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Revision as of 23:40, 11 October 2009
How Does it Work?
Matthias Schmidt registered a patent in 1994 for a polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA, better known under the trademark names Plexiglas or Perspex) comb design. The brood cells have a conic shape – the bottom being wider than the opening and cylinder-shaped. This cell shape allows storing a greater amount of feeding jelly. Due to a richer feeding, the bee larvae hatch earlier, on the 17-18th after egg-laying instead of the 21st day in normal conditions. Varroas mate in the brood cell one day before the hatching of the young bee, that is to say on the 20th after egg-laying. An early hatching prevent thus varroas to reproduce. 
Too little knowledge is currently available on which influence polyméthapolymethyl methacrylate might have on bees and bees: It is known that polymethyl methacrylate dust and vapours are irritating for human and other mammals' mucous membranes, but, apparently, no toxicity studies neither on PMMA nor on the additives used to enhance its stability, has been performed on insects up to now. Even if the product is reputed as of low-toxicity and very stable, there still some degree of uncertainty. The acceptance of plastic is generally low by organic beekeepers.
A too rich feeding of the larvae may result in physiological modifications in workers, as, e.g. enlarged ovaries, which may lead the workers to behave similarly to a queen.
This kind of strong intervention by humans my delay an evolutive adaptation of Apis mellifera. On the other hand, varroa could well evolve to adapt to the new situation and mate earlier, which would render the invention ineffective.
Since bees use vibrations to communicate inside the hive, a different material may interfere with communication, as PMMA has is very rigid material and certainly behaves differently than wax. A study performed with Pierco, also a rigid plastic) did not confirm this assumption.
Plastic combs or comb foundations can be inserted in the hive as the usual combs. They break less easily than wax comb during centrifugation.
Some beekeepers have mentioned hygienic problems with other types plastic combs (difficulties cleaning).
Bees show low acceptance, at the beginning at least, of plastic combs. Dipping the comb in syrup or honey of coating with wax increases acceptance. Bees have to be forced on the comb and up to five weeks can be necessary to obtain this acceptance.
Bees were reported to store less honey in plastic combs than in wax.
There lack of scientific evidence that this methods bring the desired effects. Due to the potential physiology modifications on bees, this method seems dubious.
Bees have evolved through millennia and certainly know which cell configuration is best for them. Strong interventions by human may add new problems and worsen the current plight of the bee. The method should be banned in organic beekeeping.
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