Small cell & Varroa

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Field Bee
May 24, 2009
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9 Medium Poly, mostly foundation-less. Some run as Warre TBH
Hi all

I've been reading around and there seems to be a fair bit info about small cell foundation being able to help significantly with Varroa.

Yet i don't know anyone who runs the stuff and is not mentioned in the DEFRA pamphlets that i can see.

Has anyone tried small cell and dose it work?
I haven't tried small cell, but I've tried large cell. I understand varroa prefer to raise their young in drone cells, so I put a couple of short frames in a the brood box and the bees build drone cells under the bottom bars.

You can then uncap them and extract the larvae and examine for varroa infestation, and then sacrifice the drone cells completely to remove a high proportion of varroa brood.

I understand this practice is now fairly common as a component of IPM.

It's related but not directly on topic I'm afraid :)
Onge I've read that too, and those that have tried it seem to suggest it's a good thing.
The above has little to do with cell size - excepting drone cells are bigger. The reason is that the reproduction of varroah mites is enhanced by the longer drone pupation stage (than for worker bees).

Regards, RAB
Hi Onge,
I use small cell foundation in one of my WBCs but only from the beginning of the year. Given that I've been very lucky with varroa this year it's difficult to tell how it compares to the other 'standard' cell foundation in the other hives.
Of greater interest to me is that it appears to have a positive effect on the prevalence of acarine. Some eminent beeks in the states are suggesting that 'modern' cell size is responsible for the acarine becoming an issue. Bees seem to like it anyway so this hive had small cell in the brood box and drone cell in the 8 frame supers with excellent results.
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Thanks Apis looking good.

Keep em coming, anyone else?
I tried it - even bought a mill to make my own small cell foundation. It did not work for us!
Best wishes
...all depends on bee variety I think. I takes a little work introducing small cell into a colony and I don't think it suits the larger bees from warmer climes, too much of a jump in size from their standard cells, the size of which seems to match them well. Small cells equals small bees and it can take time to convince the queen to lay in 'em. The size of the bees is determined by the size of their abdomen which is in turn, determined by the cell size. My interest in the suppression of acarine stems from research that the mites were once external and only became a problem when bee size became such that they could pass through the spiracles into the tracheal ducts. I'm hoping 'small cell' will turn back time on the tracheal mite and don't forget, you also get a whole lot more brood per square inch.
Tony350i was last online the day before this thread started,he is a small cell beekeeper.
I am sure he can give some imput next time he is around.
I was recently pointed in the direction of Small Cell Foundation as a possible way to reduce varroa populations and increase brood size due to the increase in brood area.

However, I just discovered the following article which seems to say that the small brood size has no effect on any of the things you would want it to have an effect on!


Due to a continuing shift toward reducing/minimizing the use of chemicals in honey bee colonies, we explored the possibility of using small cell foundation as a varroa control. Based on the number of anecdotal reports supporting small cell as an efficacious varroa control tool, we hypothesized that bee colonies housed on combs constructed on small cell foundation would have lower varroa populations and higher adult bee populations and more cm2 brood. To summarize our results, we found that the use of small cell foundation did not significantly affect cm2 total brood, total mites per colony, mites per brood cell, or mites per adult bee, but did affect adult bee population for two sampling months. Varroa levels were similar in all colonies throughout the study. We found no evidence that small cell foundation was beneficial with regard to varroa control under the tested conditions in Florida.

Just thought I'd post it here in case anyone was interested...
Not sure whether this was taken into account the above report, but I guess for most small scale beekeepers, you'd have to have ONLY small cell in ALL hives for this to be able to work, or the drifting of bees would tend to re-populate (with varroa) any hives starting to reduce their mite load?

Any TBH users able to comment? I guess they use 'bee-chosen' size rather than 'small cell' size, but they would seem to be the best source of long-term experience on this (and the acarine going through spiracles) issue.

It might appear to some that the conclusions you are drawing are correct. But, of course, that is not strictly a correct conclusion to draw.

The statistics involved require a significant change to be found. Often in any one investigation this can not be accomplished, as reported 'under the stated conditions in Florida'.

In the good old days they would test, count the results and come to a conclusion. The tests would be simple and the correlation observed by drawing a line graph or the like.

Tests nowadays are, with the use of computers in particular, taking into account lots of possible variables. These all may have a small bearing on the result but they are all summative, thus all these together can make confidence in the achieved result much diminished. Hence the result is 'not a significant change'.

Furthermore, one type of bee in one area for one season may well yield a totally different outcome to another type of bee in another climatic region over several seasons (using a selective method where particularly 'promising' colonies are selected for the later results while discarding those colonies which appear to not help towards one's target outcome). Different methodology but the outcome might be much more obvious as a benefit to beekeepers and the bee. On the other hand, it may not.......

These experiments/studies are published for others to see the methodology, results found, etc, etc. which would enable others, who might try the same study, to benefit from the painstaking work already carried out.

I well remember Walter Marshall, head of the CEGB, telling us all that they had found no evidence to prove strong electromagnetic fields from (overhead) power lines were detrimental to health. I remember analysing what he said very carefully, over, and over again. I was, of course, not surprised when he (as Sir, and long deceased) was long forgotten that the evidence did actually emerge to prove otherwise.

Statistics used wrongly are said to be worse than lies and damned lies. Used honestly, studies often appear fruitless as this one apparently did.

Regards, RAB
The above has little to do with cell size - excepting drone cells are bigger. The reason is that the reproduction of varroah mites is enhanced by the longer drone pupation stage (than for worker bees).

Regards, RAB

RAB, I was lead to understand that the smaller cell size actually reduced the numbers of varroa mites as they are capped up to one day earlier (so reducing the time for adult varroa to infect the cell/lay eggs) and that the young bees emerge up to one day earlier, so making the varroa not completely developed and easier for the bees to remove/kill (I presume because the outer shell of the mite hasn't hardened fully)

From what I have read, after 2 cycles, (by which I presume to mean a season or more) the bees readily accept the smaller cell sizes and the varroa population crashes.

In a different thread I discussed this with Jean (from France) and I think there is a link there to some study on the web

(Admin, can you post the link here if you can find it ?)

I am intrigued as to whether the above theory/practice actually works......


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