I have watched all the Heathland Beekeeping videos on youtube, and I recall that the stocks are "thumped out" and used to restock skeps that are built up for next year to be overwintered. What I didn't put together at the time was that those bees also have a brood break forced on them by the 'thumping".
So to rework my previous analogy (post #17): Under this system think of the bees as part of the crop being rotated through a series of fields (skeps). Each year the harvest is taken, the seed (bees) are gathered and put into a new field (skep), and the old field (skep) is left fallow (empty). Admittedy, this doesn't raise resistance - it was never meant to - but it does serve the bees by allowing them to break free of brood diseases and live on fresh comb.
In that operation new stocks come from prime swarms and casts made in early summer, and from little mating nucs made up from spare collected casts,a nd from culled queen cells. What with the drove bees, I doubt that business is ever short of stocks, and probably sells a great many (the bees would be another crop).
In the much more usual village settings that dominated beekeeping till the 21st C., I would imagine a similar sort of maintenance of stock numbers. I still can't see a great deal of benefit in killing colonies, unless are there just too many at the end of the year, not enough having been sold, and/or a culling of older and/or weaker is desired.
Its worth noting that in all those settings prior to the industrail revolution, and in most well into the 20th C, a large wild native population was also present, which would tend to maintain and transfer naturally selected traits into all but the largets operations.
Its also worth noting that this operation is geared up to this way of working, and the size of its skeps might well be chosen in part to facilitate it. I'd think pretty much all skeps would swarm - certainly all the more vigourous - simply because that's what bees do when they run out of room. Larger skeps would tend to swarm less reliably - though all else being equal those that did would be the more vigorous and productive colonies - or perhaps those with a propensity to swarm.
It all very interesting, but I think we should be careful how much we analyse this model and extrapolate to a proposed norm. And we shouldn't simply assume no artificial selection of any kind is going on.
I believe that I predicted that there would be no point to this "conversation" but to restate my attempt to communicate certain facts to you: bees have been swarming and using brood breaks to deal with parasite problems for millions of years. And despite your attempts to invoke historic support for your apparent view that brood breaks are antithetical to proper animal husbandry, it turns out that swarms, including the unavoidable brood break, have been the manner in which beekeepers have always made increase, prior to the invention of movable frames.
No doubt, you will resist these facts by your usual techniques, but I've grown bored. So, bye.
Ray--1 year, 7 hives, TF
I'd still like my simple question answered, ie, what was the assumption he referred to?
But I guess some folks would rather spend pages arguing and obtusificating, that answering a simple question.
And it is that attitude, why Bispham threads always go the way they do.
The same way I make them now but with a bit of hot wax or some sharp sticks to affix the brood comb.
If I were in a village setting in say Europe, any time when skeps were still used, and found myself with a couple of strong colonies in April, where I usually had 12 or 15, I'd be tempted to make daughter colonies.
In any year, I'd want my stock numbers up to maximise my harvest, and I'd do what I could. I'd be astonished if that didn't involve making daughter colones, and sometimes, deliberately raising and mating queens too. It maximises production, and takes out uncertainty - so it should be anticipated.
What I've always said was that systematic use of brood breaks seems to me to be no different to chemical treatment in its effect on the co-evolution of bees and mite. It seems to me to be less than a half-measure, something that will act as a brake on a fuller co-evolution, which would allow colonies to live and thrive without having to swarm every year.
Whether that's still a good thing in the very different modern context (of very few feral bees in which natural selection can remove the weaker efficiently and thoroughly) is another matter.
(separately) It seems likely to me that the uniformity of size of the skeps we've seen in the German documentary are not a natural feature. That practice would tend to select for bees that do well in that size of cavity. And at that scale you're automatically selecting for bees that do well under that general regime. Maybe those are not important points. Maybe they are.
Thanks for prompting me to learn stuff, and giving me food for thought. Good luck with your bees.
 Table 24.4A http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=M...eeping&f=false
I've lightly scanned a bit deeper and found that a german writer in the 1500s was noting queen cages.
P 239 (North Western Europe) has talk about skeps being made small to encourage early swarming
P 240 looks like a good place to start reading about UK skep beekeeping in the Early Modern Period.
Last edited by mike bispham; 03-24-2014 at 12:33 PM.