Is a bee just a bee? Is one bee as good as another bee? Heavens, NO!
Bees have genetic differences, having good points and bad points, just the same as you and I. Some things are obvious, while others are not. Surely if you were shown a room filled with people who were white caucasian, black negro, American Indian, oriental, Polynesian, and Eskimo, you could differentiate between them.
Likewise, there are different STRAINS of people from the same race, and they differ. Think of an English man, a German man, and an Italian man, all members of the white Caucasian race, but all quite different. The English man dresses in a 3 piece suit, drinks Scotch, smokes a pipe, and is generally quiet of speech. The German man is blonde, blue eyed, wears a sweater, drinks beer, smokes cigarettes, and loves to sing and dance. The Italian man dressed in a golf shirt, stands on a corner waving a bottle of Chianti wine, shouting and talking to the whole block of people.
All three are white Caucasions, but have different STRAINS. Breeders intently study genetic differences and by using controlled matings, they can emphasize good points in the resulting progeny, as well as minimize undesirable points. What are the good and bad points of a honey bee that skilled queen breeders are always hunting for?
Good points include gentleness, wintering well, not prone to swarming, ripens its honey rapidly, makes white comb cappings, uses little burr comb, and is somewhat disease resistant. Bad points might include excessive use of propolis, excess swarming, prone to many diseases, poor population builders, poor comb builders, and just plain NASTY.
The hobbyist beekeeper in Florida is not interested in wintering ability, the professional honey producer cares more about disease resistance than excess burr comb production, out-apiary owners are more concerned about excess swarming than home apiary owners, and most hobbyists are more interested in gentleness than any other difference.
So much has changed in beekeeping the past 20 years, CONTROLLED BREEDING by using artificial insemination of queens has greatly enhanced the ability of queen breeders to select for desirable attributes in bees that couldn’t be done in the days of field breeding.
In the better queen breeder apiaries of today, the breeder buys some highly selected ARTIFICIALLY INSEMINATED queens as breeder queens and grafts their eggs into queen production nucs that produce the queens that are field bred by highly selected drones to produce the laying queen that you purchase.
Maybe the day will come that most queens that you buy will be artificially inseminated rather than field bred, and then each beekeeper might be able to select a queen that provides the most genetic good points that he wants from his bees and minimizes most of those things considered bad points.
The FUTURE is so exciting!