Implications

The Idea

Bald headed brood produced when pests are removed from the broodnest.

My natural comb observations and historical research didn’t substantiate small cell beekeeping’s claim that bees have been artificially enlarged:

  • natural comb is composed of a wide range of cell sizes
  • natural bees vary in size seasonally
  • broodnest structure with the right size cells in the proper location is the optimum configuration for colony function
  • today’s foundation cell sizes are well within historical natural comb measurements

Without enlarged bees, there’s no reason to spend all the time, money and stress to regress them. It’s simply better to use a natural approach:

  • get the bees in clean equipment
  • top bar hives facilitate the transition to natural comb
  • use foundationless frames
  • or put 4 small cell frames in the center of each brood box

It’s not easy working against the bees.

When the structure and seasonal dynamics of natural comb are understood, most small cell beekeeping problems are easily avoided. And it’s easy to work with the bees, rather than against them.

The Details

Large or Small Comb?

Natural comb isn’t composed a single cell size. Bees construct a wide range of cell sizes to rear workers, drones, queens and for food storage.

Bees raised on a single cell size, whether large or small, draw out this same variety of cell sizes when given the chance.

No cell size memory there.

Large or Small Bees?

A colony raises different size worker bees at different seasons, even when they are restricted to a single cell size.

A natural hive isn’t composed of one size bee, or a single sub caste of workers:

  • virgin queens travel far from their hives
  • and they mate with many drones in drone congregation areas
  • this insures genetic variability and sub caste diversity

Mongrel bees, on a natural comb, yield a worker population that is diverse in size and genetics. That’s the ultimate combination for survival.

A hive needs small cell sized bees and comb to thrive. It also needs large cell sized bees and comb. Or there wouldn’t be so much large cell sized worker comb built. And the queen wouldn’t prefer to lay in it during the summer.

Historical Cell Measurements

A.I. Root measured cell size before foundation was made. He also describes efforts to arrive at a workable foundation size and European efforts at bee enlargement. His son continued writing about these issues.

Today’s worker cell sizes measurements fall well within the ranges found in natural comb before foundation was produced. Bees draw out the same range of cell sizes regardless whether they’ve been on natural comb, regressed, or raised on small or large cell comb.

There’s no artificially large foundation commercially available in the US.

Regression Anyone?

What:

  • no cell size memory
  • no artificially enlarged foundation in common use
  • no large or small cell bees

So, there’s no need for regression.

Without regression, there’s no need, or reason to kill one’s bees to save them. Regression commonly kills at least 75% of the hives. This loss was seen as a necessary step in selecting small cell bees. It was thought that a better adapted small cell survivor was obtained to replace the defective large cell bees.

Without regression, there’s no need for:

  • isolated mating zones
  • out of season mating
  • complete boxes of perfectly drawn out small cell size comb
  • and there’s no need to search out a feral source for small cell survivors

What other small cell practices could be changed or dropped? How would this make running small cell hives easier?

-bwguy

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