Author Topic: Small (Natural) Cell Size & Mites  (Read 4036 times)

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Offline 40 Acre Bees

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Small (Natural) Cell Size & Mites
« on: January 01, 2014, 08:25:03 am »
We would like to keep our hives as natural as possible and try to make the bees resistant to mites.  We already do foundation-less in our shallows (as we do crush & strain) but have two deeps for our brood chamber.  I read that if you slowly  swap out your frames to a 4.9 mm cell size, your bees will eventually get smaller and be more resistant to mites.   I have been referring to the Michael Bush ~ The Practical Bee Keeper for a lot of information regarding Natural Bee Keeping.

Looking for your opinions and if anyone has experience with this.......   Oh yeah Happy New Year to all.

Offline Perry

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Re: Small (Natural) Cell Size & Mites
« Reply #1 on: January 01, 2014, 08:58:24 am »
Small cell has it's supporters and it's detractors, all depending on who you chose to read.
Some say it absolutely works, others say it doesn't. It is one of those things where you will have to read, read, and read some more and end up making your own conclusions.
You are correct in that regression must be done slowly.
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Offline iddee

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Re: Small (Natural) Cell Size & Mites
« Reply #2 on: January 01, 2014, 09:01:33 am »
I think if you will read more from Micheal's site, you will see he is moving away from small cell and is now using mostly natural cell, which varies greatly in size.

One reason for it is probably Jennifer Berry's research which found no decrease in mites with small cell.

http://www.ent.uga.edu/bees/personnel/documents/Berry1109.pdf
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Offline robo

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Re: Small (Natural) Cell Size & Mites
« Reply #3 on: January 01, 2014, 09:13:18 am »
I will quickly share my story on 4.9.

Since I don't live in an area with great weather for comb building,  multi-step regression was not very easy.   I decided to regress bees I got from cut-outs in 1 step by putting them on  Honey Super Cell.  Well towards the end of the season,  HSC was out of stock and I had a couple of removals that I had to do something with.  With not many options available,  I ended up putting them on 30 year old large cell comb.   Turns out they wintered better than my other hives and had no varroa issue the following year.   At that point,  I convinced myself that varroa can be dealt with by genetics and haven't purchased any HSC since and have been using rite-cell foundation.  I haven't treated for varroa in over 10 years.
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Offline LazyBkpr

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Re: Small (Natural) Cell Size & Mites
« Reply #4 on: January 01, 2014, 10:32:16 am »
I've read Michaels site a couple times, and ordered his book.  While I dont claim to adhere to his techniques, I do share the belief that we need to make our bees better.
   I use natural cell (Foundation-less) in most hives, and when I need to start new comb I use the Mann Lake PF-120 Plastic 4.9 mm frames in between the empty foundation to discourage cross comb.  In talking with other local beekeepers, I "SEEM" to have a little less trouble than they do with Mites..   because of the Cell size or Genetics?   I cant tell you..   I try to proliferate my feral survivor bees, and I add a few VSH queens each year from outside...
  My take on Natural cell.. is that the bees build what they feel the need to build. I have the ability to cut a queen cell out of the middle/bottom of a frame. I can cut cell strips to glue to bars to make queen cells, or I can do cell punch to make queens. As I rotate out old comb.. ALl I need to do is run the knife around the frame to cut the old comb out, and drop the frame back in for the ladies to re draw it...
   Foundation-less has a bit of a learning curve, the curve starts out steep, but quickly tapers off to a flatline.  I find it worthwhile because of the benefits, and """ IF """ there is some benefit to mite resistance.. GREAT!!!     

  This is an interesting video in line with your thoughts...

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Offline robo

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Re: Small (Natural) Cell Size & Mites
« Reply #5 on: January 01, 2014, 11:15:44 am »
Hey that picture of Michael Palmer giving Chris Harp and Michael Bush  "Bunny Ears"  was taken at the 1st Northeast Treatment Free Conference in 2009.  In fact,  I night have even taken the picture,  everyone in the picture had a camera with them and wanted the picture, so cameras where flying around everywhere.   ;D

As far as "natural" goes, it ranks right up there with "organic".   I get so many people coming to my classes that want to keep bees "naturally".   Well I break their bubble by telling them right up front, there is nothing natural about beekeeping.

Feral honeybees live in an empty cavity, such as a hollow tree, where THEY determine how the comb is oriented, how much ventilation, and where brood is raised and honey is stored. In contrast, WE as beekeepers try to control these things in our hives. But perhaps more importantly, and most overlooked, is the fact that a feral colony is never opened up. It never has it’s temperature quickly changed, it’s scent drastically diluted, and is never exposed to sunlight. All things that happen every time we open our hives.

What I tell them is there is no right method of beekeeping,  you need to determine what works best for you and what things you are willing to and not willing to but into your hives.   Nobody knows what is best for the bees better than the bees.   We continually try to "help" them with our methods, and they continually fight our "help".  What does that say about "our" thoughts on what is "right".
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Offline efmesch

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Re: Small (Natural) Cell Size & Mites
« Reply #6 on: January 01, 2014, 12:05:46 pm »
I just finished watching the entire video---sorry I didn't write notes as it went along, but in summary, I felt uncomfortable with his conclusions.  Some of them take a big jump from his observations to his explanations.  Some of his answers sounded too pat.
From my own personal experience, I have found it dificult to get my bees to build on foundation that is smaller than what is usually supplied.  My bees would build a bridge from the foundation and build cells sized the way they wanted without using the foundation base as a guide.
Than too, if it's so good, why aren't more beekeepers using his suggestions?   At least on some of their hives to try it out?

Offline Crofter

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Re: Small (Natural) Cell Size & Mites
« Reply #7 on: January 01, 2014, 12:35:52 pm »
I agree with EF. There are so many variables at work that it is virtually impossible to say which one, or combinations might have been responsible for the observed success or failure. If the cell size is claimed to be the controlling factor then let the same bees and location be tried with the other sized cells and the results should be fairly evident. Similarly if the cell size is paramount using that size should show the same results in other locations. The same selection should be done for different breeds of bee.

Different geographic areas seem possibly to have different mite types which can also vector a different local variety of viruses. Sure throws a wrench into doing a conclusive test of the relative importance of cell size!
Frank

Offline robo

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Re: Small (Natural) Cell Size & Mites
« Reply #8 on: January 01, 2014, 01:20:01 pm »
Than too, if it's so good, why aren't more beekeepers using his suggestions?   At least on some of their hives to try it out?

Agreed.

Also, if it is so easy as the proponents say, why aren't all commercial beekeepers foundationless?   It is obviously less of an investment and businesses are all about cutting expenses.
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Offline blueblood

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Re: Small (Natural) Cell Size & Mites
« Reply #9 on: January 01, 2014, 02:33:41 pm »
At that point,  I convinced myself that varroa can be dealt with by genetics and haven't purchased any HSC since and have been using rite-cell foundation.  I haven't treated for varroa in over 10 years.

I am certainly on your side of the fence.  Appreciate your thoughts on this topic.  Thanks!

Offline Crofter

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Re: Small (Natural) Cell Size & Mites
« Reply #10 on: January 01, 2014, 02:37:38 pm »
I dont know if the amount of drone comb would stabilize at a reasonable amount  (economically) but when I kept natural cell frames in last summer I seemed to have an awful burden of drones to feed. Way into the fall too before they finally filled the big cells with honey. I will have to get into the hives as early as I can and maybe pull some of them out. Don't know, just playing with the concept of drone culling; may have to go to a partial panel of drone comb instead of whole frame.
Frank

Offline LazyBkpr

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Re: Small (Natural) Cell Size & Mites
« Reply #11 on: January 01, 2014, 03:14:22 pm »


   
Hey that picture of Michael Palmer giving Chris Harp and Michael Bush  "Bunny Ears"  was taken at the 1st Northeast Treatment Free Conference in 2009.  In fact,  I night have even taken the picture,  everyone in the picture had a camera with them and wanted the picture, so cameras where flying around everywhere.   ;D

   LOL!! Small world!!!   I thought it was a pretty good picture.

 
As far as "natural" goes, it ranks right up there with "organic".   I get so many people coming to my classes that want to keep bees "naturally".   Well I break their bubble by telling them right up front, there is nothing natural about beekeeping.

Feral honeybees live in an empty cavity, such as a hollow tree, where THEY determine how the comb is oriented, how much ventilation, and where brood is raised and honey is stored. In contrast, WE as beekeepers try to control these things in our hives. But perhaps more importantly, and most overlooked, is the fact that a feral colony is never opened up. It never has it’s temperature quickly changed, it’s scent drastically diluted, and is never exposed to sunlight. All things that happen every time we open our hives.

What I tell them is there is no right method of beekeeping,  you need to determine what works best for you and what things you are willing to and not willing to but into your hives.   Nobody knows what is best for the bees better than the bees.   We continually try to "help" them with our methods, and they continually fight our "help".  What does that say about "our" thoughts on what is "right".

   Well said! I agree completely.

  As far as small cell and the bees not wanting to use it..  I had that problem when I put small cell foundation into a Hive that was previously all large cell.. they made quite a mess of the foundation...
  Putting in EMPTY frames and letting them draw what they wanted went much better, and it seems that putting a small cell frame into a natural foundation hive also seems to work just fine..  I "THINK" the trick is to let them run foundation-less so they regress on their own, so when they do hit a small cell foundation it doesn't mess them up???  Make sense??   LOL, Best I could think of when I realized the difference...

   Crofter...   Dropping foundation-less frames into a hive where the bees have had their cell size dictated to them, is like an open field day..  As soon as I did it I got two complete frames of drone comb right off the bat..  after that they settled down to build good worker comb..  Like the above explanation about small cell.. I can only guess about WHY they do this.. I guessed that it was because they had been limited to putting drones between frames, in corners etc.. anywhere they could up to that point..  Like taking a starving man and tossing him into a Bakery.. Suddenly they were FREE!!!!!!     Cant tell you if my guess is accurate but made sense  ;D
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Offline iddee

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Re: Small (Natural) Cell Size & Mites
« Reply #12 on: January 01, 2014, 05:00:52 pm »
I was taught years ago, "don't ask for references" that under natural conditions bees would have 17 % of brood as drones. That's nearly 1 frame out of 5. You may just think it's excessive, when to them it is correct.
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Offline Crofter

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Re: Small (Natural) Cell Size & Mites
« Reply #13 on: January 01, 2014, 05:57:04 pm »
I dont doubt that amount is correct Iddee, and I could live with it. They do manage to fill it with honey for their stores. I bet not many commercial guys would think it effiecient use of space though. I wonder how much if any economic drag that many drones would create?
Frank

Offline tecumseh

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Re: Small (Natural) Cell Size & Mites
« Reply #14 on: January 02, 2014, 06:43:29 am »
it seem my own thinking and Robo's is pretty much one and the same.  to cut to the chase here when we took bees out of the trees we also left behind anything that might have looked like natural.

a LazyBkr snip..
Dropping foundation-less frames into a hive where the bees have had their cell size dictated to them, is like an open field day..  As soon as I did it I got two complete frames of drone comb right off the bat..

tecumseh...
I would guess that a lot of this is about 1) the time of the year you dropped these frames into the hive and 2) where you dropped these frames into the hive.


Offline pistolpete

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Re: Small (Natural) Cell Size & Mites
« Reply #15 on: January 05, 2014, 11:33:02 pm »
I did some research on the small cell a while back.   The scientific experiments conducted on the topic shows no correlation between cell size and mite reproductive rates.   Anecdotal evidence from bee keepers seems to differ widely.  I'd take the results of a controlled experiment over back yard findings any time.

  The cell size we use today was arrived by taking the average natural cell size, so IMO we are already using a natural cell size and there is no need to mess with it.   It would make sense to me that since mites are able to reproduce better in drone cells (because they are capped longer, not because they are bigger) hives with more drone cells will have a bigger mite problem.    The flip side of that is that colony morale appears to be better when there are more drones present.  This is likely due to some sort of pheromone balance.  Happier bees will be more resistant to the viruses that mites carry and will be more productive. 
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