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Author Topic: What is your natural cell size?  (Read 310 times)

Offline Bob Wilson

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What is your natural cell size?
« on: December 30, 2019, 09:20:43 pm »
I use foundationless frames in a hive with a feral colony caught this past spring. I measured some empty honeycomb today. It ranges from 5.2-5.5 mm. I thought it would be smaller, maybe 4.6 to 4.9. Could my bees have come from a local hive using foundation and having larger bees? Or is natural honeycomb cell size larger than brood cell size, so I should measure some brood comb instead?

Online The15thMember

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Re: What is your natural cell size?
« Reply #1 on: December 31, 2019, 12:37:10 am »
I could be wrong, but I?m pretty sure that worker brood cells are smaller than honey cells.
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Offline Xerox

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Re: What is your natural cell size?
« Reply #2 on: December 31, 2019, 01:41:25 am »
I could be wrong, but I?m pretty sure that worker brood cells are smaller than honey cells.

I think the worker and honey cells are the same size width but the honey cells are much longer.
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Offline yes2matt

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Re: What is your natural cell size?
« Reply #3 on: December 31, 2019, 06:51:46 am »
I use foundationless frames in a hive with a feral colony caught this past spring. I measured some empty honeycomb today. It ranges from 5.2-5.5 mm. I thought it would be smaller, maybe 4.6 to 4.9. Could my bees have come from a local hive using foundation and having larger bees? Or is natural honeycomb cell size larger than brood cell size, so I should measure some brood comb instead?

I don't have the tool to measure. But by my eyeball observation, my bees' "natural" cell size has well over 1mm in variance for worker cells. And also my worker bees are different sizes in the same hive.   I read/heard somewhere that a colony will utilize different size cells at different times of the year to raise different size bees.   I have no way to test/observe that because I move frames around a lot and don't keep track.  Maybe a good use for a top bar hive.

Also, an individual cell gets just a little bit smaller with each use because the pupa leaves behind the silk. So even if the bees were drawing "exactly this size"  the older frames in the hive would have smaller cells.

Offline sawdstmakr

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Re: What is your natural cell size?
« Reply #4 on: December 31, 2019, 10:47:24 am »
Bobil,
Your bees probably did come from a hive that had large comb foundation. It will take several generations in new comb to get smaller bees.
In nature the hive is usually vertical and they start from the top. The brood area keeps moving down, allowing each successive generation to make smaller cells. The bees raised in these cell are smaller until they reach the size the bees naturally desire.
Jim Altmiller

Offline AR Beekeeper

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Re: What is your natural cell size?
« Reply #5 on: December 31, 2019, 01:44:52 pm »
In the 1890s Dr. C. C. Miller measured naturally drawn cells from the brood area of one of his hives and found it to be 5.2 mm diameter.  What I see from my colonies is the same.

When I have seen comb drawn by swarms the diameter of the cells depends on the time of the year the swarm issued.  Late swarms will draw smaller cells and the comb area is usually not as large and is often poorly drawn.    This is caused by the shortage of nectar available to the later swarms.  Swarms issuing in April have much more nectar sources available than do those issuing in late June.

Offline Bob Wilson

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Re: What is your natural cell size?
« Reply #6 on: December 31, 2019, 03:16:07 pm »
AR. This was an early swarm, I believe early March. Interesting comment. Thanks.
Jim. I do not know of any beekeepers anywhere around me. I live in a subdivision on the outskirts of town. However, I am beginning to think mine actually are from another beekeeper's hive. I was hoping they were feral.
Yes2matt. I just pulled a frame from my hive long enough to measure 10 cells in a row with a small tape measure. It was 55 millimeters, divided by 10 cells = 5.5 mm cell size. (Learned that from Michael Bush)

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Re: What is your natural cell size?
« Reply #7 on: December 31, 2019, 05:13:13 pm »
This is very interesting reading. Measuring from inside wall across 10 cells to the outside wall gives the gross size of 10 cells.  But does this give an accurate size of the volume of the cell.  Are all cell walls the same thickness when the comb is snow white? As the cells are used the volume of the cell diminishes. Does this mean smaller bees? Do smaller bees develop quicker.  How much effect does genetics have on cell size?    etc

Offline Troutdog

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Re: What is your natural cell size?
« Reply #8 on: January 01, 2020, 01:53:22 pm »
I think Africans like it tiny. MB would disagree. I have never seen any evidence of small cell prefered by any of the 100 or so extractions I've done. Colonies that have been in feral conditions such as an old barn or house have all different sizes on the same comb. I do think a drone frame should always be part of the strategy in the brood nest. Lots of remarks about brood frames as honey then back to brood indicating that's a no-no. Not sure of that. I ask every hive to make a box of deep honey so I can extract it early and use in winter splits/nucs.

I'm not against small cell but it is a process that I don't see the value in. I'm not treatment-free either. I do have lots of frames every year that are foundationless and again I'm not seeing the small cell. 5.1mm worker 5.4 drone I think these are standard wax and plastic sizes.
I think a smarter way to address the advantage of what small cell represents which is a shorter brood cycle to the tune of 19 days to is to give bees the missing nutrition in their diet and the royal jelly will have so much more nutrient and protein in it that the bees develop faster. we are down to about 19.5 -20 days in prime time conditions with a small number of minerals added to syrup. of course, the bees are disease-free and good queen stock from years of breeding.


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Re: What is your natural cell size?
« Reply #9 on: January 01, 2020, 04:34:54 pm »
My bees are mostly foundationless. I've never measured the cell size of my bees. It's true that bees make different size cells, even in the same comb. With that said, I don't see where allowing the bees to build what they want (natural comb) can hurt anything. I get more wax to melt down and use, and the bees get whatever they think is best.
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Offline yes2matt

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Re: What is your natural cell size?
« Reply #10 on: January 01, 2020, 05:19:39 pm »
In the 1890s Dr. C. C. Miller measured naturally drawn cells from the brood area of one of his hives and found it to be 5.2 mm diameter.  What I see from my colonies is the same.

When I have seen comb drawn by swarms the diameter of the cells depends on the time of the year the swarm issued.  Late swarms will draw smaller cells and the comb area is usually not as large and is often poorly drawn.    This is caused by the shortage of nectar available to the later swarms.  Swarms issuing in April have much more nectar sources available than do those issuing in late June.
I thought festooning was the bees measuring space, and I thought they built cells with measurements based on their own body size. So the idea that they make smaller cells if there is less forage is interesting to me.

Is it because they don't have as much wax and want to get more cells? Or maybe because they don't have as much royal jelly production and so want smaller larvae? Or maybe it is because of the relationship to the solar year....

Ya got me chin scratching.

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Offline Michael Bush

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Re: What is your natural cell size?
« Reply #11 on: January 12, 2020, 06:09:31 pm »
Many things affect cell size.  The spacing of the combs (32mm or 1 1/4" will be smaller and 35mm or 1 3/8" will be larger), the intended use (related to the spacing which is a clue to the cell builders what the use will be but also the location e.g. supers vs brood nest).  The size of the bees drawing the comb (bees who were raised on enlarged cells build larger cells).  The core of the brood nest is always smaller.  The bottom of the comb is smaller than the top of the comb.  Typically in the core of the brood nest I have about 4.6mm.  On the edges it will be larger.  At the top it will be larger.  In the supers it will be larger.
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