Jim, I just don't think we're ready to rule out beekeeper error just yet.
And I sure do not say this as a slap in the face of those that have suffered the losses.
Most of us know some awfully good beekeepers that have suffered a hefty crash somewhere along the line. In fact it has appeared to me that those beekeepers emerged from their bad year, a MUCH better beekeeper. They watch things closer.
Here's another concern that I have had:
I have gone to some State conventions, that every single presentation was about mites. Often at bee meetings or here on the web, I notice first year beekeepers totally consumed with mites.
Do they even grasp the lifecycle of the bee yet?
How about Nutrition? I really think a lot of basic beekeeping is being overlooked at times.
I expressed this to George Hansen years ago when I ran my first Oregon convention. I asked him, "What should be our theme?"
He replied, "Anything but mites?"
I thought that was a good one. We learned a lot about beekeeping anyway.
I'm not pointing the finger here. I am really making an effort to pay more attention to nutrition, queens, etc.... blah, blah, blah
Our bees have wintered much better since.
. . . . . . .
Keith, I added the signature after watching some awfully good people getting caught up in the "snake oil of the week" treatments. To the "Works for me!!!" post is a nonanswer, feel good, replacement for the old saw: "Ignorance is bliss".
I have exactly ONE less dead-out than you.
That makes my opinion beyond dispute!