I think my bees are getting smaller...

Discussion in 'General Beekeeping' started by Omie, Apr 26, 2012.

  1. Omie

    Omie New Member

    Messages:
    2,845
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    So I've been tending my bees for a couple of years now, and last year I made some new queens too.
    At this point, my three current hives all have queens that are either daughters or granddaughters of the bees I originally got from Don FatBeeMan in GA, who sells small cell bees. I give them foundationless frames and they just build all their own comb at this point.

    My three current queens have all mated with whatever local bees are around me. I do know of several BKs around, plus I know of at least one large longtime feral hive a half mile from me that's been there for years.
    Here's the thing-
    When I first got my bees from Don, they were all a nice medium color with a stripey golden appearance, with a few darker bees thrown in. They looked a lot like the local honeybees that came around my garden before i ever got my own bees.
    Now my bees are all noticeably darker, and they seem a little smaller to me.

    This really hit home to me the other day when i saw a honeybee on a dandelion on my lawn- that honeybee was a typical Italian type I think, with a very rich yellow gold color....but the thing that most stood out was that it was noticeably bigger than my bees. No way it was my bee! After looking at it a while I went and looked at my bees and they seemed quite a bit darker and smaller. I could plainly see my bees were getting darker since 2 yrs ago, but I hadn't really noticed the size thing until I saw the side by side comparison.

    So aside from the color difference, are there commercial strains that are actually smaller than Italians, that other nearby BKs might be buying, ....or do you think this smaller size is coming from the ferals my queens have mated with? I can't examine the ferals, they are up on a building roof that I can't get to.
    I do know one 85 yr old BK about 6 miles from me who has darkish bees that he says come from black German stock somehow, but I can't check on that except that his bees are def darker than most italians ive seen.

    Any thoughts on this? I find it all so fascinating!
     
  2. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

    Messages:
    6,487
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    the german bees (if they still exist) were smaller. there were a number of races of bees from europe that were darker and some of the hybrid bees developed in the 1970's were also very dark. from what I can recall of the german bees measurements of such things as the length of their probiscus was substantially shorter than the italians.

    the Australians 'Fat Bee Skinny Bee' suggest to me that there are substantial seasonal variation in the size of the bee likely associated with nutrition and quite possible (likely I would think) a part of the honeybees evolutionary history.
     

  3. Marbees

    Marbees Member

    Messages:
    983
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    16
    Buckfast bees are noticeable smaller than Italians, or Carnies. After maturity my Buckfast queens are no bigger than Italian worker bee.
     
  4. Barbarian

    Barbarian New Member

    Messages:
    728
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    "Never mind the colour, feel the quality"

    I wouldn't worry about the size or colour. If the bees are behaving well carry on.

    Some UK beekeepers actively prefer a dark bee. The suggestions are that they get up earlier in the day, winter well and know when to stop laying.

    Be strong ---- you will probably get a Texas broadside ! :grin:
     
  5. efmesch

    efmesch Active Member

    Messages:
    3,708
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    36
    I ask this more as an information-seeking question, not with the intention of guaranteeing that this is the answer: Are you still using and re-using the same combs in your brood boxes? Could the dimensions of the cells be getting so much smaller as to restrict the cell volume and the area in which the larvae develop? If so, while this wouldn't affect the bee's color, it might influence their size. :confused:
     
  6. Omie

    Omie New Member

    Messages:
    2,845
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    EF- I have cycled out all the oldest black comb (5 yrs +). Almost all my brood comb is less than 3 yrs old.
     
  7. PerryBee

    PerryBee New Member

    Messages:
    5,829
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Off topic, sorry Omie. :oops:
    (I thought my bees were getting smaller but what I discovered is that in actuality they were the same size, it was just the relationship to the size of my expanding gut that was fooling me) :lol:
     
  8. Iddee

    Iddee New Member

    Messages:
    8,996
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Yep, my bees got smaller each year for several years. Them I got new glasses and now they are humongus. :D
     
  9. Omie

    Omie New Member

    Messages:
    2,845
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Whaddya, a bunch o' wise guys ??

    [​IMG]
     
  10. efmesch

    efmesch Active Member

    Messages:
    3,708
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    36
    Perry: :grin:
    Iddee::lol:
    Omie::rolling:
     
  11. smeagsmead

    smeagsmead New Member

    Messages:
    1
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
  12. riverbee

    riverbee Active Member

    Messages:
    3,048
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    36
    3 stooges are my fav omie....
    btw, i'm with iddee.......but also use a big magnifying glass......:lol:

    Magnifying-Glass-Bee.jpg
     
  13. Omie

    Omie New Member

    Messages:
    2,845
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Yes I;ve seen that page before. Cool. But hard to tell because every camera has different lighting/color settings, and photos are taken under different light conditions. Except for the very light and very black bees, many of them look similar in those photos, and there's no way to know the sizes.
    In my hives, i'd have to assume the bees had various fathers from the area since my queens were open-mated. That complicates it all even further. But I like a good mystery sometimes. ;)
     
  14. jb63

    jb63 New Member

    Messages:
    588
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Last june I collected a swarm refered by a landscaper.After watching them next to my other bees they were noticably smaller.They drew out new frames and made their own small cells.Any way, they made it through the winter and are doing fine.
     
  15. Omie

    Omie New Member

    Messages:
    2,845
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    JB, that's exactly what I am wondering about. Thanks. So where did you get your larger bees from?
    Are you planning on making any splits or queens from that swarm hive, to keep the genetics going in your yard?
     
  16. jb63

    jb63 New Member

    Messages:
    588
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    All of my bees are on 4.9 frames.I use pierco black plastic and foundationless wood frames.I alternate them every other one,the pierco's give them a guide line so I get less crazy comb.The larger bees are on the 4.9 and they are'nt that big, it's just that the little ones are that much smaller.The next time I inspect them I'll measure some of their comb . That's a good idea about making some queens from them. [​IMG]
     
  17. Omie

    Omie New Member

    Messages:
    2,845
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Just a little update of interest perhaps-
    I have one of my hives at a friend's down the road 1/2 mile. He just brought in a new nuc from a 'natural' type beekeeper in Vermont and set it up next to both our previous hives. I'm noticing the his new Vermont bees are definitely visibly smaller than all our 'home' bees- they seem so cute and 'mini' ! They really must be small cell bees.
    I should go look at someone else's hive around here with the usual GA Italians, just so I know I'm not imagining things. lol!