Back for a visit. Might stay a while...
Yes, I am still keeping bees. Yes, I am keeping them as naturally as possible. The only "foreign" substances I put in my hives are:
1) 2:1 Fall Sugar Syrup (White Sugar / Water / Ascorbic Acid - the Vit C acidifies the syrup so it more closely approximates the pH of somewhat concentrated nectar and hopefully results in "honey" with a pH closer to that of natural nectar-based honey)
2) BT - Sprayed on COMB PRIOR
to storage as needed throughout the season. I use aizawai-strain BT (Xentari)
3) Dry sugar on newspaper on the top bars to winterize - though I didn't use any this past year
4) Smoke. Usually from dried wood chips I collect by the side of the road. I light them with an instant-light propane torch. They work great when you find the small ones.
I am in south east PA. I run between 10 and 15 foundationless natural size cell hives; I let the bees build whatever they like. I minimally manage my hives; if I get a good honey harvest, great! If not, no big deal. I have not purchased queens or bees for 7 or 8 years; the majority of my bees come from local removals and swarms (my longest-lived colonies are from long-lived removals).
Winter losses this past winter were 30% (3 of 10 hives). One colony did not put up sufficient stores and died early in the winter. The other two failed to move to nearby (available) stores during cold snaps (one failed to move UP to overhead honey. The other failed to move OVER to adjacent frames of nearby honey).
Yes, we have SHB here. They're annoying but generally not detrimental to my hives that I've seen. Some colonies seem to host a noticeably larger number of SHBs than others... I don't do anything to manage them.
With one exception, surviving colonies this spring are reasonably strong, and I am supering up for honey this year. I have a ton of old frames to melt in the solar wax melter I built last year. Unfortunately it doesn't get as hot as required. I'm thinking of adding a whole bunch of strong magnets to attract in more sun. Just checking to see if you actually read this far
Oh, and I'm very much a MB disciple. Most of what I know about bees I learned here, directly from the bees, or via a combination of both.