Robo -- thx for your input. If you could summarize, in your experience, what you see as top 2-3 keys for keeping your bees as healthy as possible without treating, that would be good stuff to hear. :)
Let me start out by saying I don't have all the answers, but I can tell you what works for me. I do believe one of the biggest challenges for beekeepers is climate. What works for me, may be detrimental to a beekeeper in another geography and vice versa. We often forget that we get into such discussions.
I believe my biggest factor is my stock is all from acclimatized feral colonies. I use to struggle like a lot of folks when I purchased commercial queen from the south (nothing against southern queens, it just the climate difference thing). I notice an improvement in survivability when I started buying queens from Canada, however that was stopped years ago with all the red tape crossing the border. It was at that time I started raising my own queens and focusing on doing feral colony removals.
Another thing I'm a firm believer in is colony heat retention. I found that a warm hive seems to be a fast building, healthy hive. In fact, I have had really good luck overwintering small hives with supplemental heat which I learned from a Finnish beekeeper that use to be a member here. He used terrarium heaters, but I have done all mine on the cheap with night lights. As you have seen in my previous posts, I have returned back to solid bottom boards in an effort to allow the bees to regulate the temperature and humidity as they do in a feral colony. By simply using a slatted rack, I have no issues with bearding. I have also found that polystyrene hive bodies keep the colony roughly 10 degrees warmer in the winter and use at least 25% less stores.
I have also done quite a few colonies on HSC, but have to admit, I have some colonies on 20 year old large cell comb that are untreated as well, so that is why I put the feral stock higher on my list.