In light of another thread being discussed concerning small and large bees on this same forum, I would like to comment on something without taking away from that other ongoing discussion.
I want to back up and talk about a small part of that smallcell discussion that took place in the past.
I've had smallcell for a number of years now. One of my observations about 6 years ago, was the drastic improvement of all my bees as I changed over my stock to Carni and russian stock. (You need to excuse my lack of supporting quotes, since much of those discussions are on another forum)
I questioned very early on, that genetics for me seemed to be a major reason for my survival rates, and that much of my success could be seen across the board, not just with smallcell but with traditional comb as well.
This was met, and I can clearly recall the statements, as causal as they were by smallcell beekeepers...."I have never had commercial bees survive more than a year or two" What this did was dismiss any claims about success, and further promoted that without smallcell foundation, you were doomed to fail.
I remember mentioning others in the industry such as the Webbs in Georgia, as many others. They were easily cast aside and some just acknowledge for as well read as they were, "I have never heard of them before".
One of the things I did in my own operation was cull out ALL italians that I had. Many of these were from packages and commercial stock. I changed over to all NWC based stock and russian bees. My winter kill dropped immediately. Keep in mind that I do not treat for mites.
There is a very interesting article in Bee Culture, September 2009. It is called "a college farm pursues Organic Beekeeping". One of the main points was a graph that shows the results of survival rates of different purchased stocks. If you group all the italians together, that the survival rate after one year was 26% and after 2 years, those hives had a survival rate of 6%.
The survival rate of the carni/russian stock, was 100% after 1 year and 60% after two years.
I see those same results as I made the changeover. Some stocks made all the difference in the world.
Now, the one point I would add, is the drop in survival rate with the carni/russian stock the second year. Much can be said about older queens, failure rates, and winter loss. I think to maintain that first year success, that requeening and summer splits can make that survival rate maintain higher success.
One of the finer points of smallcell over the years was the idea that for the first several years, while regressing, you would need to treat or you would suffer some losses. And that breeding or splitting from survival stock was also suggested. So after three years, you would see success with smallcell.
Many have chosen russian or carni stock for smallcell beekeepers. I suggest that myself for beekeepers asking which strain works best for regression. The darker bees lines are naturally smaller and if your going to regress bees, start with small bees anyways.
But does that also mean that one started or further bred from a line that already shown great ability in survival, or developed a survivor line by the very fact of regression and breeding from survivors?
The study mentioned above was conducted with organic beekeeping in mind. But the results are clear as day in how different strains have drastic differences in survival rates. Hopefully, as more come forward, those days that claiming any stock other than those regressed to smallcell, are doomed to failure, will quietly fall by the wayside.
I guess for those still running around promoting smallcell as the only way to have success, it will remain a viable option to those who continue to be devastated by winter loss from installed packages, and commercial stock of bees not worthy of what we need today.
I do not write this to bash smallcell beekeeping. I'm just pointing out that you can have success, and earlier claims that unless you regress your bees, that no success will be seen, is a point long past it's usefullness.
All things being considered equal, I have the same loss in all my different hives, whether that be smallcell or standard size cells, since they all have the same survivor stock. I have said that for several years now. Hopefully more people will see that genetic stock makes a huge impact. And that success can be achieved without such things as unnatural smallcell foundation.
I personally promote clean natural comb that the bees build, better genetics, and good sound bee management program. I think it's a better approach. And eventually I see smallcell promotion as nothing more than a gimmick, to be carried forward by a few holdouts that will be lost in the success of many others.
Read the article in Bee Culture. Very interesting indeed.