In a routine inspection a couple years ago I ran into a bee that caught my eye. Normally I’m looking for mites, general age of the bees, signs of mites such as deformed wings, etc. Fortunately I had a camera with me (the bee in the bottom left corner of the picture). She seemed to be little bigger than the abdomen of all the other workers, but otherwise seemed completely normal. I have no idea where the origin of the queen was (though apparently the swarm she came from was Italian), and by this time she had been dispatched a few weeks earlier and replaced with a NWC queen. I have seen one other worker in my inspections this past weekend that was equally as small, but this time she was a NWC worker. Do these small workers have as productive a life as their larger counterparts, or are they considered a runt to be kicked out? It didn’t appear they were being treated any differently, but I couldn’t really watch the normal hive activity without disrupting it. Not a terribly useful observation, though I did find it interesting.
There is a debate that honeybees have been made artificialy large in the effort to increase honey production and that ‘small cell’ beekeeping is the answer to many ills. I have not tried it myself, and have only read the arguments for and against by strong proponents of each. I suspect that if there is something to it, the mites will adapt just as they have to everything else we have thrown at them. I still think the long term answer is in the breeding, though that will be a long time in coming in a well rounded bee that is still gentle and productive.