The story of a single cell within a beehive

The importance of cell size

As we know, there are many debates within beekeeping circles, from the best race of bees, the effectiveness of treatment-free beekeeping, the most enjoyable type of hive and much more. So here’s yet another one – cell size. There are two aspects to this.

The first is what bees will build on their own accord and how they decide cell size. We know, for example, that drone cells are larger than worker cells and have a different shape capping. Queen cells are quite different again, with their familiar peanut-like shape. The bottom line is that in their natural setting bees make decisions based on their needs.

Secondly, beekeepers can install foundation with cells of a certain size. Indeed, many beekeepers use drone frames as an important element of the ongoing battle against varroa mites. In this situation, the larger and more attractive drone cells are used as a “bait” for varroa, with the frames collected and frozen to remove large numbers of varroa from the hive.

At the other end of this tactical battle is the use of small cell foundation, on the basis that varroa are less able to thrive in a smaller cell. Again, many beekeepers use such foundation for just this purpose.

The typical cell created by bees in nature is generally around 5.3 mm, whereas small cell foundation typically features cells of around 4.9 mm.

While the pros and cons of cell size is for another article, it’s worth knowing that it is important!

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