Some people feel very strongly that importing queens from abroad is wrong, but there are several reasons why English beekeepers would find it useful:
The supply for queens in the UK does not match the demand during the early season. Importing early season queens can help revive doomed colonies which have become queenless or are laying drones. I’d rather spend £35 to replace a queen rather than have to pay £200 for a new nuc.
According to (honeybee.market/stats) the average price of an EU queen is £37.84 whilst a UK queen is going to set me back £44
We are keen to help new members of our respective branches get started early in the season. If nucs cannot be supplied by existing members they must be procured from a larger nuc supplier, such colonies will often be headed up my an imported queen marked with this years colour.
Importing queens also allows one to relax in the knowledge that a supplier who’s job it is to raise well tempered productive bees has done the work for you. They have chosen the best of their bees from multiple lineages. They’ll even arrive with a health certificate and often a batch number which you can trace.
Whilst raising queens can simply involve watching out for the bees natural swarming instinct to occur and then harvesting a few cells, one has no idea what type of colony you’re going to get end up with in 6-8 weeks time, the professional queen breeder does.
Experiencing 2nd/3rd generation queens which are aggressive is never fun so it’s simpler to replace them with a known good one and get on with beekeeping.
Totnes & Kingsbridge Branch members have on average 3 hives each. The majority of members are just interested in keeping bees and keeping those colonies going, getting a queen from a reputable supplier when necessary is the simplest way to continue beekeeping, rather than rearing a few queens yourself which may have variable results.
England does not have any truly remote locations that can allow a strain of bees to be bread in pure isolation. Dartmoor may be considered remote but there are plenty of bees up there that are not of your strain. Islands in Denmark are assigned to beekeepers in order to guarantee provenance.
Curiosity is a powerful motivator and by importing a different type queen you will expose yourself to different traits and patterns
Until the UK can step up its game and produce enough colonies for new beekeepers, work out a reliable way of overwintering mating nucs / small colonies and then provide them at a competitive price importing is a more reliable option for small scale beekeepers.
I feel that DBKA should follow the BBKA’s lead and discourage the importation of queens and colonies whilst starting bee improvement groups in areas where there is member interest (getting just one group to raise a hundred queens would go a long way)