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Is the Varroa Destructor mite a result of plastic frame foundations?

 
Scott Fike
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Greetings,
It is my understanding that the Varroa Destructor mite is a relatively recent problem that came from basically nowhere through the widespread use of pre-made wax or plastic frame foundations that had rather large hexagonal cells imprinted on them in Langstroth style beehives. Is my understanding correct or am I way off base here?
Thank you
 
John Wolfram
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I could be wrong, but it was my understanding the Varroa mite managed to spread across the entire USA in single year due to the practice of moving hives around from crop to crop. I remember hearing that at one point in the year, something ridiculous like half of all the managed hives are located in the almond areas of California. After the almonds are pollinated those hives were sent to other parts of the country to pollinate other crops. Effectively, we have created a near perfect system for disseminating bee pests and diseases throughout the country.
 
Michael Cox
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Varroa was a pest of another bee species that jumped host, which happens naturally but may have been triggered by certain bee husbandry techniques. So varroa itself is not new, it has just adapted itself to a new host. Varroa breeds exceptionally quickly so is in an adaptation arms race with both bees (hygenic behaviours like grooming) and beekeepers (medication which varroa becomes immune to quickly).

Beekeeping practices have certainly speeded the spread of the mite - shipping bees large distances didn't happen until recent years so the mite spread over huge geographical areas more swiftly than it would have naturally done, however it would not be unreasonable to expect the mites to spread naturally from anywhere between 10 and 100 miles per year through bee interactions. As far as I'm aware plastic foundation didn't exist when varroa species jumped around 30 years ago, but pressed foundation sheets from that time and early typically did have larger cell sizes than natural comb.

Unfortunately we can't put this particular genie back in the bottle - now the species jump has occurred the two populations will need to adjust to each other and reach and equilibrium. This equilibrium is probably beyond beekeepers control, other than possibly nudging it through careful genetic selection and by using management practices hostile to varroa.
 
jacob wustner
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No, a thousand times no. It's enlarged cell size that has been going on long before plastic frames. If you want to know, check out Dee Lusby on bee source.com under POV. She will straighten you out. Bees have been moved around by humans for thousands of years. Almond pollination helps spread diseases, but doesn't create them. Plastic isn't good for anyone, bees or humans.
 
tel jetson
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jacob wustner wrote:No, a thousand times no. It's enlarged cell size that has been going on long before plastic frames. If you want to know, check out Dee Lusby on bee source.com under POV. She will straighten you out.


I'm not convinced that Dee is correct on this issue. see the second letter (About Cell Size, Varroa Control, and a "Fatal Error") in the pdf file I attached, or download the full article here.

and while it's true that humans have been moving bees for a good long while, both the scale and prevalence of that movement increased by at least a couple orders of magnitude in modern times.
Filename: small_cells_Saucy_F_ABJ_2014_10_1049_1050.pdf
Description: fatal error
File size: 972 Kbytes
[Download small_cells_Saucy_F_ABJ_2014_10_1049_1050.pdf] Download Attachment
 
jacob wustner
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I have read the article, not swayed. Not that it isn't accurate, but it's in the industry to reject small cell theory. Have you tried small cell or treatment free? Have you measured brood from feral hives in your area? I have no clue how many hives were moved around in ancient times, and our pollination scenario can spread disease, but it isn't at fault for varroa or any honeybee disease we have. I think people should still read Lusby's work. I was skeptical at first, but after hearing all the people doing small cell successfully I decided I am going to try it on a commercial scale. Starting this spring, I will keep everyone posted on how it goes.
 
David Livingston
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Oh I forgot to mention that Dr David Heaf a well known writer about Warré hives was banned by Dee Lusby from her Forum for suggesting that the small cell approach was not the cure all she suggested . Now David Heaf runs the Warré Yahoo group and a more diplomatic person you could not wish to meet so I worry that Ms Lusby may not be allowing a range of views on this issue on her web site. Just so you are aware .

David
 
tel jetson
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jacob wustner wrote:Have you tried small cell or treatment free? Have you measured brood from feral hives in your area?


I haven't tried small-cell foundation. haven't tried foundation at all, for that matter. I don't use frames, either. from my point of view, frames are only useful for performing a wide variety of invasive interventions that I don't practice, and foundation forces the bees into configurations that I choose rather than allowing them to build what suits them.

treatment free: I fed a hive some sugar water once years ago. that's the only treatment I've ever performed, and I regretted it.

measuring feral brood: I suppose that all my hives would be considered feral. they were started from either feral swarms or complete colonies that I cut out of various buildings where they were bothering folks. while I've never measured the brood, I've observed carefully enough to be certain there are a wide variety of cell sizes and brood sizes. the different sizes of adult workers is also easily discernible at the hive entrance.

Dee Lusby has some great ideas, but she isn't infallible.
 
jacob wustner
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David,
The bees do know best for themselves, that is why they build different sizes for different functions within the hive. This is well known. Foundation is necessary for the conversion of large cell to small cell. If you try to do foundationless, they build what they like. For someone trying to make a living from keeping bees, foundation is a time saver and a money maker. I did foundationless frames this past season, but inside hives with combs already drawn. They built mostly drone comb, which is the nursery for varroa reproduction. Big mistake. IF you started with no drawn comb, it may work better. But bees prefer to have some comb already built when starting new hives, if you shake them into empty boxes with empty frames, they don't take as well. So for someone trying to keep their bees in their boxes, foundation is that much more incentive to stay. For you, foundation may not be the best, but that is for you. The varroa will climb up anything, even a hollow log if it has a bottom. Dee has every right to ban people from her forum, especially if they suggest things that are contrary to what she is trying to teach. She may be stubborn, but everyone know that. That is partly why she is so awesome. If she allowed a range of views in her forum, people would be even more confused. Every beekeeper has their own methods and philosophies.

Tet,
Dont knock something if you haven't tried it. These invasive interventions you speak of are only invasive from your perspective. Most beekeepers call it working. That is awesome you have a bunch of hives that are from swarms and cut-outs, but numbers would be nice here. Careful observation works for describing colors, behaviors and the like, but measurements describe sizes. Numbers of hives, sizes of worker brood cells, and the longevity of each hive compared to its worker brood cell size. Otherwise I have nothing to compare it to. I never said anyone is infallible. But Dee Lusby is an inspiration for hundreds if not thousands of beekeepers world wide who want to do organic beekeeping. From listening to people's stories who are on its list, it seems that the small cell size has allowed people to keep bees without treatment for many years. But that doesn't mean it is the small cell that does it, maybe it is genetics. Dee sure has a whole lot of experience and wisdom, despite her strict policies. Reading her work is still enjoyable for me, and I agree with her on lots of issues, that is why I suggest that people do. I also suggest people do more research before telling others that their way is the way to go. I still want to prove small cell for myself. I have waited too long, mostly because people told me it didn't work. Maybe in a couple of years I will agree with them, and maybe I will agree with Dee. Until then, I stand by my years of experience and all of the research I have been doing on my own. For what it is worth, I am transitioning from a conventional beekeeping operation to a permaculture one. And I plan to make my living from it for the rest of my life.
 
David Livingston
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Dear Jacob

"The bees do know best for themselves, that is why they build different sizes for different functions within the hive. This is well known. "
On this we agree

" Foundation is necessary for the conversion of large cell to small cell. If you try to do foundationless, they build what they like"

I would put it more like foundation is necessary to force the bees to change to small cell as larger cell foundation is necessary to force them to use large cell after all I am sure you agree that having a range of cell sizes is the natural state for the bee .

When you tried some foundationless boxes the bees built drone comb . Why do you think this was ? For me its obvious that the bees built drone comb as they felt that they needed more drones . Drones get a bad rep as they dont produce honey and for most of there lives we dont acually know what they do . I do not think myself that this means they are unimportant its just shows our own ignorance about this part of the bees behavior , nature is not wasteful in my experiance .

as I am running out of time will write more later

David
 
Mike Haych
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From Michael Bush on natural cell size:

Pre and Post Capping Times and Varroa

8 hours shorter capping time halves the number of Varroa infesting a brood cell.
8 hours shorter post capping time halves the number of offspring of a Varroa in the brood cell.

_________________________________________


Accepted days for capping and Post Capping.(based on observing bees on 5.4 mm comb)
Capped 9 days after egg layed
Emerges 21 days after egg layed

_________________________________________


Huber's Observations on Capping and Emergence on Natural Comb.

"The worm of workers passes three days in the egg, five in the vermicular state, and then the bees close up its cell with a wax covering. The worm now begins spinning its cocoon, in which operation thirty-six hours are consumed. In three days, it changes to a nymph, and passes six days in this form. It is only on the twentieth day of its existence, counting from the moment the egg is laid, that it attains the fly state."

François Huber 4 September 1791.

(note: this is a quote from the 1809 English translation and it is almost identical to the 1821 English translation both of which say "six days" But I have since found the original French which says, in both the 1792 edition and the 1814 edition: "sept jours & demi" which should be translated 7 1/2 days. This makes it come to 20 days which is still one day short of 21 days)
_________________________________________


My Observations on Capping and Emergence on 4.95mm Comb.

I've observed on commercial Carniolan bees and commercial Italian bees a 24 hour shorter pre capping and 24 hour shorter post capping time on 4.95 mm cells in an observation hive.

My observations on 4.95 mm cell size
Capped 8 days after layed
Emerged 19 days after layed

_________________________________________


Why would I want natural sized cells?

Less Varroa Because:

Capping times shorter by 24 hours
Resulting in less Varroa in the cell when it's capped
Postcapping times shorter by 24 hours
Resulting in less varroa reaching maturity and mating by emergence
More chewing out of Varroa


But foundationless frames, even horizontally wired, are not as "tough" when it comes to handling. That means that they're not commercially viable for industrial beekeeping.

Added: Whether it's large cell or small cell foundation, it's still forcing the bees to one standard. Nature doesn't do one standard like that. Small cell foundation does have a place if you are trying to regress bees from the larger size that conventional Langstroth-type beekeeping produces down to a more natural size. Once you start to consistently see smaller cell size, remove the small cell foundation and let the bees drawn comb naturally. If you obtain bees other than by capturing a feral swarm or by removing a unwanted nest, they'll most likely be products of a conventional large-cell Langstroth system. Getting them down to natural size is a bit involved if you want to use a Kenyan or Warre box since neither takes the rectangular frame that small-cell foundation fits. When I went through the regression process, I decided to use a Tanzanian box built to Langstroth width specs. That way, I could build a frame to take the small cell foundation. I stayed with with Tanzanian boxes and frames. With the incredible heat that we've being seeing the past few years, I've started wiring the frames to make the comb a bit "stiffer" and thus avoid "sh*t" moments went soft comb detaches during handling a frame.

Is using frames this way natural? No. But neither is beekeeping. Parse the word beekeeping. For me, using frames but with no foundation is not as desirable as topbars but it seems to me far better than the disturbance created when comb drops into the box.
 
Mike Haych
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jacob wustner wrote:But Dee Lusby is an inspiration for hundreds if not thousands of beekeepers world wide who want to do organic beekeeping.


Dee is not organic and is highly opposed to organic. She is natural aka treatment free, ie, nothing goes into the box except what the bees put there except honey if you have to feed. That means no herbs, for example. Talking organic in her forum is akin to poking the hornet nest. LOL

She's rude and insulting and rubs lots of people the wrong way but if you can get past that and hear what she's saying there's a lot to be learned. If you need kinder, gentler, Michael Bush or Dean Stiglitz are equally good though with fewer years of experience.
 
David Livingston
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Dear Jacob
"They built mostly drone comb, which is the nursery for varroa reproduction" True Drones do get parisitised more than other types of bees . Is this because they are drones or is it because of another reason . If you look at your bees either on foundation or natural comb they tend to build drone cells to the outside of the cluster the cooler areas the same areas verroa prefer . Thats one reason I like the idea of Perone hives .
Oscar Perones Method if you can get it to work in your area offers the most product for least work of any beekeeping method I have seen .


Mike

"But foundationless frames, even horizontally wired, are not as "tough" when it comes to handling. That means that they're not commercially viable for industrial beekeeping. "

Thats the whole argument for me in a nutshell .

David



 
jacob wustner
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David,

The bees built drone comb because they didn't have enough of it in the hive to their liking. That is always what they do when they feel like they need more. I knew this may happen, and trying it confirmed it for me. Having a range of cell sizes doesn't sit well for me. They have two sizes generally, worker brood cells and drone brood cells. They will fill either with honey and pollen. I am not trying to say that drones are bad, for we do know what they do. This is well documented.

In the frames without foundation, some of them started drone comb, but when the queen ran out of space to lay, they built worker comb in the middle. I assume this is how most frames will be drawn out when introducing empty frames in this scenario. That is why foundation will save the beekeeper time and money by not waiting for the bees to do what the beekeeper wants. And yes the drone combs should be moved to the outside, but when there is an empty space in the center of the hive they will gladly build drone comb there.

Mike,
I would agree with Dee that her practices are organic, I think that you mean that her standards do not align with the standards set by the national organic standards board. That doesn't mean she isn't organic, it means she is more organic, I would even say permacultural. I have never met her, but I assume her rudeness comes from years of people running their mouths around her. She is probably fed up, and I don't blame her. She rubs me the right way! I like passionate and strong-willed people who don't put up with b.s.. Maybe I am more like her than the kinder, gentler, diplomatic beekeepers. It is the same personality that I love in Paul Wheaton. They just tell it like it is, and don't care who they offend!

As for foundation, you could use wax small cell foundation in any type of hive if you want to experiment with it. But for me, as a beekeeper, I want to use langstroth. And it seems that converting to small cell will happen much faster if I use foundation.

I am glad you included this information from M. Bush!

I would like to add that no one calls it industrial beekeeping within the industry, it is commercial beekeeping. And you can use foundationless frames in an extractor if you are careful to make sure it has been in the bees for more than one season. If the bees get a chance to eat the honey, raise brood, and fill with honey two or three seasons, then the comb cell walls are made thicker and becomes considerably stronger. Brand new comb should either be sold as comb honey, or left in (or put back in) as feed honey to give it a chance to strengthen over a couple seasons before it can be extracted like the commercial beekeepers do. This was how the commercial beekeepers I learned from did it before the days of plastic foundation.
 
David Livingston
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"I would like to add that no one calls it industrial beekeeping within the industry" Well they would n't would they it does not sound so nice . Are commercial farming and commercial beekeeping from the same philosphical basis ? If its an industry does that make it industrail ?
As for drones yes we know what happens in detail for the last couple of hours of their lives should they get "lucky" enough to mate although I use the word lucky advisedly as having your genitals ripped off during sex is not one of the ways I would like to die . But what do they "do " the rest of the time ? Why are they bigger than the queen ? ( wasps ,ants and termites for instance have smaller males )
Research has shown htat we dont actually know as much as we think about bees . For instance we know they dance but in a pitch black hive how do they comunicate that dance to the other bees ? Vibration ? scent ? telepathy
Having a range of cell sizes does not mean just drone worker and queen . In the wild comb there are a range of worker and honey storage sizes too - dependant on the time of the year ( eg winter bees are bigger than summer bees ) ,the place of the cell in the comb and possibly other reasons not yet descovered . There are also subtle effects, even in the thickness of the wax between the cells can be different and can have different thermoregulation effect . Heat is important along with scent (Nestduftwärmebindung see http://www.users.callnetuk.com/~heaf/thur.pdf ).

David

 
tel jetson
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jacob wustner wrote:
Tel,
Dont knock something if you haven't tried it.


I appreciate the sentiment, but I'm quite willing to knock all manner of things that I have no intention of ever trying. I'll make fun of cross-fit all day without every trying it, for example. more to the point, I won't ever use any sort of toxins in my hives, just like I won't ever use pesticides or herbicides on the land I'm responsible for. and I won't use foundation or frames (I do use frames for cut outs). I don't need to try these things to know I'm not interested. I have, however, helped another beekeeper with his frame hives. not my cup of tea.

having seen how bees build when they aren't artificially constrained, I have no desire to hamper their natural inclination with frames or foundation. I also believe frames have a negative impact on the hive atmosphere and the bees' ability to deal with pests, but I and others have mentioned that several times elsewhere on the forum, so I'll spare everyone the broken record.

jacob wustner wrote:These invasive interventions you speak of are only invasive from your perspective. Most beekeepers call it working.


that certainly wouldn't be the only issue on which I differ with most beekeepers. I think there's a good chance the bees would consider most of the interventions practiced by frame beekeepers to be rather invasive, too, but I won't presume to speak for them. my friend, Jacqueline, does seem to be on speaking terms with her bees, though, and she would most likely corroborate my assessment.

but considering the issue carefully might get us there without the Doc Dolittle approach. there is plenty of discussion elsewhere on the forum about some of the negative consequences of various management practices. we don't need to repeat it here. if you're curious, you'll find it. in summary though, I'm sure beekeepers call it working, but I call it fucking with the bees for no good reason. it isn't because I'm very lazy (though I certainly am) that I don't practice hive manipulations. it's because I believe they are detrimental to the health of my bees. I arrived at that conclusion through study of available literature, my own observations, and critical thinking. others with the same available data have come to quite different conclusions.

jacob wustner wrote:That is awesome you have a bunch of hives that are from swarms and cut-outs, but numbers would be nice here. Careful observation works for describing colors, behaviors and the like, but measurements describe sizes. Numbers of hives, sizes of worker brood cells, and the longevity of each hive compared to its worker brood cell size. Otherwise I have nothing to compare it to.


until about fifteen minutes ago, I had never measured any worker brood cells. I was content with my observation that they vary dramatically enough to make the difference easily visible, which didn't lend much credence to the 4.9-mm-is-natural argument of the small cell crowd. but really, I don't ever see the vast majority of brood comb in my hives, at least until I harvest it for honey and crush it. that's generally a sticky enough affair that precision measuring devices have never struck me as a good idea. to be honest, though, I've just never been concerned about cell size. if I was a more generous person, I suppose I would record the sizes frequently and share them publicly to advance beekeeping knowledge. I don't consider it my job to debunk the small-cell theory, though, as others have done a quite complete job of that already.

when the bees are active, I frequently invite folks to sit and watch a hive entrance with me. I have had visitors with no beekeeping experience ask me why the size of the workers varies so much in my hives. I've always figured that was also a result of a variety of brood cell sizes. if anybody can suggest an alternative mechanism for this variety, I would be very interested. until then, that the variety of adult bee sizes corresponds to the variety of brood comb sizes seems the most likely explanation.

at any rate, I measured the only comb I've got accessible at the moment:



that's a piece I keep around as decoration/air freshener instead of buying or making some real art. it's a pretty small sample, and I forgot to borrow a micrometer, but all the cells seemed to be very close to 5 mm across, possibly leaning to the + side of 5. I wouldn't trust my eyes, the steadiness of my hands, and the tape measure I used to be more precise than +/- .5 mm, though, so we might have to wait until I'm less forgetful to get any meaningful data. I can say that that piece of comb is rather more uniform than what I usually see, both in my cut out work and in my own hives. I can't speak to the provenance of the colony that made that comb, except that there was considerable diversity expressed in the coloration and size of the bees in the swarm that founded it. that leads me to believe it didn't issue from a managed colony, but I'm far from certain about that.

jacob wustner wrote:I never said anyone is infallible. But Dee Lusby is an inspiration for hundreds if not thousands of beekeepers world wide who want to do organic beekeeping.


demagoguery isn't a virtue in my estimation.


jacob wustner wrote:From listening to people's stories who are on its list, it seems that the small cell size has allowed people to keep bees without treatment for many years. But that doesn't mean it is the small cell that does it, maybe it is genetics. Dee sure has a whole lot of experience and wisdom, despite her strict policies. Reading her work is still enjoyable for me, and I agree with her on lots of issues, that is why I suggest that people do. I also suggest people do more research before telling others that their way is the way to go. I still want to prove small cell for myself. I have waited too long, mostly because people told me it didn't work. Maybe in a couple of years I will agree with them, and maybe I will agree with Dee. Until then, I stand by my years of experience and all of the research I have been doing on my own.


it's very easy to mix up correlation and causation. parsing them out for certain generally involves controlling all variables but the one in question. with a complex social organism like a honeybee, that level of control is nigh on impossible, but it's also not really necessary. I would say that finding out for yourself is the right way to go, but make sure you control things enough for your experiment to be really useful and watch out for confirmation bias. that one's a bugger.

jacob wustner wrote:For what it is worth, I am transitioning from a conventional beekeeping operation to a permaculture one. And I plan to make my living from it for the rest of my life.


I would say that's worth quite a lot. it will certainly give you a lot more credibility among other commercial beekeepers than I would have, for example. and that will be important when you notice the results of the changes you're making and share your results with others. and as stubborn as that lot can be, commercial beekeepers are the folks that universities are paying attention to. and overcoming the dogma commercial beekeepers are known to truck in is no small task, so you're certainly to be commended for that.

because my first exposure to conventional practices (apart from reading) occurred well after I started keeping bees my own way, it's understandable that I'm a bit more radical in my thinking than you are, but that also means that I get almost no traction with the old-school beeks I encounter. and while I'm also planning to make my living keeping bees, I certainly don't yet. and because I'm not willing to compromise on what I believe to be best for the bees and their human beneficiaries, it might take me a while to get there. others have different priorities, and I've certainly suffered my share of consequences for my intransigence.

I would guess that's enough of my nonsense for one post. apologies for carrying on. and on.
 
jacob wustner
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First I would like to address the first three posts on this thread, for we have gotten a bit off topic by now. First, the varroa mite did not become a problem because of plastic foundation, cell size had been enlarged and standardized long before. Second, they did not spread in a single year because of almond pollination, though the transport of bees all across the country for various pollinations and honey crops certainly sped up their dispersal. Thirdly, varroa mites had been documented in other areas of the world in honeybee colonies, they just weren't killing the entire colony. And beekeepers have been able to put the genie back in the bottle so to speak and find an equilibrium. Some have done it with breeding, some have done it converting back to a natural size (small cell). Ok, that is just my understanding of the situation after following the issue for years.

David,

Beekeeping is a type of farming. So yeah, the philosophical basis is to grow and harvest food. An industry doesn't necessarily mean it is industrial, although it sounds like it could. In our language they are not always interchangeable.

We know that drones don't feed themselves for the first part of their lives, but eventually can later on. They also have a daily routine of flying to drone congregation areas at a certain time of day to hang out with other drones while they wait for the chance to chase and mate with a virgin. Their presence in the hive probably keeps the girls in the hive happy, knowing their future relies on the drones should something happen to the queen. Thus they have a happy number of drones and drone cells in a healthy colony that they decide for themselves. I am sure there is variation in percentages here. Of course we don't know a lot about the bees, but since they have been studied closely for hundreds of years, there is more information about we do know about them than one person can read in their lifetime. Just like the rest of nature, the more we dig deeper to understand, the more we are amazed and mystified by their sophistication. My guess is that males are larger because they have large gonads and a need to be able to fly slightly faster than a virgin queen. The size of the comb can vary, but usually it is because of the honey flow. IF it is coming in fast, they will build larger than drone brood cells to keep up with the need for honey storage space. At least this is my understanding. I agree that heat and scent is important. But as far as I have seen, all new comb is thin, and only becomes thicker when the bees rework it or hatch brood in it.

Tel,

I still see no need to knock anything. I guess I am trying to be more like Paul Wheaton and not being angry at bad guys. There is a great danger in telling people that they should or shouldn't do something. We instead can offer alternatives. But the beekeepers who you make fun of are doing the same thing to you. Doesn't do anyone any good.

In my experience the style of hive, or the space that the bees inhabit on their own, does not have to be set in stone. Frames or no frames, people are keeping bees that are healthy without treatments for diseases. As far as I can tell, the honeybee is quite adaptive to its environment. They do seem to prefer hives that have combs already in them, and cavities within a certain volume range. But that doesn't seem to deter them from making homes in all sorts of places. Frames have enabled us to learn more about the honeybees, and have enabled people to learn more about them through hands on experience and observation. They also make beekeeping more economically viable by not having to crush comb and reusing it. I do produce comb honey for people to consume, wax and all. But if you crush every comb you harvest, or sell it as comb, your business growth rate is severely stunted. Also, when using frames in boxes, there is not any need to handle individual frames unless you are extracting them. And this is after you have taken them off the hive. In this way it is no different than warre other than being way easier. Using frames is a great way for people to learn about all the different things that can go on within a hive. If you don't care to know, that is fine. I feel like bees build the same whether they are in boxes with frames, empty boxes, hollow trees or the wall of a house. They use gravity and fill the space as they grow. I am not curious about consequences of management practices of others, I have seen it for my own eyes. I consider myself learning all the time.

If you are measuring comb size, measure across ten cells and divide by ten. Gives you a fairly accurate measurement. And you measuring your available comb and sharing it here has given me even more reason to support the small cell theory. The size of adult bees varies by the age of the bee and whether or not they are on a honey flow. It also changes with the seasons. So if you are going to go on the size of adult bees on your entrances, there a few variables you need to consider. In this case you would have to take a lot of measurements over a period of a few years. It is way easier to measure worker brood comb size. You don't have to measure combs in you established hives if you don't want to, but quickly measuring brood you take from cut outs would be useful. Swarms with two different colorations are well documented, they usually united on their own accord.

And who said anything about demagogues? That is a strong name to be calling someone.

Are you suggesting that I am mixing up correlation and causation? I don't believe there is ever a perfect experiment, they all have flaws. That is why we have to do so many experiments, the human brain can be too egotistical to see that controlling all variables is impossible. I grew up in agriculture, and for most farmers they find something that works for them and stick with it. We can share our experiences and that is what Dee has done and lots of others are doing as well.

Farmers have always done what they felt they had to do to put food on the table. But thankfully in this age of communication, we are evolving at a much faster rate. That is why we are here on permies to share our thoughts and experiences. Not to bad mouth each other, but to celebrate the bounty of nature and share its lessons. IN NO WAY do I feel like I have all the answers, I am just sharing my thoughts of questions I have been asked and have asked myself. I have been blessed to have been born into a beekeeping family. And I cherish the idea that I can take all the good things I have learned, and share it with others. And that includes learning the hard way on how to keep bees more naturally.
 
tel jetson
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jacob wustner wrote:
Tel,

I still see no need to knock anything. I guess I am trying to be more like Paul Wheaton and not being angry at bad guys. There is a great danger in telling people that they should or shouldn't do something. We instead can offer alternatives. But the beekeepers who you make fun of are doing the same thing to you. Doesn't do anyone any good.


well the world don't move to the beat of just one drum...

I'm not in the habit of making fun of beekeepers, though I do lament what I see as their bad habits. as far as telling other folks how to keep their bees, that's not generally in my line. happy to describe the way I do things, though.

jacob wustner wrote:In my experience the style of hive, or the space that the bees inhabit on their own, does not have to be set in stone. Frames or no frames, people are keeping bees that are healthy without treatments for diseases. As far as I can tell, the honeybee is quite adaptive to its environment. They do seem to prefer hives that have combs already in them, and cavities within a certain volume range. But that doesn't seem to deter them from making homes in all sorts of places.


bees are certainly very adaptable and they seem to tolerate quite a bit of abuse just fine. I like to give them the best shot I can, though.

jacob wustner wrote:Frames have enabled us to learn more about the honeybees, and have enabled people to learn more about them through hands on experience and observation. They also make beekeeping more economically viable by not having to crush comb and reusing it.


I don't disagree, at least not entirely. I think frames have allowed us to learn quite a bit about certain aspects of bee biology and how they can be exploited for human gain, which isn't in itself a bad thing. I also think they've played into the industrial mechanistic mindset that views a complex critter like a honeybee as a machine that can be reduced to a few easily manipulated behaviors. in that way, I think that the ability to peer right into the middle of the hive has also been a distraction from some very important issues that aren't obvious at a quick glance. forest for the trees, et cetera. so do frames have some positive aspects? yes. but I personally, and rather strongly, believe the negative side of the ledger far outweighs the positive.

jacob wustner wrote:I do produce comb honey for people to consume, wax and all. But if you crush every comb you harvest, or sell it as comb, your business growth rate is severely stunted. Also, when using frames in boxes, there is not any need to handle individual frames unless you are extracting them. And this is after you have taken them off the hive. In this way it is no different than warre other than being way easier.


if you are harvesting whole boxes at once and not manipulating any occupied combs, then you're much further down the road away from conventional practices than I would have guessed. in my experience with frames, though, they'll be quickly glued together and to the hive body with propolis and brace comb if they aren't regularly removed and cleaned. meanwhile, the atmosphere of the nest has been severely disrupted. as I consider that atmosphere as very much akin to the hive's immune system, I do my best not to disturb it. measurements by others have shown that it can take several days for the atmosphere to return to homeostasis.

but maybe all that brace comb and propolis is only an issue with feral bees.

but as for the business implications of crushing comb, I come out alright. wax from untreated hives fetches a handsome price around here, too, and I've got plenty of uses for it myself. it isn't going to waste. and have you seen bees at the wax excreting age? it's practically falling out of them. building wax takes energy, but I get the impression that they enjoy it. there's also the issue of toxins accumulating in wax, which is a tough one, because I've also observed that bees seem to prefer old comb.

also, I much prefer the honey from crushed comb to extracted honey. you know how great it smells when the extractor's running? it's almost intoxicating. only trouble is, I want that smell to stay in the honey. I want that intoxicating experience for the folks who eat or drink the honey, not for the folks extracting it. so I do my best to minimize air exposure and oxidation to retain all those delicious volatile components of the honey, and crushing the comb in my press is part of that. extractors, on the other hand, seem custom built to maximize air exposure. so I can sell pressed honey for a higher price than extracted honey. it's very likely that I get a bit less of it because the bees are expending that energy building comb, but I really don't mind. at any rate, I would rather do things the right way than the expedient way.

jacob wustner wrote:Using frames is a great way for people to learn about all the different things that can go on within a hive. If you don't care to know, that is fine.


I do care to know, but at what expense? it turns out that there is plenty to learn without ever nosing into their private space. and I get that intimate view doing cutouts, anyhow.

but let's look at it from another perspective. supposing that frames are a good way to learn about bees, does that mean they're also a good way to keep bees? those two functions don't necessarily overlap. consider cannulated cows. they allow farmers and researchers to learn a lot, but does that mean every cow should have a portal cut into it's rumen?

jacob wustner wrote:I feel like bees build the same whether they are in boxes with frames, empty boxes, hollow trees or the wall of a house. They use gravity and fill the space as they grow.


my experience suggests otherwise. the hives I've observed are quite variable. and I've never seen a hive filled entirely with straight, parallel combs except where frames were used. natural combs frequently curve and branch and spiral and fit the space they're built in quite beautifully.

jacob wustner wrote:I am not curious about consequences of management practices of others, I have seen it for my own eyes. I consider myself learning all the time.


excellent. I could, however, turn your own prescription back on you: don't knock forgoing frames and foundation until you've tried it. the trouble with that is that it never ends. once you try that, I could tell you to try a different shape hive, or different thickness of wood, or different insulation, or different something or other. forever. you're not going to, and neither am I.

jacob wustner wrote:If you are measuring comb size, measure across ten cells and divide by ten. Gives you a fairly accurate measurement.


I tried that, but the walls of this comb are rather thick, so it didn't give a realistic measurement of the actual size. that number was about 5.7 mm.

as far as measuring brood comb during cut outs, well, it might happen some day. my goal during cutouts is to preserve as much of the brood as I can, which means minimizing the time it's exposed. taking time out to measure cells isn't going to help that cause.

jacob wustner wrote:And you measuring your available comb and sharing it here has given me even more reason to support the small cell theory.


why's that?

jacob wustner wrote:The size of adult bees varies by the age of the bee and whether or not they are on a honey flow. It also changes with the seasons. So if you are going to go on the size of adult bees on your entrances, there a few variables you need to consider.


these were bees observed at the same time at the same hive, so they were in the same season and experiencing the same nectar conditions. they certainly would have been a variety of ages.

jacob wustner wrote:Swarms with two different colorations are well documented, they usually united on their own accord.


two different phenotypes in a swarm is one thing, but this swarm, and others I've seen, contained a great variety of bees. and the variety remains years later. that is, to my mind, a nearly certain indication of a wild mated queen. a wild mated queen is not a guarantee the swarm issued from a feral colony, as plenty of managed colonies don't have captive mated queens either through deliberate action or because of neglect.

jacob wustner wrote:And who said anything about demagogues? That is a strong name to be calling someone.


I said something about demagogues. that was me. but I didn't call anybody one. I just mean that influencing thousands of people is not, in itself, virtuous. what a person does with that influence makes the difference. I don't know Dee's entire program, but I would probably agree with a good portion of it. that she is so dogmatic about all of it, though, seems very counterproductive to me.

jacob wustner wrote:Are you suggesting that I am mixing up correlation and causation? I don't believe there is ever a perfect experiment, they all have flaws. That is why we have to do so many experiments, the human brain can be too egotistical to see that controlling all variables is impossible. I grew up in agriculture, and for most farmers they find something that works for them and stick with it. We can share our experiences and that is what Dee has done and lots of others are doing as well.


I'm not suggesting that you personally mixed up correlation and causation. I'm suggesting that if you get a big enough group together, chances are good that a majority will mix those two up. so when you say that folks on Dee's list are reporting great results, I get skeptical. I have no reason to doubt any one person's results or what actions they attribute those results to, but in aggregate, they seem much lest trustworthy.

in your case, I would guess it might be difficult to sort out what is due to small cells and what is due to other changes you're making. in the short interaction we've had here, I gather that you're sharp enough to be aware of that issue and may have a plan.

jacob wustner wrote:Farmers have always done what they felt they had to do to put food on the table.


unfortunately, that has sometimes led to some decisions that might have seemed expedient at the time, but had very negative consequences down the road. witness the moldboard plow. witness petroleum-based fertilizer. witness all manner of atrocities against ecologies committed in the name of putting food on the table. most folks everywhere have farmers in their lineage not more than a few generations back. I certainly do. my grandpa's stinginess was probably all that saved him from going down the conventional agriculture path, but he also made plenty of mistakes that I am still dealing with on his land years after he died. my distaste for some of those things does not diminish my reverence for him or my fond memories. but still, he did some stupid shit.

jacob wustner wrote:But thankfully in this age of communication, we are evolving at a much faster rate. That is why we are here on permies to share our thoughts and experiences. Not to bad mouth each other, but to celebrate the bounty of nature and share its lessons. IN NO WAY do I feel like I have all the answers, I am just sharing my thoughts of questions I have been asked and have asked myself. I have been blessed to have been born into a beekeeping family. And I cherish the idea that I can take all the good things I have learned, and share it with others. And that includes learning the hard way on how to keep bees more naturally.


right on. right on. I think I probably come off as a bit of a know-it-all, but I'll state right here that I consider myself a beginner and probably always will. that doesn't mean I will devalue my own experiences, knowledge, and intuition, but it is my habit to never be too certain I've got the right answer.

at any rate, I believe everybody's opinion and experience is given equal value here.
 
David Livingston
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Jacob
Have you listened to Pauls podcasts on Bee keeping ?
You might find them interesting.
Can someone post a link please

David
 
Mike Haych
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jacob wustner wrote:Mike,
I would agree with Dee that her practices are organic, I think that you mean that her standards do not align with the standards set by the national organic standards board. That doesn't mean she isn't organic, it means she is more organic, I would even say permacultural. I have never met her, but I assume her rudeness comes from years of people running their mouths around her. She is probably fed up, and I don't blame her. She rubs me the right way! I like passionate and strong-willed people who don't put up with b.s.. Maybe I am more like her than the kinder, gentler, diplomatic beekeepers. It is the same personality that I love in Paul Wheaton. They just tell it like it is, and don't care who they offend!


Yes, she's organic in that sense but she uses the term treatment free so there's less confusion. I have seen Dee drive away completely innocent, newbies who know enough to know that they don't want to keep bees the way the most beekeepers do. They get so scared and intimidated that they leave. It's a bit different with Paul since he's not the primary keeper of the knowledge like Dee and he doesn't do the volume of posting that Dee does. I've seen Dee and Michael Bush do some headbutting. It never comes to anything though since the differences between them are minor based on different experiences.

As for foundation, you could use wax small cell foundation in any type of hive if you want to experiment with it. But for me, as a beekeeper, I want to use langstroth. And it seems that converting to small cell will happen much faster if I use foundation.


Tough to cut to shape without mutilating it. Attaching to a top bar would be fun.

I would like to add that no one calls it industrial beekeeping within the industry, it is commercial beekeeping.


True but it seems that the practices of large commercial beekeeping are closer to industrial beekeeping much the same way that commercial, cash crop farming is akin to industrial farming. That certainly seems to be the case for those moving bees on flatbed semis from California to Maine to Florida, etc. The smaller beeks selling to farmers markets usually are doing every the industrial beeks are doing except putting them on semis.

And you can use foundationless frames in an extractor if you are careful to make sure it has been in the bees for more than one season. If the bees get a chance to eat the honey, raise brood, and fill with honey two or three seasons, then the comb cell walls are made thicker and becomes considerably stronger. Brand new comb should either be sold as comb honey, or left in (or put back in) as feed honey to give it a chance to strengthen over a couple seasons before it can be extracted like the commercial beekeepers do. This was how the commercial beekeepers I learned from did it before the days of plastic foundation.


Yep but I'm not too crazy about doing that because of the possibility that the chemicals that the bees bring back into the hive will build up in the wax. I only take honey when they need space. They start from scratch each time I do that. Eventually all of the wax gets replaced. On a small scale crushing works well. It's time consuming but I get to lick my fingers a lot. LOL Amazing how the taste differs from frame to frame sometimes.
 
Mike Haych
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tel jetson wrote:
the 4.9-mm-is-natural argument of the small cell crowd


That's not quite it. Folks like Michael Bush and Dennis Murrell who keep bees both in top bar hives and Langstroth's without foundation have observe that cell size covers a range although it seems to center around 4.9 mm. They don't call it small cell but rather natural cell. It's all a question of whether the cells are for workers or drones. And they've observed that the workers and drones don't seem to come in just a single size which makes sense if there are a range of cell sizes. Nature's order is random.
 
Lina Joana
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Interesting - I hadn't actually heard of the small cell thing. However, my understanding is that the varroa (and tracheal) mites killed not just managed hives, but also the feral bee population which had been established in the US for several centuries. So it was not the management practices of bee keepers (such as plastic, or cell size) that made it a sudden problem. The varroa was originally a parasite of the Asian honey bee, which has behaviors that allow it to co-exist with the parasite. Once it jumped hosts (and was introduced to the US) it tore through the Western populations quickly, as they had no evolved defenses.
 
tel jetson
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bumping this thread to get Jacqueline's take on small-cell foundation and "regressing" bees.
 
Jacqueline Freeman
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That's one long thread! I like what Dee Lusby does overall and though our methods are different, I see where she's going with regression.

I've stuck to letting the bees do this on their own. It takes longer but the do get smaller in size over time. Most of the brood cells I see in our bee yard are around 5 with a few at 5.1, none down to 4.9 yet. I caught a swarm with pretty big size a few years ago. Those bees built new comb and the next hatch came out smaller. My guess was that this swarm was from a conventional hive with large foundation. Once caught and give the chance to determine their own natural size, they did get smaller. That's what Dee is saying, that on their own, they want to go smaller. Their smaller size is good for them for many reasons, chief among them that the baby pips gestate for a shorter period of time and that shortens the mite birth rate.

FYI, since I know Dee personally (I spent last weekend with her in Arizona), let me say a few words here. One side of Dee is frankly brilliant and she's incredibly well read and knowledgable about bees with 50+ years of beekeeping behind her, always clean and treatment-free. She lacks good communication skills and how she speaks is (especially in print, like on her list) is sometimes hard to follow. It's not rudeness per se. She just has different brain wiring. I look at what she says, then I translate it like I'd do if I was hearing someone speak English as a second language. If you spend the time doing a bit of translation, there's much to learn from her.

What I most like: She's taken a stand for treatment-free beekeeping and nothing would convince her to sell out. She's pro-bee through and through and that goes a long ways with me.

If I got off-topic here, just ask again and I'm happy to put forth a few more of my thoughts and opinions.

warmly,
Jacqueline
 
Mike Turner
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The main question I have in this small cell vs. large cell debate is why did most of the feral bee population die out in the 1990's? They were presumably small cell and should, according to theory, have shown some resistance to Varroa. Of course, now we have the few survivors of that winnowing slowly repopulating the nation.
 
Jd Gonzalez
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He might be up to something...
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/cards
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