I've been comparing my treatment free progress with a good friend and fellow beekeeper who treats.
I was pretty discouraged this spring when his bees were "boiling out of their boxes" in May, while mine were struggling. Recently, I got to thinking about pollen sub, and feeding and whatnot. I've typically tried to feed only when the bees were short - and not short due to my harvesting. The feeding of pollen sub seems to be just a standard procedure for people who use it. A spring "boost". I fed a little of it myself this spring, as the bees were in rough shape and getting no help from the weather.
All of that amounts to "assisted living" of one degree or another.
But I wonder if it's fair for me to compare my bees with those of my friend. Is it fair to ever expect bees to "boil out of their boxes" with no treatments, and minimal feeding? Is that state of "thriving" an "unnatural one", like the production of the modern dairy cow? Is the modern standard of "healthy colonies" for those treated and regularly fed unrealistic for those who are not?
Do feral bees get as strong and produce as much as fed and treated bees?
Are we comparing apples to apples? Or is the minimalist/treatment free bee a different animal?