Kathleen: Thank you for your update. It is encouraging to hear that your apiary is doing so well. Congratulations. I echo Gray Goose's sentiment that I make no judgment as to how you choose to manage your bees. I too have been considering cavity size as it relates to long-term success. One aspect of this that was insightful to me was to watch the two-part "Honey Bees in the Wild" presentation given by Patterson and Seeley that GregV recently posted. What I took from this is that Seeley in particular believes that swarming is a necessary component to successful TF operations. What seems less established is what role does cavity size itself play in this equation, assuming swarming is the reason for the small cavity? I think Gray Goose makes an astute observation when he concludes that there is a fairly clear-cut means by way of volume limitation to force swarming, but is there a clear-cut means by way of volume alone to prevent swarming?Once again, the idea is that it's healthy for the bees to swarm.
Meaning, keeping colonies in small cavities will certainly incite swarming, but keeping colonies in big cavities (in-and-of-itself) will not prevent swarming.
So, I wonder if part of the discussion might include striking a balance whereby colonies are allowed to swarm naturally, but are maintained in sufficient volumes which allow for adequate natural winter stores and a modest surplus for the beekeeper, with the swarming 'penalty' built-in?
I am still thinking through the implications of all this, but just wanted to toss out the observation that I think the whole big volume = bad / small volume = good paradigm is a bit oversimplified, at least as it relates to swarm issuance (or lack thereof).
I appreciate your updates, and I do hope you will continue to keep us posted.