Over the past many years, much has been made about feral bees, and the genetics they have. In the past, it was assumed that ferals were some magical long lost strain of the German black bee, some long lived colony in some farmers barn, or some feral colony at the edge of town always seemly described as a remote location.
Feral colonies got wiped out just like managed bees. And if you understand that most colonies of bees are within a certain range of managed colonies, this only seemed reasonable. If you draw on a map a ten mile circle around every managed colony of bees, you would see that in most areas, little places are not influenced by beekeepers hives. And those hives influence the local feral genetics just as much as ferals influence managed hives. The further away you get from civilization, the less feral colonies there are. In deep woods and isolated areas away from farming and other activities, there is little forage for bees to survive after the spring trees. I did three years of feral research and was amazed in how few actual bee hives are located in isolated areas.
With that being said, I think most swarms and cutouts are bees directly from managed hives. (There are only two known areas in the midwest that have any German black bee genetics.) The rest are just castaways from beekeepers hives and these are the bees that have repopulated most feral populations.
But are they any better? I would say yes. If a colony is strong enough to survive winter, and then swarm in the spring, and factoring in the fact that winter does cull out the weakest, then it only reasons that these are at least bees better than what you get in the standard package. So in the past 20 years, many swarms have been cast off from at least the better half of managed hives, and then culled further in nature, to the point that they are better than what you can buy in most places.
The problem is the flooding of most areas with tens of thousands of packages each spring. And those hives surviving that nature would of killed off if not for the beekeeper treating. These situations keep the bee pool at a constant, and it is hard to see overall improvement. So is that swarm from good local feral genetics or just a first generation daughter from some migratory beekeeper or a crappy package installed last year and fed and babied into swarming the next spring that the bees should of never seen to begin with?
We need more beekeepers and bee associations raising queens and producing local nucs. One of the problems I have in this state, is the past president, the current president, as well as about every migratory beekeeper, are the biggest shippers and sellers of packages. I realize that we need packages due to a shortage of northern queens and nucs utilizing local genetics, but it the lack of support from these other people in doing ANYTHING connected to queen and nuc production that is the big disappointment. And these are the people that control and influence what goes on in the state association and many county clubs.
Individuals and bee associations should have queen rearing programs. And every beekeeper should be at least raising some of their own queens.
I actually think this type conversation has evolved into a more reasonable discussion, beyond those discussion in the past that centered on every beekeeper thinking because they found a colony in a tree, that it must be of superior stock. And if they were black, they must be long lost black German bees. It's kind of like beekeepers calling smallcell "natural cell" a few years back. Today, you can see a shift in the idea that foundationless systems are natural, and smallcell is just another sized cell that bees are forced to unnaturally build.