A couple different questions were asked, and I always screw up the multiple cut/paste, so stay with me.....
First, there is absolutely nothing wrong for a seller to be up front and honest of where one gets, makes, or sells. Nothing wrong was implied, based on this. The comments about knowing whether a supplier is actually breeding northern bees or bringing them in from elsewhere, is important to many, who desire to buy acclimatized stock, support a more locally produced product, and perhaps get bees and even nucs, that are not traditionally found in the south.
Second, Although some look at bees as bees, and will say there is no difference between one strain and another, I do not feel that way. There are clear differences between Italians, Carni, and Russians. Ever wonder why? Because over millions of years, they were tailored by such things as environmental conditions in the places that these strain originated. If environmental impact was not a factor, all bees would be the same. And we know that is not true.
I'll also say, that I never agreed that the USDA should of taken a northern hardy stock such as the Russians that were brought over, and propagated them in the deep south. Does not make sense to me. Those bees should of been progated in the north. And even today, to open mate, even with the best breeding protocol, makes you wonder if these bees would be better off being propgated in the north with localized feral and other like stock. But this is a deep subject.
Is there a difference between one type bee raised and perpetuated in the south, and one in the north? Some would say no. But I also would suggest many would also agree that there are different traits between the different strains. And some of those strains may be better off being raised in the north.
There is no doubt, that many people do not want southern raised bees for a host of reasons, whether real or perceived. Items include concerns over AHB, bees being raised without environmental traits being expressed, limited strains available, as well as the decline of quality of product from huge operations that have harmed their breeding programs due to necessity in regards to SHB, and endless mite cycles. I know I hear of many complaints of queen quality. And I think overall, southern producers with a host of problems, may be more inclined to treat with chemicals, and then have weak genetics and queen viability.
As for the the AHB concern, the jury may be still out on that. On one hand, I think some good traits may be worth looking at. But also understanding that the global genetic pool is also being compressed by AHB, and less genetic variations will continue to be available as AHB take over more and more area. But no doubt, the beekeeping community is concerned about spreading AHB any faster than absolutely needed.
If you understand the need for a three tier approach to bee breeding, it helps to understand why constantly mixing every bee strain to the point that all bees are the same, can only hurt in the long run. The bee genetic matter has been weakened by mass distribution of just a few lines of bees over the years. Mainly the result from mega operations and breeders all buying breeder queen from the same source. malcolm Sanford would love to get the GBBA off the ground and isolate the purist strains of the bees we know. But the problem is that as we have done, beekeepers in other places such as Europe, have "blended" stock. So the ability to breed certain lines based on future problems, may be less likely.
The three tier breeding program we need is 1) Isolate and keep pure the main lines as they exist today around the world. 2) Have breeders for each strain, such as the Russian bee group. 3) Have breeders that select for what the beekeeping community wants for their own region.
The problem from above is 1)The world's pool of genetic material for bees is becoming smaller. Even the spread of AHB takes out potentially feral stock that may of been useful for future use. 2)The purist stock we have like the Russians, will be blended into less and less pure stock, will be bred for commercialization and profit, and eventually will be just like any other bee. As it stands now, it's not about keeping the Russians pure, it;s about mating them for what we want, thus changing them with every passing year. Why we want them to be like Italians, or anything else, is going to harm the beekeeping industry long run. 3) If there is truth to feral genetics, localized traits, and other benefits, then we need to capitalize on them. As it is now, the country is flooded with hundreds of thousands of packages from stock being raised in environments and climates that most of us do not keep bees.
You can argue many of the points I listed. I for one, have seen the results. I have cut my loss to a fraction of they once were, and a huge contributing factor was using the correct strain for my area, and selecting from overwintered and northern raised stock. I know I could not achieve anything near what I have now, if I continued that same old "lose half your hives, and buy packages from down south every year". I guess if you can "baby" your bees, and you are going to treat anyways, then stock can get less important. But for those who want to go with no chems, less treatments, etc., I would suggest that the different strains does make a difference.
But I also will say that I do not favor buying bees based on a "label". I don't buy Russians or Carni's. I buy Russians and Carni's from breeders who are doing the right thing. Like not weakening the queen viability through chemical use, overwinters and selects on survivability, and other breeding protocol. And as of now, I can not find that with most producers in the south. And I will admit, that there are few northern breeders filling the need.
The northern bee community is demanding a northern produced product. Many are recognizing that there are differences in where you get bees, from who you buy bees, and what strain are best in a localized area. Up till now, there was no supply.
Now some will say, that many of my points are questionable. But I ask myself questions like "Why did some southern producers try Russians when they were first brought over, only to change back again to the old reliable Italians"? And the answer is clearly that some strains react, overwinter, and have traits different than the Italians. Some good, and some bad. Of course these same breeders now suggest that what I say is all "hot air" and that "bees are bees". Of course they know differently.
Most people who try raising their own bees, breed localized stock, select from overwintered colonies, all agree after awhile, that a big difference can be seen after a couple of years. And many of them have no vested interest or a bee to sell.
Are we to a point that everyone can buy northern nucs? No. There will always be a market for early packages. And the northern breeding industry is at infancy stages right now. We need northern breeders. We need to understand the ramifications of the shrinking genetic pool, what ways are best to go forward, and what benefits can be realized in the coming years.
That's why NSQBA was formed. To help northern breeders join together, work towards better northern stock (You don't do this by breeding in the south), and hopefully one day give the community a larger viable option for bees. Some states such as Georgia may never ban the export of bees even if AHB become a problem. But some states have indeed talked about the banning of imports of bees from other states. And will where that leave the market?
Breeding, selection, maintaining genetic variation, protecting for future AHB concerns, and so on, all play off each other. Many will be happy for the packages they get from southern origins. And I am not suggesting anything wrong with them. But I can clearly state why one should consider northern stock, and why this industry may be more important in the future.
If anything, I bet there are a few who never knew that some of those selling nucs were just southern producers, and northern sellers.