I've been thinking about different ways to make rapid increase while maintaining the ability to have 'true readings' of mite tolerance. I've rejected the high-power approach of adding a grafted queen to brood and flying bees supplied by big comb/brood doner hives on the following basis:
The queen and the 'starter' bees are unrelated, and therefore the performance of the hive in the early weeks will be a function of the donated flying bees, not the queen's bees. This will tend to obscure performance data during the first couple of months.
I realise the effect will be short lived - but thinking about this made me realise something else. The hive ecology will also be foreign to that queen's genetic make up. I think that might matter more.
I could be over-thinking at this stage.. but I'm wondering if one of the factors that enables swarms to outperform manufactured nucs, as is commonly reported, might not be the ideal evolved combination of the strain and the hive ecology that accompanies it.
If there's any truth in that, then it would be best to develop a production method that maintains this combination, rather than one that denys it.
One feature of the ecology that would be preserved is the co-evolved nature of the bee-mite combination. Bees geared up to controlling mites in a certain way may come ready equipped with mites that are amenable to being controlled in that way. And that might well make a big difference. [This idea appears to be deflated in a reply below - see #10 and #11. - MB]
Bringing these ideas into play would entail something closer to walk-away splits, or building hives large then splitting them up (preferably with swarm cells ready to go), rather than a (more efficient and rapid) separate Q-raising plus comb/brood/bee-raising operation.
Does anyone have any thoughts about any of that?