So I've been tending my bees for a couple of years now, and last year I made some new queens too. At this point, my three current hives all have queens that are either daughters or granddaughters of the bees I originally got from Don FatBeeMan in GA, who sells small cell bees. I give them foundationless frames and they just build all their own comb at this point. My three current queens have all mated with whatever local bees are around me. I do know of several BKs around, plus I know of at least one large longtime feral hive a half mile from me that's been there for years. Here's the thing- When I first got my bees from Don, they were all a nice medium color with a stripey golden appearance, with a few darker bees thrown in. They looked a lot like the local honeybees that came around my garden before i ever got my own bees. Now my bees are all noticeably darker, and they seem a little smaller to me. This really hit home to me the other day when i saw a honeybee on a dandelion on my lawn- that honeybee was a typical Italian type I think, with a very rich yellow gold color....but the thing that most stood out was that it was noticeably bigger than my bees. No way it was my bee! After looking at it a while I went and looked at my bees and they seemed quite a bit darker and smaller. I could plainly see my bees were getting darker since 2 yrs ago, but I hadn't really noticed the size thing until I saw the side by side comparison. So aside from the color difference, are there commercial strains that are actually smaller than Italians, that other nearby BKs might be buying, ....or do you think this smaller size is coming from the ferals my queens have mated with? I can't examine the ferals, they are up on a building roof that I can't get to. I do know one 85 yr old BK about 6 miles from me who has darkish bees that he says come from black German stock somehow, but I can't check on that except that his bees are def darker than most italians ive seen. Any thoughts on this? I find it all so fascinating!