Hans-Otto Johnsen, Norway:
Cell size test 2002-2004
In 2002 I established a test apiary for testing small cell size. There were two groups of bee colonies in the test apiary. The two groups were placed as far away as possible in the apiary, but still close enough so that they together could be called an apiary.
The goal of the test was to observe the development of the Varroa population during the test and to measure the honey production.
One group in the apiary had enlarged cell size (which have been “normal” for many years) in the brood area (5.5 mm – 55 mm measured over the parallel sides of ten cells). The other group was established on bees born in 5.1 mm cells.
The following year (2003) cell size was decreased to 4.9 mm in the small cell size group.
All queens in the test apiary were sisters bred from the same colony. And they were all mated at the same isolated mating station with sister queens producing the drones. The breed was Buckfast (not Elgon).
I started with 20 colonies in each group, with the two groups 200 meters apart to avoid robbing and drifting between the groups. To further avoid unwanted influence harvest was done late in the day, escape boards were used and entrances were reduced.
Late in autumn 2002 when there was no brood, the test colonies were treated with oxalic acid. The aim of this treatment was to even out the mite population and start with a low amount of mites next season.
The small cell colonies at first did not draw the 4.9-foundation well. Uneven cell sizes appeared though quite some patches were of good appearance. The least good drawn combs were replaced as soon as possible with new 4.9 foundation and the bees drew them better and better.
When the small cell group was given new foundation, the big cell group also was given new foundation (then of course of 5.5 mm cell size). Because of the given circumstances just a few measurements were made in 2003. An alcohol wash in October when no brood was at hand showed a lower amount of mites among the small cell colonies.