For a number of reasons, but especially due to Varroa predation, honey bee genetic variability in many areas of the globe has been reduced. This has not been well studied, and its effects on localized bee stocks are little understood. The general situation leads to the conclusion in some beekeeping regions that limited genetic variability is leading to lower colony productivity.
There continues to be promising research in Varroa tolerance and resistance through finding and selecting "survivor" stocks, and also by looking at the biology of both the mite and the bee to understand interactions that reduce the virulence of Varroa in stocks. An example of the former is the introduction of Russian (Primorski) stock into the U.S., and the latter is the work on Varroa-sensitive hygiene (VSH), previously called suppressed mite reproduction (SMR). Many of these efforts are cataloged across the Internet..
In the future, the above activity will also be enhanced by the presence of new technologies such as DNA analysis (the honey bee genome has been completed) and cryopreservation of sperm. These, coupled with new genetic knowledge about both honey bees and their pests and parasites, promise to revolutionize bee breeding.
The effects of Africanized honey bees in the Americas, and the spread across the globe of Varroa and more recently small hive beetle reveal that moving bee stock is not without risk. In spite of this, however, the practice continues whether it be illegal movement (i.e. in a beekeeper's pocket) or legal through an elaborate process as was done with Russian stock, first introduced to a barrier island off Louisiana. A recent example of each has been found in Canada.
All this leads to the question of how do beekeepers, beekeeping organizations, breeders and others deal with the inevitable fact that the honey bee's genetic material is not only currently being distributed around the world, but also that this activity may be of vital importance for many regions of the globe ravaged by bee diseases or human activity like warfare. Therefore, it appears the time has come to develop a global effort in an attempt to get agreement on technologies to formally and officially exchange honey bee genetic material with a minimum of risk.
The genesis of "The Global Bee Breeders Association: Increasing the Honey Bee's Genetic Variability With Minimal Risk" is a presentation made by Martín Braunstein, a queen breeder in Argentina and Dr. Malcolm T. Sanford, retired extension apiculturist at the University of Florida during the recent Apimondia Congress in Australia . Mr. Braunstein has authored an article in Spanish for the magazine Vida Apícola, and I have also written an article for Bee Culture on the topic.
This Association is somewhat modeled after the highly successful Honey International Packers Association (HIPA).