Dee Lusby is an amazing beekeeper from Arizona. She’s been in the bee world for many decades, doing private research on her own for many years. Dee is a true, elder beemaster, and we thought you might learn much from what she believe are the largest threats to bees:
The basics of our work – Ed&Dee Lusby, Arizona
Okay, by now many probably know that we think that smaller bees are better, but WHY and HOW?
Well, since a series of questions were asked, I guess I better start trying to give our rational for believing why we do.
First of all, let me state, to win a war you do not do it by piecemeal tactics for you will lose. You win by using everything at your disposal, in a conscientiously applied program of surrounding and engulfment from all sides. We are indeed in a war with our industry and whether we win or lose as an industry going forward, will take many of us working together and helping each other out. This includes sharing information and not holding back as i.e. trade secrets, for what is it to succeed, if you are the only ones left and all your friends are gone.
We believe that environmental surroundings and being in harmony by way of cell size is 1/3 of the problem, because prior to artificial enlargement of combs, there was no problem, and that by the way, has escalated ever since with parasitic mite problems and secondary diseases, and yes, breeding problems.
We believe that diet is about 1/3 of the problem, with artificial diet causing inadequate nutrition.
Poor nutrition is a serious stress factor of any organism, that can lead to disease and parasite attacks, as well as yes, breeding problems.
We believe that breeding is also 1/3 of the problem, that is not in tune with natural surroundings. Breeding wrongly goes hand in hand with inducing dietary stress and environmental stress.
You cannot do one of the above alone, without compromising the other two also, therefore all changes have to be done in an overall combined program, that includes combating the problem from all angles. Is this not what Nature is doing to us now? Fighting us from all angles? I think so!
Many have asked/written over the years: ‘By reducing the cell size makes the bees less susceptible to the ravages of Varroa, other pathogens and disease? WHY?
This implies some major change to the bees chemical makeup as Varroa’s trigger is chemical or pheromone based, and sizing does this? Correct?’ With most of todays artificially enlarged foundations on the market, closer to natural drone cell size, than natural worker bee size, there has been created a pseudo-effect, in that parasitic mites now perceive worker bees as another food source.
This is not so in Nature. In Nature, reproduction of mites on A. Cerana is limited mainly by the usually very small number of drone cells produced by them; and also by very few female mites developing on worker larvae. They do so only at the periphery of the brood-nest where larvae are coolest and so have a period of development
long enough for some mites on them to reach maturity.
It is known that A. cerana and apis mellifera cannot breed back and forth and make viable offspring. But, they are still so close in everything else, that we can study and learn and mimic, to regain control of our honeybees.
Concerning the pseudo-effect of our workerbees being perceived as drones,i.e. just another food source. The capacity of a drone cell for food is double that of a worker cell, even though the drone cell is only in ratio 20%larger. The capacity of a drone cell also carries with it more juvenile growth hormone III, which when the varroa feeds on the blood of the drone larvae, induces egg laying in the mite.
In A. cerana there is insufficient juvenile growth hormone III available to induce egg laying of mites in worker brood cells. Now the size of A. cerana has a natural range by latitude, as does apis mellifera, and coincidentally they are primarily the same. By placing our apis mellifera colonies then back onto comb cell sizing pre-1900 size, back into the upper range of natural at
4.9, we can approximate the sizing of A. cerana in Korea, Japan and the upper west coast of SEA for natural control relative to A. cerana.
In our bee club, many of members use alternative hives, but many also have old Lang’s and frames you still use. If you are using plastic foundation (which we highly discourage), you need to know the cell size of that frame. Bees allowed to create their own wax cells eventually work them back down a smaller size on their own. But they can’t do that on plastic! Dee’s contention about the importance of natural cell size has been met with decades of controversy. Tom Seeley says he has seen no improvement with bees on small cells. Yet Dee swears by it. Ultimately, we keep bees in the way that rings truest for us, and all of us must find our path to that truth. We say, read, ponder, question, and follow your gut.