Introduction: Randy Oliver on Small Cell Beekeeping
One thing that bothers me is the vast amount of questionable beekeeping recommendations on the Web, and the fuzzy thinking behind some of the management advice being promoted to “save the bees.” Much of this advice is based upon wonderful idealism, or a fairy-tale version of Nature, or the anthropomorphizing of bee behavior. I, on the other hand, am a hard data kind of guy.
I generally go out of my way in my articles to be non judgmental, and to keep my opinions to myself. The old saw goes that if you ask ten beekeepers how to do something, that you’ll get at least a dozen different answers. But simply believing that something’s gotta work doesn’t necessarily make it true in real life—I’ve heard many management suggestions that make complete sense when you first hear them, but upon deeper analysis run contrary to natural bee behavior, and often work against the bees! To me, the bottom line is, is the advocated method consistently successful? Does it result in healthy colonies that produce a harvestable honey crop, and then survive until the next season?
Small cell foundation sure sounds like an easy and natural way to control varroa mites; regrettably, several scientific studies (reviewed in Seeley 2010) found that it had no effect! Despite its apparent lack of efficacy, some still cling to it as an article of “faith” (oh, that statement’s gonna tick some folk off!). Until I see a single controlled trial in which colony survival is better in the small cell group, I must remain skeptical.
Thomas Seeley, Sean Grin. Small-cell comb does not control Varroa mites in colonies of honeybees of European origin. Apidologie, Springer Verlag, 2011, 42 (4), pp.526-532. <10.1007/s13592-011-0054-4>. <hal-01003589>
Dewey Caron. Tools for Varroa management, a guide for effective varroa sampling & control. Honey Bee Health Coalition (2015).
Jennifer A. Berry, William B. Owens, Keith S. Delaplane. Small-cell comb foundation does not impede Varroa mite population growth in honey bee colonies. Apidologie 41 (2010) 40–44, DOI: 10.1051/apido/2009049.
AM Ellis, GW Hayes, JD Ellis. The efficacy of small cell foundation as a varroa mite (Varroa destructor) control. Exp Appl Acarol (4): 311-6. doi 10.1007/s10493-008-9221-3 (Epub 2008 Dec6).
Francis Saucy. On the natural cell size of European honey bees: A "fatal error" or distortion of historical data? (Journal of Apicultural Science (Impact Factor: 1). 07/2014; 53(3):327-336. DOI: 10.3896/IBRA.1.53.3.01.