Re: Our Gene Pool
Keeping susceptible bees alive by treating with chemicals slows down the natural process that should be occurring. The best thing we as beekeepers could do to manage varroa and tracheal mites is to ignore them and let the susceptible bees die. We don't have enough diversity here in the U.S. to make a difference so there isn't any real reason to keep treating bees except that it is the only way some beekeepers can see to make a profit. If you are still treating your bees, shame on you.
I would like to import some carefully selected strains of bees into the U.S. for breeding work. There is a wide range of genetics that could be useful under the right conditions. I would not advocate importing indiscriminately, that just opens the door to any and every disease and pest on the planet. Bees I would like to see imported include a couple of strains from Greece, some from Turkey, some from Anatolia, some from Egypt, and some from North Africa. We as beekeepers should be pushing our government for some more controlled imports.
If you are really worried about diversity in the bee population, then you should consider the effect of a limited population of queen breeders using a limited population of breeder queens. We are breeding from about 1/1000th of the bee population. That is 1000 to 1 inbreeding year after year. The cumulative effect is ongoing reduction of genetic diversity. We can import genetics till we are blue in the face but that won't help until we do something about the ongoing artificial bottleneck at the queen production level.
Sue Cobey used steady selection pressure to develop the NWC. There is a loss of diversity even with the methods she used but it was kept to a minimum by the methods used in the breeding work. If you are seriously interested in maintaining diversity in your bees, do some due diligence by studying selection methods that result in low but constant pressure to achieve a breeding goal.
DarJones - The universe is not only stranger than we imagine, its stranger than we can imagine - JBS Haldane