I wanted to post a few random thoughts and see where this goes based on what people see as possible, what pure is, etc.
I see several levels of possible breeders and areas of effort, and what you would consider strains, etc. I'll group them as follows.
1)Pure stock as nature had them selected. One person I spoke to recently was Malcolm Sanford. One of the things he wishes to achieve with GBBA (Global Bee Breeders Assoc.) is to do genetic testing to isolate the purist breeds. At the moment, what is an Italian, a carni, or a Russian? And where is the pure stock to save, breed, and maintain? Certainly as much as the strains have been moved around, many have commented that there is no pure lines of this or that, especially in the states. But where are the pure strains, if there are any left, around the world? And certainly, whatever the purist strains we have, they should be maintained to continue the lines for future use. Since genetic testing and isolation has not been done in the past, we really do not even know what a pure strain is, how many alleles there was from the start, etc.
2) Pure lines, or at least as pure as we have now. Efforts such as the Russian breeders program have Russians that they will attempt to keep isolated, and maintain pure lines. Questions are raised about what "pure" is, as we have no past level or quality standard to use as a guideline. But to maintain as pure as we can at this time may be as a good as it gets. Bringing in outside stock to boost alleles numbers, maintain as pure line as possible, and benefit from genetics, is a long task. It seems that getting a plane loaded with bees from Australia is easier to pass customs than a few vials of drone semen. Maintaining the lines that we have is a big step and will be helpful as we move into the future. No sense bringing in new stock if the mechanics are not in place to maintain them once we have them. Some have suggested that a breeding program for carni, Italian, and other strains should be considered.
3)Standard breeders as we know them. Many open mate, use multiple breeders brought in from various sources, call the queen hybrids, and have a loose breeding program. There are certainly benefits of genetic diversity. The more alleles, the more possibilities exist for selection and maintaining quality. For the average breeder, this is where most are. Something less than pure, but perhaps a better suited queen for overall performance. But the problems within this breeding model has been growing for some time now. A "leveling out" of the pure strains has caused a loss of alleles, and a decline of quality. And certainly, the continued loss of alleles will cause a decrease in quality. Inbreeding will continue to be a potential problem.
Brother Adam was able to travel around the world and pick the best of the best, and come up with a line called buckfast. That's the great thing about genetic diversity. You get a hybrid that has all the good things you select for. But that was sometime ago. We also had the starline and midnite lines. But over time, these strains have changed, and are being watered down. And currently we do not have the ability as Brother Adam did to collect stock from around the world. Those days have passed being able to fly in new queens at ones choosing. And even if we could, without such vision and future efforts as what Malcolm Sanford speaks, we really don't even know what pure lines are out there, and if those lines have changed themselves over the years. Certainly, Italians have been spread around Europe and other places as they have been here in the states.
So where are we today? I see us grasping at pure lines as the best we can, and using the tools we know to maintain them. But how long will that last? Can we expect the lines we have, such as NWC, the Russians being used in the Russian breeders association, and other lines just to continue towards a middle ground? Some mention feral. But from a genetic standpoint, how can they be any better genetically than the pool we already have here? They did not come from an outside source.
I'm hoping my random thoughts make sense. I hope people can understand the larger picture of what needs to be done in protecting any pockets of pure lines we have left around the world. I hope people see how maintaining a breeding pool from what we have here already is also needed. And by how having these tools allows us all to be a little like Brother Adam in selecting the best of different lines, so a diversity and quality bee industry can continue in the future.
We need various programs at the different levels to benefit each other in the long run. Understanding how each feeds off each other, and what the benefits are of each, is in everyone's interest. They are connected.