On the natural cell size of European honey bees: a "fatal error" or distortion of historical data?
As a possible way to help control varroa mites, some beekeepers advocate the use of cells smaller than the regular size commonly used by beekeepers. This paper addresses two of their principal arguments, namely that honey bees built smaller cells under natural conditions in thepast, and that a "fatal" error occurred at the turn of the 20th century when a new and allegedly misleading method of estimating cell density was introduced. Historical data show not only that cell sizes were not smaller in the past, but also that estimating cell densities was not an issue before the introduction of wax foundation. Moreover, not realizing that the two methods of estimating cell densities are equivalent, the proponents of small cells have erroneously corrected the data reported by the authors of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. In conclusion, the claim that cells were smaller in the past is not only not supported by the historical records, but rests on a distortion of the historical records resulting from an incorrect transformation of the original data.