So the picture really is one of a different paradigm. Treatment free beekeeping is a whole different animal, and what looks "good" for a treatment free apiary would likely not warrant the same description to a treated apiary.
Sol, I appreciate your taking the time to make your detailed response.
Squarepeg, I'm actually living in zone 6a or 6b, so we don't spend a ton of our winters below 14F or so. "Far North" is still quite a ways North of here. As a whole, Nova Scotia is actually the warmest province in Canada. Maine and Vermont winters are much harder than ours, as we're out getting affected more by the Gulf Stream. We have real winter, but no harder than much of the middle US. So I may not be as ambitious as you think!
Michael, I'm sorry I slid this thread into a discussion of feeding, as it really wasn't the thrust of what I wanted to talk about, but I appreciate your detailed response as well. Who knows what we're doing to our bees with all the feeding? Personally, I try to keep it to times when the bees will be in real danger of not surviving without it, such as when I've done a cut-out and have moved a colony late season and have caused damage and loss of stores in the process.
At the end of the day, a minimalist approach will mean that the bees are more often left to rely on their own abilities. That may mean that they are not as strong in early spring, and it likely means a significantly smaller honey harvest for me in the Fall.
But like top bar hives, or mason bees - the reasons you go treatment free, or "natural", or "minimalist" are different than the reasons that one chooses to treat and feed and supplement.
And I think that's what it comes down to. I'm into the bees. Just the bees. Sure I like honey and all, but the thing I'm most interested in is how I can work to foster the development of a bee that can live on her own here in Nova Scotia without treatments and without being fed and supplemented so much. If I can reach a sustainable apiary that can live with mites, and "thrive" in "minimal" care. Then that seems like a worthwhile thing to do - for me.
If I was interested in maximum honey production with minimum die-off due to mites, then I guess a treatment model might better serve me, and that would be the way to go.
It really comes down to what fits with your goals. And figuring out what your goals are is a big part of the curve.
Once you get past that, there's really not much point in arguing with people who just don't share your goals.
And from what I can see, there is a huge difference between people who would like to be treatment free, and people who are treatment free.
They're on two different planets.