What is natural cell size and why does it matter?

In the natural bee hive you have varying sizes of cells, and the size of the cell is what determines the size of the bee.

In commercial bee hives, they install machine imprinted foundation that only has one size (5.4 mm) that is supposed to fit all. The cells were designed larger with the intent of having larger bees to bring in more honey. This also allowed the beekeepers to eliminate or drastically reduce the number of drones (because they use artificially inseminated queens and thus don’t need drone production because they feel it takes away from honey production.)

In nature, bees will build comb with different size cells for different reasons. For instance, the brood cells are approximately 4.9 mm, drone 6.5 mm etc.

Why does cell size matter? Like all of nature, everything is balanced, so if you change something there are usually consequences. In this case, by making the cells larger, the bees take 24 hrs longer to cap; which adds one day to the gestation cycle of the mites.

Some commercial beekeepers have realized this and have changed to smaller cell size (4.9 mm) foundation. Switching to a smaller size helps, BUT it is still a one size fits all mentality.

So with this in mind, I like to let the bees determine what size cell to make and for what reason.

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