First, I agree with you that actual controlled trials are the best way to figure out these questions. I also think that you take that concept to an extreme that would inhibit innovation. In any practical field, whether its agriculture, engineering or medicine, there are many techniques that are used that have not been tested.
Also, the simple fact is that there is not enough money to fund all the studies that could be done. Even if one study has been done on an issue, that does not necessarily answer a question in a conclusive way. This is particularly true in beekeeping, where there are so many important variables that cannot be addressed and/or elimiated from a study (genetics and geography for starters). Also, I mentioned on another post that I am a lawyer. From my work, I can assure you that there is a lot of junk science in this world, and that researchers are affected by who is paying for the research. If research is funded by a chemical company, it could be totally valid. However, it might be slanted, and you would never know who paid for the research.
I'm not planning on breeding bees at all. I don't have the knowledge, hives or desire to do that. The only bees I want to bread is if drones from my hive get lucky . I am getting bees from a breeder who has about 500 hives and who's been doing this for 30 some odd years. That's why he gets my hard-earned money for two nucs.
Also, IF there is some natural selection proecess going on, I am not sure that people are needed to do it. As I indicated, I think that its just as likely that natural selection would make the mites less virulent as it is that the bees would become more resistant. I sure don't think that beekeepers are actively participating in a mite breeding operation. It would just happen. What I think is possible is simply that bees that deal with mites best will live and mites that don't outright kill hives will live, they will both reproduce and ultimately there will be a better balance in the parasite-host relationship. Given the high mite mortality that initially was present, I think that the process is really inevitable.
I also don't plan on making a living on this. I don't expect to make any money at all. This is strictly a hobby. Honey plays no part in my retirement planning. That being said, I like honey, and I ultimately want to hand a jar of honey to the people who said "You're doing what!?" when I told them I'm getting bees. All things being equal, I want to make more honey, not less.
However, I think you may have responded to this post in another post that relates to treating for mites with vineger. What you said there was:
"Maybe M. Bush's system works in mite question but in honey production level it seems to be invalid. He says that he has very small winter clusters. It means that bees have destroyed the worker cells which have varroa inside. So colony is too small in spring to make pollination duty or get good honey yield. Like it has been researched, if varroa contamination goes over certain limit, hives will not go on economical level. It is same with swarming or chalk brood. If you loose 20% of you workers, you cannot run you beekeeping business any more."
That is actually something I never thought of -- that bees that keep the mites at bay, by their behavior, could reduce the amount of honey produced. That's the sort of idea I was fishing for when I made this post.
So, here's my questions to Finsky and anybody else:
1. As I understand it, there's been very little research done on small cell's effectiveness against mites in the first place. Do you know of any study that has studied the honey production of small cell bees?
2. If I had small cell bees and treated for mites so they did not have cells to destroy, would that eliminate this problem?
3. For people who use small cell bees, is it true that small cell bees have smaller winter clusters (or is that really more dependent on bee race). In other words, Mr. Bush, if you have small winter clusters, is that on the hives that are from feral stock that would do the same thing on large cell comb? Would small cell Italian bees have smaller winter clusters than regular cell Italian bees?
4. Is there a correlation between winter cluster size and honey production, or can bees that use small clusters ramp up brood production and catch up? It would seem that this may depend on when the honey flow begins.
5. Generally speaking, what has happened to honey yields when you go to small cell?
P.S. For Finsky: What I like to do with ducks is teach them to be gumbo.