. is affected by the space between the developing bee and cell wall, reducing cell sizes as a mite control method will probably fail to be effective since the bees are likely to respond by rearing correspondingly smaller bees which explains the close correlation between cell and bee size"
 

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Speaking of bee size, I wonder if smaller bees have a harder time fighting off the Varroa?
My nuc I got last Spring had small bees. I wondered if they were on SC foundation. And when I added my Foundationless frames they became bigger, average size. I do like the bees doing what They would like to do. But take that with grain of salt as I am 1st year, long studying since 2014, beekeep.
 
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