Cellsize Differentiation Test
There were bugs in the original test, which consisted of
alternate strips of 4.9 mm and 5.45 mm foundation with bee space gaps
between. I hope this revised version will help in assessing the
cellsize which a strain of bee is currently adapted to.
Whilst its results may be contentious, I urge you to keep
an open mind.
There are many that think the current cellsize is OK for
their bees. There are some that deny the incremental increases during
the last century or more. My personal view is that our bees would be
more productive, and maybe more resistant to disease, if we returned
to the status quo.
I think it is worthwhile trying this test, even if you have
no part in the cellsize debate, as your results will generate useful
information for further analysis by others.
This test stems from research that I have been conducting
during years 2000 and 2001 into the cellsize of honeycomb (much of
the early work has been done by Dee Lusby). The more that I look into
this cellsize issue the more that I realise that we have led ourselves
astray and that we need to re-appraise all the work that has ever been
undertaken in this field.
My original motivation in starting to look was to be able
to use the size of the worker cell as a method of discriminating
against Italian strains of bee in my own breeding program... But I
have had further thoughts that it may also help to isolate AMM strains.
The test is simple...
Freshly made brood frames... (so that there is no possible repellent or
attractive force at work) a strip of special foundation is firmly
fitted, without wires, so that the weight of drawing bees does
not pull it out or make it sag. (I personally intend to use a clamping
strip fitted using small wood screws.)
This is what the foundation looks like.
place one frame in each of your
colonies in such a position that the bees will need to draw it (just
inside the fringe of the nest).
Look at these test frames after
6hrs, 12hrs, 24hrs, 48hrs to establish which patch (or patches) of
cells is being drawn more favourably by the bees. (The differences in
cellsize are exaggerated in the illustration.)
The special foundation is only 72 mm deep and so a group of
bees clustering for wax drawing will easily cover a patch on both
sides, with contact and communication between such groups afforded by
extension of the cluster below the bottom edge of the foundation.
The principles behind this test are as follows:-
There are six sizes of cell involved (but see revision below)
The oblique groups of cell (30°) are due to the desire to avoid
transition or part cells. Also to spread the influence of any
particular cellsize over as broad an area as possible.
- 7.2 mm...Drone foundation (originally Thornes manufacture)
- 6.3 mm...Drone foundation to suit 4.9 mm workers (my own
manufacture)(project not yet complete)(This section may be changed to
5.9 mm in the light of some other work on
- 5.7 mm...Thornes foundation
- 5.45 mm...From my Leaf Products foundation press
- 5.2 mm...not yet resolved (Either an impression will be taken from
5.2 mm pierco plastic foundation or I will make a sample sheet from
John Groocock's Brazilian roller mill).
- 4.9 mm...several possible sources (I am currently looking for a
sample with raised cell walls to match the other sizes) (this is now
resolved due to the production by Dadant of 'proper' 4.9 mm foundation.
The gutters between strips of cells are of 3 mm thick solid
wax, and are raised to form a smooth convex rib, so that the bees
initial efforts are concentrated on the actual cell patches. (This
avoids any influence from part cells at the edge of a patch that might
give rise to transition cells.)
The pattern of six patches is repeated so that no matter
where a cluster forms it has reasonable access to all cell sizes This
can never be 'perfect'. Each patch is four cells wide apart from the
triangular extremities which contain a few extra cells as some would
be masked by the groove in the frame sidebar. I think the outermost
parts of this foundation have little influence in any case as we are
looking into the bees short term reactions to the material that they
are being presented with and the outer margins would not receive any
attention, by the bees, initially.
I started to make the master for moulding these test sheets
on 15th Feb 2002. The dimensions that I have now finalised are:-
4.8, 5.0, 5.2, 5.4, 5.7, 6.0
There is still a good deal of work to do to finish this 'master' and
then make the matrices to mould the final 'production' sheets.
The most meaningful results will be those that are obtained
during the first few hours after insertion (this eliminates any
How do we interpret the results?
My feelings are that the cellsize that is tackled most readily will
indicate the cellsize to which that strain of bee being tested is
currently conditioned to.
If more than one cellsize is drawn at equal rates... that
would indicate a high degree of variability within the colony and may
provide extra information in deciding on the race of a sample.
The test takes little time to perform, but the frames need
preparing in advance. Some drawn patches may be kept for reference,
but unused portions of wax can be recycled.
I hope this test will prove helpful to some of you.
If a shallow frame were prepared similarly, it could be placed in the
'top story' of an observation hive and progress monitored directly.
The width quoted is for use with B.S. Frames. The principle
could be simply adapted to Langstroth frame types perhaps by making the
cell groups five cells wide rather than four.
Supplies of Test Sheets
At this time (November 2000) no material is available as no one
yet makes it. Over the winter I will be making a master sheet to make
a press from, when this is finished I will make some sheets from it
for my own testing. At December 2001... little progress has been made
on this project, but I still intend to carry it through, providing
that I retain the degree of fitness that I currently have.
The sheets will be available to other interested experimenters when I
have made the master mould. (In progress 18 Feb 2002)
As these sheets contain much wax (I expect them to weigh as
much as a sheet of brood foundation) I will have to make a minor
charge for this... My motive is not profit, but my own rendered
beeswax is a valuable resource to me. In any case it is not my
intention to become a supplier of such sheets, but to provide samples
for others to make their own presses.
The sheet is two repetitions of a pattern, so by cutting in
half it will fit into
half width frames that can
be placed in mating nucs. (I will try this later)
I apologise for the disjointed text, but I thought I would
leave some of the original material... to show the progression of the
Originally written... Summer 2000
Re-written... November 2000
Revised... 20 Dec 2001, 18 Feb 2002
Illustration redrawn... 19 Feb 2002