BIM 49 – Spring 2017

BIM 49 – Spring 2017

BIM 49 – Spring 2017

  • From the President – Jo Widdicombe
    I like to do a spot check to see roughly what percentage are of native appearance. The figure goes up and down a bit according to who has what bees in the area.
  • 53 AGM Notice
  • Trials and Tribulations – Frank Hilton
    The regeneration of the black bee would eliminate the necessity to import bees from abroad…
  • Are you a Natural Beekeeper? – Brian Dennis
    So what is a natural beekeeper? The term ‘natural beekeeper’ is an oxymoron. A dictionary definition of natural is ‘existing in or caused by nature, not artificial’.
  • Natural Beekeeping – Philip Denwood
    A few natural beekeepers are simply providingsites for bee colonies to occupy, as they might put up bat boxes or bird nesting boxes.
  • Racial Profiling of Mongrels – Paul Honigmann
    Colour and size variation is apparent …
  • Future Bee Improvement and QR – R Patterson
    These courses are very popular, with lots of information and tips on improving your own and your local bees.
  • History of Manx beekeeping – Cilla Platt
    Beekeeping started even before the Irish gods were told to find an island to go into exile.
  • Making Increase – Brian Dennis
    There are bad tempered bees, which should not be tolerated…
  • Locally Adapted Bees – Wally Shaw
    The natural distribution of A.m.m. starts north of the Pyrenees in France, spreading north into most of Western Europe. . .
  • Bee Races & Protected Areas in Switzerland – Balser & Padruot Fried
    The search for ‘better’ bees (more honey and/or swarms) began already in the late 19th century.
  • B4 Press Release – Plymouth University
    B4 and staff at Plymouth University are about to embark on an exciting new project that will investigate local adaptation in UK populations of dark honey bee.
  • SICAMM Conference – Eoghan Mac Giolla Coda
    Over 60 delegates from 15 countries met at De Werelt Conference Centre in Lunteren for the latest SICAMM conference
  • Intelligence v. Chemical Responses – Brian Dennis
    Brood recognition pheromone is produced by larvae and pupae and helps nurse bees distinguish between worker and drone larvae and pupae
  • This is a non-smoking area – Brian Dennis
    Gently smoke the entrance to the hive. The smell of smoke causes the bees to fill themselves up with honey … and this renders them much more amenable to handling …
BIBBA members can download a pdf copy of the full magazine for personal use
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Bee Improvement
and Conservation
Spring 2017 • Issue Number 49 • £5.00
Friday 7 April • Saturday 8 April • Sunday 9 April 2017
 
 

2017
25 Lectures and over
50 Courses and Workshops
Trade-show Friday and Saturday
On-site Accommodation
Dinners
Tickets now on sale from
www.bbka.org.uk
Harper Adams University
Newport, Shropshire TF10 8NB
Enquiries to: tim.lovett@bbka.org.uk
Looking for a gift?
Then visit the BIBBA bookshop at
www.bibba.com/store
and select from these titles . . .
‘The Principles of Bee Improvement’
by Jo Widdicombe
‘The Honeybees of the British Isles’
by Beowulf A Cooper
‘The Dark European Honeybee’
by F Ruttner, E Milner and J E Dews
‘Breeding Techniques and Selection for
Breeding of the Honeybee’
by F Ruttner, A & E Milner
‘Queen Raising: The Jenkins Way’
by G Jenkins
‘Pedigree Bee Breeding in Western Europe’
a BIBBA Publication
Full details of each title are available on the
BIBBA website – www.bibba.com/store
Cymdeithas Gwenynwyr
Cymru
The Welsh Beekeepers’
Association




 




 

 
 

 

 





  
 
   

  
   
     
 
 
 

B I M 4 9 – Spr ing 2017 1
Contents
From the President – Jo Widdicombe 2
53 AGM Notice 2
Trials and Tribulations – Frank Hilton 3
Are you a Natural Beekeeper? – Brian Dennis 5
Natural Beekeeping – Philip Denwood 6
Racial Profiling of Mongrels – Paul Honigmann 7
Bee Improvement and QR – R Patterson 10
History of Manx beekeeping – Cilla Platt 11
Making Increase – Brian Dennis 12
Locally Adapted Bees – Wally Shaw 13
Bee Races in Switzerland – Balser & Padruot Fried 16
B4 Press Release – Plymouth University 21
SICAMM Conference – Eoghan Mac Giolla Coda 22
Intelligence v. Chemical Responses – Brian Dennis 27
This is a non-smoking area – Brian Dennis 28
Editorial
Following on from the Manx theme of the previous
issue, we have an article from Cilla Platt on the history of
beekeeping in the Isle of Man.
Other articles explore the problems of assessing and
multiplying native bees. Ideally potential breeding stock
should be assessed by DNA analysis, as in the B4 project
at Plymouth University, and as is often done in Switzerland
(see the article by Balser and Padruot Fried). The
expense of doing this will leave most people to fall back
on morphometric analysis, whether using one or a few
wing characters, as by Paul Honigmann, or a wider range
of indicators, both morphological and behavioural.
Another approach, as proposed by Wally Shaw and Frank
Hilton, is to start by seeking bees which are thought to
be ‘locally adapted’, e.g. from presumed feral swarms,
then perhaps subjecting them to analysis of morphological
and behavioural characters.
Having obtained the desired bees, there is then the
question of how to propagate them. There are of course
many systems of queen raising and making increase.
Pairing with the desired drones can then be by instrumental
insemination, another skilled and expensive task
which can carry its own risk of excessive inbreeding.
Open mating would ideally be carried out in isolated
mating stations or areas known to be largely inhabited
by local bees, again not easy for everyone.
A third and perhaps more ‘natural’ method is simply to
let the queens mate as they please, selecting the offspring
by culling apparent crossbreeds. The natural
beekeeping movement, as discussed by Brian Dennis
and by me, is gathering momentum – it is if nothing
else, cheap to operate, and arguably can lead to bees
which are healthier and better adapted to their localities,
while still yielding a reasonable honey crop.
Philip Denwood
Editor
Bee Improvement and Conservation
The Journal of the Bee Improvement and Bee
Breeders’ Association (BIBBA), founded in 1964
for the conservation, restoration, study, selection
and improvement of native and near-native
honey bees of Britain and Ireland.
President: Jo Widdicombe
jowid@idnet.com
Chairman: Nick Bentham-Green
chairman@bibba.com
Treasurer: Iain Harley
treasurer@bibba.com
Secretary:
secretary@bibba.com
Membership Secretary: Nick Mawby
membership@bibba.come
Editor: Philip Denwood
magazine-editor@bibba.com
Copyright: ©BIBBA March 2017
The copyright of all material in this edition of
BIM remains with the Authors, or BIBBA, and
may not be reproduced, by any means what
so ever, without the copyright holders written
permission.
Contributions, including photographs or other
illustrations are always welcome, but BIBBA
assumes no responsibility for the safety of contributions,
although all reasonable care will be
taken, they are accepted at the risk of authors.
If the images are irreplaceable then the author
should submit duplicates.
The Editorial Committee reserves the right to
refuse to publish any article or advertisement
and takes no responsibility for any goods
advertised in this issue.
Readers should note that statements made by
contributors are not be necessarily representative
of those of the Editor or BIBBA Trustees.
All enquiries about articles in this issue should
be addressed to the Editor.
Copy dates:
Advertising and Submissions:
Please contact the Editor for submissions.
Copy dates: 1st October (November issue), 1st
February (March issue) and 1st June (July issue).
BIM is produced irregularly by the Editorial
Committee of the Bee Improvement and Bee
Breeders’ Association.
BIBBA is a Registered UK Charity No. 273827
Website: www.bibba.com
Printed by: Cambrian Printers Ltd.
Produced using FSC paper and printed with
environmentally friendly waterbased inks.
Design and Artwork: Roger Cullum-Kenyon
Front Cover: Roger Cullum-Kenyon
Back Cover:
All other images are by the authors of their respective articles unless
otherwise indicated. Please respect all IP and copyright material.
2 BIM 49 – Spr ing 2017
Some argue that the beekeeping year
begins in the autumn as that is when
the foundations are laid for the following
season, but from the colony’s
point of view the new year starts as
the days begin to lengthen. We assume
the queen has had a break
from laying but now she commences
to lay a few eggs and the build up to
Summer is on its way.
I do not have any hives in my garden
but have just observed at least ten
honey bees as well as one Bombus
terrestris queen on a clump of
heather. I like to do a spot check to
see roughly what percentage are of
native appearance. The figure goes
up and down a bit according to who
has what bees in the area. I will
check all my colonies in the spring
and move away any that are not of
native appearance. This is because I
use this as the mating area and do
my best to saturate it with near-native
bees. Anyway I am pleased to
report that every worker just seen is
of native appearance so I take that to
mean we stand a chance of getting
some good matings this year.
It is not only a new year for the bees
but also one for BIBBA. After a successful
conference last year, on the
Isle of Man, we have no conference
to prepare for until 2018. This
means we can focus on other things,
in particular, thinking about BIBBA’s
future strategy in regard to ‘the conservation,
reintroduction (‘restoration’,
see below), study, selection
and improvement of native or nearnative
honeybees’.
A charity has a lot of mundane activities
to perform and amongst these is
the matter of keeping the constitution
up to date and workable to
allow the smooth functioning of the
organisation. Organisations can
spend far too much time discussing
and falling out over such issues,
diverting attention from what we
should be focussing on. Since our
current constitution there has been
new legislation (in England and
Wales), the Charities Act (2011), and
a new model constitution has been
produced by the Charities Commission.
For this reason, it is timely that
we look at our constitution again and
base it on the new model, GD3.
There are a few extras in the new
constitution but much is very similar
except in a different order. By reviewing
it we have the opportunity to
tweak a few things which perhaps
need changing.
One change that we are proposing is
that the wording of our objects goes
back to the original, that is ‘restoration’
rather than ‘reintroduction’.
‘Restoration’ is a more inclusive
word which covers ‘reintroduction’
but allows for restoring the native
bee through selection, thus getting
back to a purer strain from a hybridised
bee, the position that most
of us find ourselves in.
Our AGM, on April 9th at Harper
Adams, is when a new committee is
elected. It is your chance to have a
say in what BIBBA should be doing as
well as your opportunity to get involved
in the running of BIBBA.
To serve on the committee (15 members)
a signature of a proposer, and
a signature giving consent, presented
to a BIBBA officer before the
meeting, will allow you to fill a
vacancy, or stand for election if more
than the required number are
proposed.
The proposed new constitution will
be emailed to members shortly, before
the AGM. For those who do not
receive emails, a copy can be posted
to you but you will have to contact
the Membership Secretary with your
request: Nick Mawby, Glenwood,
Wood Road, Longsdon, Stoke on
Trent ST9 9QB.
PS: Just counted one yellow banded
bee in my latest spot check, and a
worker Bombus terrestris!
Jo Widdicombe
President
I like to do a spot check to see roughly
what percentage are of native appearance. The
figure goes up and down a bit according to who
has what bees in the area.
From the President
BIBBA
53rd Annual
General Meeting
2017
Notice is herby given
to all Members’ of
the Association that the
53rd AGM
of the
Bee Improvement
and Bee Breeders’
Association
will take place at
Harper Adams
University
Newport, Shropshire
TF10 8NB
on Sunday
9th April 2017
The regeneration of the black bee would eliminate
the necessity to import bees from abroad…
Trials and tribulations of a Bee Improver
In the last issue [of the Cheshire
News] I gave my interpretation of
why we need to eradicate the importation
of bees and breed all our
queens from local stock, as prescribed
by every speaker I have
heard over the last two years. For
new readers, briefly the case for
breeding dark bees is as follows.
It was widely (though wrongly) believed
that dark native bees had become
extinct following the so-called
Isle of Wight disease around the time
of the first world war; bees from
Italy, Apis mellifera ligustica and
elsewhere continued to be imported
to fill the demand for bees. Consequently,
most known British bees are
now hybridised, to some extent, as
virgin queens mate with up to twenty
drones from different colonies. The
Italian bee, for example, evolved in
very different conditions i.e. hot dry
summers and warm wet winters.
This has caused problems for our national
bee stock in that hybridised
bees do not over winter so well. In
the winter of 2012 in some regions,
over 50% of stock was lost. In the
same year only two hives from 60
were lost on the Isle of Colonsay in
Scotland where, over the last thirty
years, there has been a dark bee
breeding project that has achieved
95% of the DNA of the original local
bee.
Following the wild bees
In Cheshire some of us are trying to
do the same as on Colonsay, that is
to rear near-native bees. In order to
find some good breeding stock we
are trying to track down wild
colonies of honey bees which may
have survived in an isolated location.
Delamere Forest is thought to be the
most likely area to be hosting wild
bees in the County of Cheshire. A
method of locating wild bees has recently
been described by Tom Seeley
in his book Following the Wild Bees.
I have now made all the necessary
gadgets, prescribed in the book, in
order to find them. Initially I am
practising and developing my technique
in the Delamere Forest, which
involves catching bees in the process
of pollination within the forest.
Having caught a small number, they
are released one at a time and followed
until one loses sight of the
bee and then another is released,
and so on, until the colony is located,
usually in a cavity of a hollow
tree. At no time is a bee, plant or a
tree damaged in any way. Beekeepers
with colonies in close proximity
to Delamere Forest can give me a
rough idea of where they are, in
strict confidence of course, and I will
abandon my efforts in these areas.
In the event of finding a colony of
bees I would then establish about
four bait hives spread within about
50mtrs of the bees to catch a swarm
emitting from the colony during
April to August next year. The bait
hives would be secured to adjacent
trees around the target tree, by a
method approved by the Forestry
Commission, who has recently
granted me a permit.
The regeneration of the black bee
would eliminate the necessity to import
bees from abroad every year to
replace natural losses. A reduction
in imports reduces the risk of importing
Tropilaelaps, small hive beetle
or even different strains of
pathogens already here.
First Steps
So let’s get down to the nitty gritty
of how we can stop such a catastrophe
from happening in Cheshire.
Firstly, talk to your immediate beekeeping
neighbours and suggest
starting a bee improvement group,
using information from this series of
articles. Next select a breeder queen
from a colony within the group with
the most uniform native appearance,
that is, dark abdomens and yellow
brown hair around the thorax. Then
you need a handsome prince to lead
her down the aisle and consummate
the royal marriage. Build a nursery
in which to raise the heirs to the
throne. Then provide royal palaces
from which the new queens can rule
over their subjects amongst your
members’ apiaries.
Simple? Well not really; it is difficult
and will cause all kinds of trials and
tribulations along the way, many of
which I already have personal experience
of. So in the next articles I am
going to explain each stage in turn,
to the best of my knowledge and
with the help of my more experienced
colleagues in CHIP (Cheshire
Honey bee Improvement Partnership).
Setting up a group
By talking to our neighbouring beekeepers
we can soon ascertain attitudes
to the importation of queens.
Obviously any refusal to agree to
non-importation, or not purchasing
via the internet (you cannot possibly
know where they come from) makes
your endeavour to improve your
local bees more difficult, but not impossible.
If you can get the agreement
of others surrounding an
uncooperative beekeeper, you can,
within a short time, reduce their
detrimental effect. What is agreement?
The minimum that you need
is a verbal agreement but written
agreement not to import bees may
be preferable. If beekeepers enter
into the spirit of selective breeding
by allowing the group to use Their
best queen to breed from it will be
all the better. Each breeding session
only requires the use of one queen
and the production of eggs can be
completed without moving the
chosen one’s location. All members
BIM 49 – Spr ing 2017 3
4 BIM 49 – Spr ing 2017
of the group, including the owner of
the selected queen, can still continue
queen rearing by their usual
methods.
How to find like thinking
members?
I have twenty beekeeping neighbours
within two kilometres of my bees,
their addresses are published in the
CBKA annual report and balance
sheet each year. I legged it around
all the members and all appeared to
be in full agreement to the principle,
but most did not turn up to the
meetings. With hindsight I should
have hand delivered a letter with a
response email address. Things
have improved since then now that
BIBBA has a system for communication
via their web page. This eliminates
the necessity to meet, other
than to actually conduct practical
work. Also this column has, to date,
resulted in a list of more than forty
Cheshire beekeepers interested in
selective breeding within a group.
I will update these contacts and put
people in touch with others in their
area.
Selecting suitable queens
Those who have partnered up with at
least one other like thinking beekeeper
are in a position to start dark
bee queen rearing.
There are a few ways of choosing the
breeder queen; firstly, by simply
looking at the bees at the hive entrance
or at bees on a frame and
finding a colony of uniform native
appearance. The best way is to
score your bees by using the method
recommended by John Dews and Eric
Milner in their publication Breeding
Better Bees, using simple modern
methods. This is a BIBBA Publication
available from Northern Bee Books
online. If you do not have or cannot
obtain a copy, I can email information
to you.
This sheet can be used to choose
your queen just by using the body
colour section alone which gives a
very high degree of accuracy, but
there are three other measurements
available; the more you use the more
accurate will be your result. Once
every member has established their
best bee, the group has to decide
the best one in the group. After
which submit a thirty bee sample for
FOC disease testing (if you do not
have a member with a compound
microscope I will find one for you).
If all is well you are ready to choose
her suitors.
Selecting the Drone colony
We use the colony characteristics to
choose the colony from which to provide
the drones for mating with the
queen. The media for this is last
year’s inspection sheet. Because you
are now working in a group it would
be best if each member used the
same inspection sheet, so that we all
understand how each member works
their bees. As every beekeeper appears
to be using their own design
or one of the multiple designs proposed
by various institutions, we are
in the process of developing one
with selective breeding in mind and
are at the stage where a sheet has
been developed and is ready to test
practically. We would welcome your
co-operation for its improvement or
comment. It contains a method of
giving the queen a unique code,
which will be required to produce a
pedigree later. It also has a facility
for choosing drone characteristics
from what we think are the best ten
possibilities, such as docility, disease
resistance, honey yield, non-swarming
etc.. We have also got rid of a lot
of info that is seldom used, the back
of the form has a complete explanation
of what we are trying to achieve.
A copy of our record-keeping form is
available by email for you to comment
on.
My overall ambition is for every
branch of the Cheshire BKA to have a
main queen production apiary using
the best queen in their jurisdiction
chosen from local mini groups. Each
mini group will donate a queen from
each of their sessions to the branch
group for second generation selective
breeding. In turn each branch
will donate one queen to CHIP from
their breeding, who will be using the
best beekeeping brains and the best
queen in the county to produce high
quality queens for further breeding
and distribution to members
throughout the County. Hopefully in
three years’ time we will have saturated
the whole of Cheshire with
blackish drones and be well on the
way to offsetting the risks that bee
importers cause to the rest of the
bee fraternity. Most recently I have
accepted the position of Cheshire
Dark Bee Queen Breeding group Co-
Ordinator, and will be setting in motion
my ambitions for the County on
behalf of BIBBA.
Just to put a value on what we are
trying to do, the July issue of Bee
Craft reported the LASI (Laboratory
of Apiculture and Social Insects) experimentation
of breeding hygienic
behaviour queens and offered the
surplus stock for sale. The price is
from £20.00 for Open-mated daughters
of hygienic breeder queens to
£500.00 for instrumentally inseminated
daughters of hygienic breeder
queens. At least we now know we
are doing the right thing, only slower
but at zero cost and also we know
the value of what we are doing. We
do have a big advantage, other than
cost however; ultimately we are
affecting a whole area with our desirable
characteristics, so that our open
matings will gradually improve. And
we also anticipate that our home
produced colonies will be better
winter survivors.
Frank Hilton
This article has been adapted from
Part 4 of a series of articles in
Cheshire News, CBKA Newsletter
Email contacts:
Cheshire Honeybee Improvement
Partnership:
chipcheshire@gmail.com
Lymm Dark Bee Project:
ldbpproject@gmail.com
Frank Hilton: frankqesl@gmail.com
for any other business
As Dr Joad used to say on the BBC
Brains Trust “It all depends on what
you mean by …”. There are those
who suggest that the way most beekeepers
keep bees is unnatural and
is the cause of most of the problems
which exist today. There should be
less interference and manipulation of
colonies. The Warré hive and the top
bar hive are claimed to be more suitable
for natural beekeeping. It seems
that since 1860 when Langstroth
patented his movable frame hive, we
have been keeping bees unnaturally.
So what is a natural beekeeper? The
term ‘natural beekeeper’ is an oxymoron.
A dictionary definition of
natural is ‘existing in or caused by
nature, not artificial’. Bees do not
naturally live under the care of humans.
So if you are keeping bees in
a manmade structure and you prevent
swarming, you have created an
unnatural situation – one that does
not exist in nature. Prior to movable
frame hives, bees were kept in
skeps. This might appear more natural
since the bees produced ‘wild’
comb and there was little manipulation.
However, the method of obtaining
a crop of honey and wax by
killing the bees over a sulphur pit
cannot be considered natural.
There used to be beekeepers known
as let alone beekeepers. They were
bee owners and simply removed the
honey at the end of the year. When
varroa arrived, doing nothing was
not an option and their colonies died
and many gave up. Again, as a result
of varroa, there are few, if any,
long-standing wild colonies – without
treatment most eventually die. That
is natural!
There are beekeepers who claim not
to have treated for several years &
have bees able to survive varroa infestation
– the Bond approach, Live
and Let Die. When claims are made
for long-standing feral colonies, the
usual response is that the original
colony died and was replaced by
another swarm. However, that may
be an assumption and some feral
colonies may have survived without
treatment. Allowing bees to evolve
can be considered a natural approach
– survival of the fittest.
The importation of foreign subspecies
has resulted in a mishmash
of unnatural bees.
The majority view is that maintaining
healthy and productive stocks requires
husbandry (as with all livestock).
Swarming, varroa and
diseases have to be managed. The
prevention and control of swarming
requires a weekly inspection of the
brood nest and manipulation of the
colony if signs of swarming are
found (usually by making an artificial
swarm). The varroa mite population
has to be monitored either by uncapping
drone brood or counting mite
drop on a tray insert and the colony
treated when necessary using a
combination of techniques in an integrated
pest control management
programme. The favoured natural
treatments are organic acids and
essential oils. It is difficult to understand
how the use of any chemicals
can be considered natural. Inspection
for diseases requires an appraisal
each time the colony is
inspected. Using a movable frame
hive, these essential checks are relatively
easy, but appear more difficult
in a Warré or TBH.
So what is unnatural, at least from
the bee’s perspective? It depends
who you talk to, but the list would
include:
u Hive inspections.
u Marking & clipping the queen.
u Re-queening. Instrumental
insemination.
u Swarm control.
u Harvesting honey,
pollen, propolis & wax.
u Using foundation.
Removing old comb.
u Feeding sugar or pollen
substitutes.
u Drone management.
u Plastic hive parts.
u Using smoke to subdue bees.
It is good advice never to open a hive
without a reason. Each time a hive is
opened the colony is disrupted and it
takes a long time for the bees to
recover, exacerbated by the use of
unnecessary smoking. Most beekeepers
do not want to use chemicals
to treat their bees and keep
them to a minimum, using biotechnical
methods as part of their IPM
programme. Our management
should involve the minimum impact
on our bees.
There is always room for improvement
and one should always question
practices and methods that are
given as facts. But I am not convinced
that using the Warré hive or
the TBH is an improvement and the
way forward. It may be that I have
not read enough or understood fully
what has been written. If you have
used either hive, what is your
experience?
Brian P. Dennis
BIM 49 – Spr ing 2017 5
Are you a natural beekeeper?
So what is a natural beekeeper? The term
‘natural beekeeper’ is an oxymoron.
A dictionary definition of natural is ‘existing in
or caused by nature, not artificial’.
The article by Paul Honigmann in
this issue is by a self-confessed ‘natural
beekeeper’. That by Brian Dennis
on natural beekeeping is from
the viewpoint of what I would call a
‘conventional beekeeper’. I would
like to explore a little further what
these terms imply, and how the promotion
of native bees might fit into
the picture.
One can draw up a spectrum of approaches
to beekeeping as follows:
1. ‘Conventional’ beekeeping a):
bee farming.
2. ‘Conventional’ beekeeping b):
amateur beekeeping.
3. Horizontal or long hive
beekeeping.
4. ‘Balanced’ beekeeping with
horizontal top bar hives.
5. ‘Natural’ beekeeping a): with
vertical Warré or similar hives.
6. ‘Natural’ beekeeping b):
provision of nest sites for bees.
1. Conventional beekeeping, using
supered magazine hives with frames,
employs one or more of the practices
listed by Brian, including frequent
hive inspections, maximum honey
removal, sugar feeding, mass medication,
swarm control and artificial
queen raising. These and other manipulations,
taken to extremes by
some commercial beekeepers in, for
example, North America, are regarded
by most natural beekeepers
as ‘over-invasive’ or ‘interventionist’,
causing excessive stress to the bees
and leading to a weakening of their
stamina and health, which in turn
prompts the beekeeper to administer
even more intervention. Methods of
queen raising produce bees selected
for maximum honey production
under artificial conditions rather
than adaptation to any particular
local environment.
2. Most amateur conventional beekeepers
will not subject their bees to
such intense stress, and some may
even practise what Brian refers to as
‘let-alone’ beekeeping: simply
adding supers in spring and removing
them in autumn. Nevertheless
the configuration of their hives, with
large box volumes, frames and
supering rather than nadiring, would
still be objected to by many natural
beekeepers.
3. There are various hives which
might be considered intermediate
between the conventional hive and
the horizontal Top Bar Hive. Working
on the principle of the ‘trough
hives’ of the North European plain
from Eastern Europe through to Denmark
and Southern Sweden, their
combs are arranged in a single layer,
but on deep frames rather than top
bars and with vertical rather than
sloping sides. Such hives include the
wooden Golden Hive and the Zest
Hive made of concrete blocks. Intermediate
again between these and
conventional hives is the Dartington
Hive, again a long hive but with a
single tier of supers above. These
hives allow most of the ‘conventional’
manipulations to be carried
out if the beekeeper wishes.
4. The horizontal Top Bar Hive, promoted
by Philip Chandler (a speaker
at the BIBBA Isle of Man Conference)
and others, is convenient for the
beekeeper who, once the hive is in
position, has no heavy lifting to do
and can decide for himself how
much to intervene in the colony. A
low-intervention regime known as
‘balanced beekeeping’ is often
adopted with this hive.
5. Over the last decade or so the
‘natural beekeeping’ movement has
become ever more prominent. Even
Thornes now sell Warré and top bar
hives. David Heaf based in North
Wales and his associates have provided
an effective international network
exchanging information on the
Warré hive. A new magazine has
been launched by Northern Bee
Books: Natural Bee Husbandry.
The storied Warré hive aims to mimic
the proportions of a natural tree
cavity – narrow and tall. Boxes are
‘nadired’ rather than supered, which
may not be easy without a specially
constructed lifting device. Combs
are normally built from top bars,
though it is possible to use frames.
Natural beekeepers in general prefer
to let natural selection take its
course – in so far as it can be called
‘natural’ when the bees are being
kept in the beekeeper’s hives – and
eliminate the weak while encouraging
the strong to survive. There is
some hard evidence that this approach,
or elements of it, works.
A study in North Wales of over 1500
overwintered colonies over five years
(presumably mostly kept by conventional
beekeepers) showed a lower
rate of loss among beekeepers not
treating for varroa (13%) than among
those treating (19%). Individual beekeepers
elsewhere in the UK have
successfully kept bees for years without
varroa treatment. David Heaf’s
annual losses over nine years of a
low-intervention regime in Warré
Hives have been 20%, which many
would consider acceptable. Honey
takes are typically lower from ‘natural’
hives than from ‘conventional’
ones – say 12kg against 20 kg – but
cost-benefit studies in France suggest
that a kilogram of ‘naturally’
produced honey from a Warré Hive is
still significantly cheaper because of
the lower costs of equipment and
labour. This means that natural beekeeping
on a commercial scale with
hundreds of Warré Hives can be economic,
as shown for example by
Gilles Denis in France and Tim
Malfroy in Australia.
6 BIM 49 – Spr ing 2017
Natural Beekeeping and Native Bees
A few natural beekeepers are simply providing
sites for bee colonies to occupy, as they might
put up bat boxes or bird nesting boxes.
6. A few natural beekeepers are simply
providing sites for bee colonies
to occupy, as they might put up bat
boxes or bird nesting boxes. Honey
is rarely if ever harvested. There are
various hives designed for this purpose
– the egg-shaped Sun Hive and
Veuille Hive, the cylindrical Freedom
Hive, or simply a cavity hollowed out
of a living tree.
Natural beekeepers would be
favourable to the idea of keeping
bees adapted to their local environment
– in Britain, Apis mellifera mellifera
or something very close to it.
Beowulf Cooper, founder of BIBBA,
objected to the use of the term
‘mongrel’ for crossbred bees as too
pejorative. Such bees, he maintained,
were just as worthy of study
as any others. This is what Paul
Honigmann is doing, although he
still calls them ‘mongrels’. His
graphs would seem to suggest that
there is a significant A.m.m. element
– without it the peak of the bellshaped
cubital index curve would be
at least 2.35 rather than about 2.05,
and there would be far fewer examples
below 1.9. According to the
NBU’s random DNA survey of
colonies in England & Wales, A.m.m.
genes average 45% of the total, a far
greater percentage than any other
single subspecies – see the article by
Bob Black in the last issue of Bee Improvement
(No. 48).
However, it should be emphasised
that morphometric analysis of racial
makeup based on one or a few characters
has a very poor correlation
with DNA microsatellite analysis, except
for bees of very pure race1. In
the absence of the DNA analysis, it is
necessary to assess a wide range of
morphometric and behavioural characters
to be reasonably sure of how
‘native’ the colony we are dealing
with is. What Paul’s analysis tells us
is that the bees tested are of mixed
origins, with probably a significant
but unquantifiable A.m.m. component,
apparently in line with the NBU
survey. At least this is a start.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that
bees kept under low-intervention
regimes gradually become more
A.m.m.-like – for Oxfordshire, see
the article by Gareth John, also in the
last issue of Bee Improvement. This
has certainly been my experience in
West Hertfordshire, using National
Hives managed as if they were
Warrés. Perhaps this is the answer –
just leave the bees alone and natural
selection will make them more nearly
native, which is of course what one
would expect in the absence of
significant foreign imports.
Natural beekeepers in any case
would object to artificial queen raising
involving grafting, Jenter systems
and the like. Many Warré beekeepers
do however carry out relatively
low-intervention forms of artificial
swarming or make splits, and this
could be done with a view to increasing
the progeny of more native-like
queens, while perhaps culling the
less native-like, thus trying to work
with natural selection rather than
against it.
Philip Denwood
1. See for example Catherine
Eleanor Thompson, The health and
status of the feral honeybee (Apis
mellifera sp) and Apis mellifera
mellifera population of the UK.
PhD thesis, University of Leeds 2012,
chapter 4.
Racial profiling of
North Oxfordshire
mongrels
Colour and size variation
is apparent …
Like many natural beekeepers I am
interested in having locally adapted
bees, especially tough ‘survivor
stock’ from unmanaged feral
colonies which thrive without treatments
for varroa mites.
In observing my several swarmcaught
colonies, all gathered ‘locally’,
I have always wondered about
their racial origins and hybridity.
Colour and size variation is apparent,
but sadly this is not a reliable
determinant of actual genetic mix,
and lacking DNA testing I had
thought I may never know better
than guesswork what mixes my
Oxfordshire mongrel bees actually
were. However, since learning about
wing morphometry and gaining
access to a suitable microscope I
have found that I could make a study
of the key races represented in my
apiary.
Clearly making such a study requires
a high-intervention action in that I
would need to sample bees from
each of my colonies. So, as a low-intervention
beekeeper who believes
in leaving my bees undisturbed to
pursue their natural behaviours and
hardly ever open my hives, why
would I choose to do this? The reason
is that I believe in the better
survivability of local, hybrid bees
(especially those with A.m.m. genes
in the mix) over ‘purer’ race bees,
and would like some hard evidence
of this to track alongside the health
of my colonies. Ideally I would like
BIM 49 – Spr ing 2017 7
If you are interested in finding out
more about BIBBA committee work,
please email the chairman
nickbenthamgreen@hotmail.com
Fig. 1. Oxfordshire hybrids vary in colour.
Also, the rear areas naturally pulse darker as
the bee moves/breathes and its segments
(tergites) slide over the rear stripes.
to track how my mixed-breed nontreatment
apiary thrives and evolves
over time; hopefully showing that hybrids
can produce increasing varroa
and disease resistance and reducing
queen failure. A secondary reason is
to gain some evidence to support
anecdotal reports that A.m.m. genes
are preferentially expressed in just a
few years if bees are allowed to freemate
in this area. On balance, therefore,
I thought the question of the
racial mix of my colonies a question
worth answering. I captured ~30 foragers
from the entrance of each of
my 7 colonies and this article is
about what I found when I examined
their racial mixes.
Where do my ‘mongrels’ come
from?
My current bees originate from all
round Oxfordshire (red dots on map)
and are allowed to free-mate, so are
probably a good representation of
local bees. I know of 13 hives and
four feral colonies within 1km, and
each queen probably mates with a
dozen or more drones, so every
colony has a range of workers who
are half-sisters with different genetic
mixes producing different strengths
and weaknesses.
With seven colonies I feel secure that
I’m unlikely to lose them all at once –
never say never! – so I can be more
ruthless about natural selection. I
support casts in their first year, to
conserve their genetics until they are
large enough to support themselves,
but thereafter they are on their own.
Swarms are plentiful, I collected 13
this year (gave away most). If I have
empty hives I repopulate, preferentially
from long established local
feral colonies.
How I determined their racial mix
Unless you have access to DNA
analysis technology, the most reliable
honey bee race indicator is to
examine the vein patterns of the
fore-wings under a low power microscope.
In particular, the ratio of two
lengths, highlighted in the photo –
called the Cubital Index – is straightforward
to measure and a strong indicator
of the dominant race in the
bee’s genes.
Other indicators include other vein
features like the characteristic discoidal
angle; width of abdomen;
length of hair and proboscis; but surprisingly,
the colour of a bee is a
poor guide to its race unless it
comes from a very pure line. Most
hybrid colonies show a lot of variation
in bee colour. Most of the characteristics
are tricky to measure –
the difference between a 5 and 6mm
proboscis for example – so I’m just
using the worker Cubital Index for
now to get an overall profile of the
dominant races.
I took samples of foragers from each
of my hives and plotted the results
as graphs of Cubital Index against
frequency of occurrence, i.e. if eight
bees in the sample had CI’s of 2.1
this would show as a frequency of 8.
For pure racial samples you expect
to see a peaked or bell-shaped distribution
around a characteristic CI,
and the purer the lineage the narrower
the peak. This first graph
shows the spread of C.I for some
common pure races – normally the
range for an individual colony would
be narrower.
Results for my colonies
My sample size was 233 worker
bees, so just ~30 per hive, which is
just statistically acceptable to get an
overall initial profile. The black
columns peak around 2.1 and represent
the summary result for the entire
apiary – it can be thought of as a
first stab at the “North Oxfordshire
mongrel profile”. The smaller
coloured bars are results for individual
hives.
Conclusions
u There is a wide gene pool in the
apiary – with clear indication in the
range and shape of a mix of Buckfast
and Apis ligustica (Italian), with some
A.m.m.
u A lot of beekeepers round here
use Buckfasts, occasionally requeening
from local Buckfast queen rearers.
Buckfasts are already a hybrid
race created using a cross of mainly
Italian with A.m.m. (from both England
and France), Turkish and Greek
bees, with traces of two rare African
bees.
u There is little influence from
Carniolan which surprised me as I
see them talked about on forums a
lot, but maybe they are more popular
in other parts of the UK.
8 BIM 49 – Spr ing 2017
Fig. 3. Wings from one colony and cubital
index.
Fig. 4. Mutant! The wing vein patterns are incredibly
consistent, but I did come across one
bee, on the right, with an ambiguous C.I. due
to a non-standard pattern with a tiny extra cell.
Fig. 2. Map of Oxfordshire showing origins of
my colonies.
u If you click on the graph and
zoom in on the detail of individual
hives, they aren’t pure strains! Even
for the ones which have a bell
shaped curve, it is very broad, and
spans CI values which no one pure
race does.
u Anecdotal evidence implies Oxfordshire
bees allowed to supersede
and free-mate are getting darker and
expressing more native A.m.m. characteristics.
Looking in more detail
There are a couple of colonies (hives
1 and 2) which have a lot of A.m.m.
(true Black Bee) in their makeup – so
let’s have a closer look at these.
Hive 1 is a random cast I picked up
near Bicester this year – it is very
calm and a profuse user of propolis,
which may be other indicators of
A.m.m., but it seems to be poor at
building up stores, instead it eats all
its food and keeps breeding. Looking
at the profile, I think it is A.m.m.
crossed with something more spendthrift
like Italian, and although I fed
it and hope it will, I don’t fully expect
it to make it through winter as
it is still light. These bees aren’t particularly
dark, which illustrates how
(except in very pure lines) bee colour
doesn’t really tell you anything.
Hive 2 is an established colony
which descends from one Gareth
John gave me about three years ago
– he seems to have A.m.m. in his
locality and is finding his bees are
expressing more A.m.m. traits every
year.
So what next?
Measuring wing morphometry by
hand is clearly high-intervention for
those ~30 bees per colony, and also
time consuming and somewhat tedious,
so I am considering doing this
just once a year to see how the
make-up of my apiary is evolving (I
could then choose to encourage
those colonies with A.m.m. genes
being expressed). The mix is bound
to change as the queens supersede
and free-mate, and as I bring in replacement
swarms for any deadouts.
Obviously with all this random mixing,
and collecting feral swarms, I’ll
need to watch for aggression and
maybe need to force supersedure if I
get a nasty colony. This would retain
some of the colony’s genetics,
whereas simply replacing the queen
with one from another colony in the
apiary would reduce the local diversity
of ‘survivor’ genes. Another option
might be to requeen with one
from another local non-treatment
beekeeper. However, my colonies
have free-mated for the last six years
and I have not had any aggression
problems (neither have the bees!).
I’m sure the results could be improved
upon/added to with additional
sampling and other techniques
(see section below on what I could
do differently next time) but as a
first pass I feel it was quite interesting
and clearly shows distinct differences
between colonies. I already
knew each colony had a distinct ‘personality’
regarding e.g. breeding
rates, hygiene, vigour, comb building
preferences, honey storage and
propolis use; though their temperament
is uniformly mild, even the one
which is more actively guarded.
These differences will be partly due
to differences in hive types, colony
size (some are small casts caught
this year) and other environmental
factors.
What could I do differently next
time?
This was a first attempt at studying
wing morphometry and I’ve learnt
some other things since, but given
my low-intervention aims have yet to
decide whether to do a straight repeat
or alter my methodology next
time (suggestions welcome!):
BIM 49 – Spr ing 2017 9
Fig. 7. Cubital index: Hive 1.
Fig. 8. Cubital index: Hive 2.
Fig. 9. With hives this near our house and
neighbours, aggression is not an option.
Fig. 5. Cubital Index spread (for workers) of races common in Oxfordshire.
Fig. 6. Cubital indices overall and for individual hives.
u Wings should have their base
intact to allow the measurement of
Discoidal Angle, another indicator.
u and the measurements can be
refined by plotting them in different
classes on a log scale.
u In addition to wing morphometry,
abdominal markings, shape and
pilosity can be recorded too, although
these are weaker indicators
of racial origin.
u The sample bees should be
young workers in theory taken from
on the brood comb, to avoid the risk
of taking foragers who’ve drifted in
from other hives;
u A sample size of 50 rather than
30 is statistically better.
u I understand that the process
can be somewhat automated by
scanning wings and feeding the results
into DrawWing and Morphplot
software.
u If I can utilise semi-automation
(above point) then I could sample the
drones also. Drones have different
Cubital Indexes from workers so
need to be looked at separately. As
drones are meant to only have genes
from their queen mother, you would
expect their wings to be identical
within one colony and that their
racial mix would reflect exactly that
of the queen. But it would be interesting
to see if this holds, or if our
hybrid colonies’ drones vary within a
hive.
u the FERA lab in York offers DNA
testing of strains and may be able
to offer more accurate results to
compare with, but this sounds
expensive.
Paul Honigmann
Further reading
Breeding Techniques and Selection
for Breeding of the Honeybee by
Friedrich Ruttner contains a wealth
of detail on techniques to distinguish
A.m.m., Carniolan and Italian bees.
Available from Northern Bee Books.
This article was first published on
the website of the Oxfordshire
Natural Beekeeping Group
www.oxnatbees.wordpress.com
1&2 Day Bee Improvement Courses
This is the third year of BIBBA summer
Bee Improvement courses.
These will be apiary based, with topics
including colony assessment,
colony handling techniques, selection
criteria, producing queen cells,
cell building colonies, mating nucs,
etc. These courses are very popular,
with lots of information and tips on
improving your own and your local
bees. Past experience suggests they
are likely to fill up quickly.
Numbers will be limited to give attendees
individual attention where
needed. See the BIBBA website
http://bibba.com/event-info-2/
for details.
Currently the following 2 day
courses have been arranged:-
Thurs 8/Fri 9 June in North Wales.
Sat 10/Sun 11 June at Preston, Lancs.
Mon12/Tue 13 June, Preston, Lancs.
Wed 14/Thurs 15 June in N. Wales.
Other venues are being arranged.
See http://bibba.com/event-list/ for
venues. Prices may vary depending
on local costs. Please check before
booking.
Those in North Wales will be working
with native bees, at the apiary of
Steve Rose, in a rural location with
lovely surrounding scenery. In the
previous two years they have filled
up quickly (on one occasion within
48 hours of announcement!).
Bee Improvement Days
Planning is in progress for some all
day events, with presentations and
demonstrations on a number of topics
related to bee improvement and
queen rearing. No dates have been
fixed yet. Details will be circulated
when available.
Bee Improvement For All
(BIFA) Days.
We have nearly finished these for the
winter, but we are planning for next
winter. They are run in conjunction
with local BKAs.
BIFA days are intended to encourage
beekeepers to raise their own
queens from the best colonies in
their area, rather than using imported
queens. They are very popular,
giving beekeepers lots of ideas
on improving their bees, either on
their own or in a group.
We are in need of venues. If your
local BKA would like to stage one,
please contact Kevin Thorn
kevinthorn@me.com for details.
BIBBA at the National Honey Show
BIBBA will be working with the
National Honey Show by providing a
workshop on Friday 27th October.
Nick Bentham-Green and Steve Rose
will be presenting “Setting up and
Running a Local Bee Improvement
Group”. This is a National Honey
Show event, with tuition given by
BIBBA members Nick, who is Groups
Secretary, and Steve, who runs a very
successful breeding group in North
Wales.
Bookings will be limited, so regularly
check the NHS website for details.
Roger Patterson
BIBBA Conference and
Workshop Secretary
roger-patterson@btconnect.com
10 BIM 49 – Spr ing 2017
Future Bee Improvement and Queen
Rearing events
These courses are very popular, with lots of
information and tips on improving your own
and your local bees.
The Isle of Man may not be the centre
of the universe when it comes to
beekeeping, but that does not mean
that it is a backwater where there is
no change. In fact there have been
some very forward thinking and well
known beekeepers here.
Up until the late 1800s skeps were
the usual hive for bees on the island
as well as across (“across” is a Manx
term for the adjacent isles: England,
Ireland, etc). An old farmer in Andreas
(north end of the island) said
that every cottage had a skep or two
during the 1800s. Many islanders
were so poor and sugar so expensive,
it was essential.
Beekeeping started even before the
Irish gods were told to find an island
to go into exile. Mannanin came to
the Isle of Man and a song he sang
told of rivers pouring forth a stream
of honey!
In 1275 tythes of honey and wax
were charged, only changed to a
monetary payment in 1839.
A law of 1629 dealt the death
penalty for stealing hives, again only
repealed in 1817. Shame!
Two long lived beliefs about bees tell
of putting a bumble bee in your
purse to keep it with money in (probably
because it stung you if you tried
to get money out!); another saying in
the Middle Ages was that a Manx
woman would make a good wife only
if she was a good beekeeper.
There is still evidence of bee boles in
old stone farms outer walls even
today. They were mostly faced away
from the south-west winds rather
than a sunny aspect! There are
records that these were used well
into the 19th Century. Ones on
Ronaldsway Farm, knocked down to
make way for the Airport, were dated
1506.
However, beekeepers here were
quick to pick up on the moveable
frame hives well before the turn of
the century and a fascinating account
of Lancelot Quayle, who lived
in a tiny village on the west coast,
shows he and others were well aware
of how to build up their colonies
early in the season to take advantage
of and get, huge crops of wild flower
honey.
In 1897 Lancelot won the record for
the biggest British crop of honey
from one colony: 334lbs. He would
never have got that with skep beekeeping,
or the modern flora here on
the island! He also won a special
prize in Manchester for Bell Heather
honey in 1892.
Lancelot told of foul brood in his
colonies which reared its ugly head
now and again. He treated it with
sugar syrup to which was added
some Izal (a disinfectant used for
long years). It became clear though
that the only way to get rid of it was
to destroy all comb and disinfect
hives.
During his lifetime he sold hundredweights
of honey in jars and tins to
buyers in England for their own use
and to retail.
Records show that honey was traded
off the island much earlier, in fact in
the 17th and 18th centuries. Interesting
how they did this, in what
must have been skep beekeeping,
and everything being transported
by sea.
It is recorded that by 1911 a Mr Kelly
of Sulby in the north of the island
ran 120 hives.
A journalist for the British Bee Journal
reporting a trip to the island in
1914, said he had not seen a single
skep on the island, but all bees were
kept in “modern” hives. He also said
that most villages had at least one
beekeeper.
The first Beekeeping Association was
set up here on the island in 1913.
During the war the number of beekeepers
rose to 450. However, many
gave up post-war due to IOW Disease
and no longer needing to try and
make rations stretch.
Lancelot and all the beekeepers on
the island suffered badly from Isle of
Wight Disease which appeared in
1912, but by 1917 it was wiping out
whole Apiaries and continued into
the 1920s.* There seemed to be a
flurry of importation of queens to try
and replace the incredibly low numbers
of stocks – Italian and Carnolian
queens are mentioned.
It was a truly miserable time on the
island during the First World War. So
many families were mourning the
death of one or more of their young
men. They were worrying about the
internees billeted here eating huge
amounts of food, whilst they had
very poor rations. And to top it all,
when they really needed their honey,
they were losing their bees to Isle of
Wight Disease.
Importation of queens was popular
at the end of the 19th and beginning
of 20th Century. However, Lancelot
Quayle recorded that having lost all
his colonies to disease he had a wild
swarm of black local bees come in
and repopulate one of his hives!
They unfortunately hybridised with a
Dutch strain and they became very
swarmy and after that his yields went
right downhill.
BIM 49 – Spr ing 2017 11
A Short History of Manx Beekeeping
Beekeeping started even before the Irish gods
were told to find an island to go into exile.
Another son of the island John
Amery, born here in 1918, became
the beekeeping adviser to N. Scotland
Agricultural College aged
just 21.
Later in the 20th century the notable
characters Trevor Rimmer, Joe Crebbin,
Herbie Quirk and Harry Owens
amongst others, took up the cudgel
of not only keeping bees but doing it
in unusual ways.
Trevor Rimmer who was president of
our Federation when the last BIBBA
conference was here in 1973, kept
bees in a covered trailer which held
twelve hives. Each had access portals
to the open air of course! It was
not often moved, but enabled him to
do so if required, whilst keeping
them warm and dry.
Trevor also instigated the Manx Mark
for honey. He personally inspected
apiaries and kitchens where honey
was produced and if they passed
muster, they were issued with beautiful
red and gold labels for their
jars, each numbered and totally
traceable, and almost impossible to
remove! Again, way ahead of the
game.
Joe Crebbin at much the same period,
had a bee house beside his
plant nurseries at The Braaid. The
hives were kept in complete darkness
except when he worked the
colonies, when the shed door was
left open.
Herbie Quirk was a member of the
Federation committee when he realised
in the 1970s that varroa was
invading Europe. With much pressure
from Herbie and the Federation
committee of the time, restriction on
imports of bees to only those from
the British Isles was instigated. Then
with much lobbying the Manx government
were encouraged to shut
the door before this pernicious pest
got to the UK and climbed on a ferry
to cross to our shores.
Herbie was a forward thinker, and
with the help of another Quirk, this
time a Member of the House of Keys,
an order was passed to prevent the
import of any bees followed by the
“Importation of Bees Act”.
This was an act by our own parliament,
and much more recently the
EU became aware we had this restrictive
practice, and as we trade with
them they would not uphold our law.
After a huge amount of effort to
prove we do not have varroa on the
island, by Harry Owens and helpers,
we now are legal in the eyes of
the EU.
Harry Owens has also had a big hand
in bee breeding trials using the first
mini nucs which were trialled on the
Calf of Man, a 600 acre island off the
foot of our mainland. This was set
up in 1965 and managed by Tom
Cain and carried on for at least seven
years.
Some important figures in European
beekeeping were involved.
This is by no means a complete history
of Manx Beekeeping. But it is
difficult to find written evidence
without a huge amount of digging,
about what was after all a common
place and background activity.
Cilla Platt
*Editor’s note:
For a scientific view of the ‘Isle of
Wight Disease’, often attributed to
the acarine mite, see Leslie Bailey,
Honey Bee Pathology, Academic
Press 1981, p.81-84.
If bees do not respond to smoke
And handling them is no joke,
Their mother can’t be very nice.
Get rid of them at any price!
Apart from increasing the number of
stocks, the quality of your bees will
not improve unless you take a hand
in it. There are bad tempered bees,
which should not be tolerated. The
maxim is: cull the worst and breed
from the best.
In recent years following the decline
of bees, the cost of buying bees has
risen dramatically. Raising colonies
from your own bees is not only financially
worthwhile, but will ultimately
produce bees better suited to
your environment.
Choose a colony with desirable qualities
e.g. good honey production, low
swarming tendency, disease resistance,
docility, etc. – do not breed
from bad tempered colonies!
Build the colony up in the spring by
gentle feeding until the brood box is
full of bees. This can be as early in
the year as possible with the proviso
that drones are present in the apiary.
Find the queen and transfer her to a
nucleus hive with a comb of sealed
brood flanked by two frames of food
& pollen [and the adhering bees]. If
the nuc is to remain in the apiary,
shake in bees from two more combs.
Close up the combs in the original
colony and replace the removed
combs with frames of comb or foundation.
After 24 hours, feed with
weak syrup (1 lb sugar in 1 pint
water) – feeding immediately might
incite robbing.
12 BIM 49 – Spr ing 2017
Making Increase –
Simple Queen
Rearing
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T: 01403 790637
After four days, look for queen cells.
Remove any sealed queen cells –
they have been started on two day
old larvae (the best queens are produced
from <1 day old larvae). After nine days, the brood box can be divided into three separate parts, i.e. the brood box + two nucs., each with a sealed queen cell. The brood box is left on the original site to collect the flying bees. The bees in the brood box can be brushed - do not shake queen cells - into the nucs – the flying bees and those hatching are usually enough. After 24 hours, the nuc should be fed. The original colony now consists of a queen-right nucleus and three other nuclei with queen cells. The queens should start to emerge about two days later. They will mate with any available drones. The next year the colonies headed by these queens will be producing drones like their mother. Another method is to divide a colony that is making swarming preparations. If the queen is present, remove her to a hive on the original stand. The remaining colony is divided into nuclei, each with a queen cell. If you do not have suitable stocks for propagation, you may be able to obtain a queen cell from another beekeeper from bees of known worth. Nuclei that have been made up for two days will start queen cells of their own. They will readily accept any other queen cells given to them. The given queen cell will hatch first and the small nucleus will allow the queen to destroy their own cells. Brian P. Dennis Origins of our Native Bee There are widespread misconceptions about the meaning of the term ‘locally adapted bee’ which need to be clarified. The honey bee (Apis mellifera) returned to Britain after the last Ice Age around 6,250 BC (ie. over 8 thousand years ago). Our native bee (Apis mellifera mellifera) belongs to a group of sub-species that is usually thought to have evolved on the Atlantic coast. Its common (nonscientific) name is very variable but the most widely used version is probably the ‘northern dark bee’ but it is also referred to as the ‘British black bee’ or ‘Welsh black bee’ or simply the ‘black bee’. It is thought to be most closely related to Apis mellifera intermissa (Western side of North Africa) and Apis mellifera iberica (Spain and Portugal). The natural distribution of A.m.m. starts north of the Pyrenees in France, spreading north into most of Western Europe including Scandinavia, Northern Germany and Northern Russia. Some authorities consider the origin of A.m.m. to be Northern Russia but exactly how this can be reconciled with its Atlantic (genetic) affinities is not clear. No doubt DNA studies will shed further light on this matter in the near future. Regardless of its true origins, this is the race of honey bee that colonised Britain when the climate and vegetation became suitable and progressively adapted to the changing post-glacial climate. This is the origin of the British native bee and, with the closing of the land-bridge with Europe, it would have continued to evolve in genetic isolation - that is until man came along and started to move bees around. In response to the widely different climatic regimes that occur in Britain, locally adapted strains would have developed. Similarly, over the rest of its wide geographical range in Europe, other strains of A.m.m. have evolved in the 10-12 thousand years since the last glacial period and they differ from our own island version, ie. you can not import a true ‘native’ black bee, only a near relative. In Middle Europe the native subspecies is the Carniolan bee (Apis mellifera carnica) and in the Mediterranean regions the Italian bee (Apis mellifera ligustica) – again with many local variations. As the ice sheets withdrew they arrived by an entirely different route round the eastern end of the Mediterranean. These two races are on a different branch of the honey bee family to that of the northern dark bee. All these different sub-species or races of honey bee (and some others) have been repeatedly introduced to Britain over the years – bees of Greek origin are particularly popular at the present time. All the sub-species (and strains) are genetically compatible in that they can inter-breed with our native bee. The ‘incompatibility’ of certain sub-species, particularly those from the four different evolutionary lineages, is sometimes discussed, but usually in reference to the temper of the offspring produced from such crosses. When the problems started In the mid-19th century it became the fashion for Victorian beekeepers to import honey bees from other parts of Europe (particularly the Italian and Carniolan races) under the assumption that they had advantages (for beekeeping) compared with the native bee. Importation of non-native races accelerated in the early 20th century in response to Isle BIM 49 – Spr ing 2017 13 The natural distribution of A.m.m. starts north of the Pyrenees in France, spreading north into most of Western Europe. . . What do we mean by locally adapted bees? of Wight disease – a problem that the earlier importations may well have created. Some people claimed that the British black bee became extinct at this time but, as with Mark Twain, their death was greatly exaggerated. Recent studies by BIBBA (and others) have shown the native black bee, with more or less its original genotype, is alive and well in several parts of Britain, and this includes parts of Wales. Most black bees have been exposed to other races and some degree of genetic introgression has occurred - such bees are usually referred to as ‘near native bees’. It was the northern dark bee that the early colonists took with them to places like North America, Australia and New Zealand (where there are no native honey bees). Several centuries later it was replaced by what were considered to be ‘better’ races of bee (mostly Italian but some Carniolan). However, it is interesting to note, that in climatic conditions similar to their natural range (such as those found in South Island New Zealand and Tasmania) the northern dark bee has proved to be something of a survivor and has persisted as a background feral population and in some places is still the beekeepers’ choice. What is even more significant is that in these situations the northern dark bee seems to have resisted genetic introgression (remained fairly pure) despite being outnumbered by other races of bee in beekeepers’ hives. On the contrary, the flow of genes seems to be from northern dark bee into the other races and not vice versa. In New Zealand this is welcomed by some beekeepers who find that ‘mongrelized’ bees are better foragers, but not by others who consider an increase in defensive behaviour (which often occurs) to be unacceptable. The process underlying this situation is simply natural selection; swarms of Italian bees that escape from beekeepers do not survive for long in the wild. In the absence of large scale queen rearing and for use in regular (beekeeper controlled) queen replacement, it seems likely that the northern dark bee would gradually re-establish itself in beekeepers’ hives in some areas. Where can locally adapted bees be found? In Britain locally adapted bees have developed in places where natural selection is allowed to operate, without (genetic) interference from outside sources, over a number of years. There is no information to say how long this process takes but it seems unlikely that stability could be reached in less than 10 to 30 years. Each time bees from external sources are introduced to an area, through their drones and swarming, they create genetic ripples which may take some time to die down. In order for locally adapted bees to become established in an area it requires the elimination (or serious reduction) of external genetic influences. In any given area the result of local adaptation may not be a pure black bee (they are often mongrelized – but appearances can be deceptive) but there is no rule that says the inclusion of some genes from other races can not be adaptive. In this context ‘adaptive’ simply means they are genes that make them fitter (more likely to survive) in their locality. Some degree of genetic introgression may also be an advantage because species that evolve in genetic isolation can lose adaptability and find themselves at a disadvantage when conditions change - and this is exactly what may happen with climatic change. The mechanism by which locally adapted bees are created is almost entirely through natural selection (survival of the fittest). The winter of 2012-13 was a severe test and the colonies that survived must be assumed to be those with greater fitness. Tightly controlled bee breeding is not a viable substitute for natural selection because it is difficult to know which characteristics are important - and rather arrogant to think we do know. In rigorous selective breeding there can only be loss of genes and no gain and in the long-term that can have serious implications – as has been discovered in North America. It is a basic misunderstanding of the biology of the honey bee to attempt to breed it using the type of model that has been successful with other domesticated animals. Herd animals, like sheep and cattle, have a totally different reproductive strategy in which a single dominant male fathers most of the offspring, often for a period of several years. In this system males born to the herd are usually driven out as they approach sexual maturity and disperse in search of a herd in which they can oust the (aging) dominant male. The result is a period of inbreeding followed by a sudden switch when a new male takes over and introduces new genes. This is very similar to the breeding system that farmers employ to run their stock, introducing a new ram or bull every few years. By contrast the reproductive strategy of the honey bee is one of extreme out-breeding in order to maintain the maximum amount of intra-colony genetic diversity. The honey bee is the most extreme example of polyandry (mating with multiple males) known to science and this reproductive strategy is pursued at no small risk to colony survival. When a virgin queen goes out to mate the whole future of the colony depends on her safe return (there is no backup plan) so mating with numerous drones (10-20 is the normal target) from as many different sources as possible is clearly vital to the way in which a honey bee colony functions. Swarms from feral colonies Swarms often get a bad press and advice ranges from treat them with extreme caution (put them in quarantine) to killing them by spraying a solution of detergent. This attitude seems to be based on the fear that they are carrying disease. Whilst this may be true of swarms that have emanated from the hives of other beekeepers, the risk with feral swarms seems to be low. I have asked NBU how many outbreaks of AFB can be traced back to feral colonies and there seem to be few if any confirmed examples. The New Zealand 14 BIM 49 – Spr ing 2017 handbook entitled Elimination of American Foulbrood without the use of Drugs claims that feral colonies are rarely a source of this disease – and they have high levels of AFB. The advantage of swarms from feral colonies is that they have been subjected to natural selection and survived in a condition in which they are able to swarm. This they have done on their own merits and without cosseting by beekeepers and can, therefore, be regarded as a possible ‘shortcut’ to a better adapted bee. So how can you recognise a feral swarm? Best of all you can have found the location of a feral colony and seen it actually swarm. Or you can recover a colony from a feral nest site. For some swarms there is only circumstantial evidence that they have a feral origin. Small castsize swarms that turn out to be prime swarms (ie. have an already mated queen who starts to lay immediately) and are found in an area where there are no known beekeepers are probably of feral origin. We place a great value on such bees and at least half or our current colonies have this genetic background. Fig 1 shows the queen and some workers from a feral swarm and Fig. 2 shows the recovery of a colony from the wall of a shed. For the shed colony there was evidence that it had been in residence continuously for at least the two previous seasons. Why do beekeepers want to purchase queens? One of the motivations behind beekeepers wanting to purchase pure bred races of non-native bee is their low level of defensive behaviour, resulting in easier handling. The northern dark bee has a bad reputation in this respect but this is primarily because it is difficult to establish and maintain a reasonably pure race under conditions where there is a continually changing genetic background from other races. Beekeepers who buy other races to obtain good temperament are in fact purchasing a time-bomb. This is only a short-term solution because when subsequent generations of queens mate with local bees the result is often extreme aggressive behaviour. It is with what is called the F2 generation (but in genetic terms should probably be called the F1) of interracial crosses that the worst problems occur. They are also jeopardising the genetics of their neighbours’ bees – no beekeeper is an island. The way forward The above explanation should have made it clear that locally adapted bees can not be bred but only be bred from. The only place you can breed from locally adapted is locally and this means that large scale or centralized breeding can not (by definition) be the best solution. The Welsh Beekeepers’’ Association aims to encourage its affiliated Beekeeping Associations (and their individual members) to become self-sufficient for new colonies and queens using locally adapted breeding stock. If this can be achieved it will reduce the market for imported queens and bees and this is the only practical way forward. This policy involves an important element of positive feedback because, as more areas become populated with locally adapted bees, the easier it will be to establish a population of near-native bees. The WBKA have produced a booklet on Simple Means of Making Increase which has been distributed to all members. The booklet is down-loadable from the WBKA website (under ‘Library’ – ‘Library documents’) - but really needs colour - and has also been published by Northern Bee Books (ISBN 978-1-908 904-75-1). In conclusion I would draw your attention to the summary from an article written by Leslie Bailey from the IBRA publication Bee World in 1999 entitled “The quest for a superbee”: “Highly intensive selection of the honey bee for any quality [my italics] may decrease its resistance to its wide variety of enzootic pathogens by decreasing its genetic variability. Maintenance of naturally adapted regional strains by traditional means and management that least inhibits their essentially independent lifestyle may be more rewarding.” Les Bailey is an internationally renowned honey bee pathologist and made these comments primarily in relation to bee disease. There has been much research over intervening years on the importance of intracolony genetic diversity which only serves to reinforce his opinions. Wally Shaw BIM 49 – Spr ing 2017 15 Articles wanted We are always looking for suitable articles and images related to A.m.m bees and beekeeping. If you have been on a course, attended a lecture or are setting up an A.m.m breeding group, and wish to write an article about your experiences, then please write to our Editor – Philip Denwood. Contact Philip at: p.denwood@yahoo.co.uk Fig. 1. Queen and workers from a Wesh feral swarm. Fig. 2. Colony in the wall of a shed. Abstract With the growing realization that original, locally adapted bees compared to hybrids or introduced subspecies have an advantage, the desire for protected areas for those local breeds receives further support and encouragement. In this publication we report on the status of the Dark Bee Apis mellifera mellifera, (A.m.m.; mellifera), in Switzerland and about efforts which are being executed to maintain this local race (subspecies) and ecotype. Introduction Since industrialization, man has used global resources intensively and in doing so stressed many of our ecosystems. We endanger our own long-term bases of existence. The UN has addressed these problems and in December 1993, the Convention on Biological Diversity came into force1. Switzerland ratified this in 1994, which means that the cantons (provinces) have to act according to this agreement which means they are obliged to maintain biodiversity and ecosystems and use them in a sustainable way2. This concerns countless creatures, even our native bee races (Fig. 1). The development of the bee races in Switzerland In Switzerland two original, native honey bee races of Apis mellifera are kept: Apis mellifera mellifera north of the Alps and Apis mellifera ligustica south of the Alps3. In addition two foreign bee races are kept, namely the native bee of Carinthia and Slovenia, Apis mellifera carnica and the one brother Adam (1898- 1996) bred in the Benedictine Monastery of Buckfast in Devon (England) called the Buckfast race. The search for ‘better’ bees (more honey and/or swarms) began already in the late 19th century. Experiments with foreign bee races followed in the late 1950s. After the suppression of the dark bee was already well advanced in Germany, the spread of the Carnica race in Switzerland gradually started. The main motives for this were probably the seemingly more quiet nature, the fertility and early honey foraging of these colonies. However, this action resulted in a fateful hybridization of the native population and in particularly aggressive colonies, which was again used in the episode as an argument against A.m.m.. Certainly, at that time such relationships and the importance and the value of locally adapted populations were little known. And so this ominous development for the dark bee took its course until dedicated Swiss beekeepers founded towards the end of the last century the Swiss Association of Mellifera Bee Friends (VSMB) and engaged themselves for the promotion and preservation of the dark bee. In the meantime, the dark bee which was native in all of Switzerland virtually disappeared in the Frenchspeaking area. In the Central Plateau of the country there is actually no coherent population anymore. In the foothills and the Alps this bee could survive (with few exceptions) quite well. The pressure comes, however, from single colonies of other races causing hybridization and with that disturbance of breeding efforts. Of the approximately 100,000 colonies of today in German-speaking Switzerland about 10,000 are purebred Apis mellifera mellifera and perhaps 30,000 are mellifera hybrids. Particularly in regions with predominantly mellifera hybrids and few colonies of other races it would be useful to establish a unified mellifera population. Everyone would win: the bees and the beekeepers. The threat to lose many bee races is recognized Other races of bees in Europe came under pressure, too, as for example the Siculan Bee of Sicily and the Dark Bee of La Palma4. However, especially during the last 10 years the importance of preserving all Honeybee breeds is now undisputed, this in order to conserve biodiversity. For years, this disastrous development has been noted in scientific studies. A few years ago even Prof. H. Pechhacker, Austrian Carnica Association (ACA), said at a breeder meeting in Hungary: “Major parts of our native European bee races are threatened with extinction”. Also in the final report of the project Beekeeping and Apis Biodiversity in Europe (BABE) it is warned about an ominous proliferation of “seemingly superior races of bees”5. In connection with the high colony losses in recent years, the importance of origin and selection of the bees has been examined and significant interactions between location and bee origin were found. A locally adapted bee is in other regions often less successful6,7,8,9. Alice Pinto points to the threat of destabilising a long-established successful genome in a given area: “Accordingly, native honey bee subspecies represent reservoirs of unique combinations of genes and adaptations to local conditions that must be preserved and passed on to future generations of beekeepers”. (Pinto, M.A. et al. 16 BIM 49 – Spr ing 2017 The search for ‘better’ bees (more honey and/or swarms) began already in the late 19th century. Bee races and Protected Areas in Switzerland Fig. 1. Dark bees with queen, drones and workers. (Photo: Balser Fried.) 2014, in press)11. In addition De la Rúa et al., 201310, make the point as follows: "Admixture may lead to increased genetic diversity, yet it may also compromise local adaptations by disrupting co-evolved gene complexes fine-tuned by natural selection over evolutionary time". Sanctuaries for endangered typical, locally adapted bees As stated, therefore, the importance of typical, locally adapted bees is very high. But we also know that their protection is in general very difficult, especially for our native dark bee. The understanding of the necessity of protection and therefore the willingness to restrain are not with us, and abroad a similar attitude is present. Thus, at the Apimondia 2013 in Kiev, for the first time a conference meeting (Fig. 2) on endangered bee races took place12. Interestingly, even the Slovenian representative complained about the impact of “yellow bees” from Austria. The whole country of Slovenia is a Carnica-sanctuary and the adjoining Austrian Länder of Kärnten and Steiermark are legally Carnica sanctuaries! A certain irony is - from the point of view of mellifera - hard to hide In order to avoid the disastrous crosses between bee races, protected areas (sanctuaries), are mandatory where only a single bee population can be kept. For practical reasons islands such as Ouessant, a Breton island in France, the Scottish island of Colonsay in the Atlantic or Kangaroo Island in Australia are, in particular suited for that. In an interior land like Switzerland very high mountains form valleys which offer excellent sheltered places. These have usually an open access, where natural migration by swarms and thus hybridization can occur. This must be countered by changing queens. Four protected areas for the Dark Bee in Switzerland Today, the four existing sanctuaries - Canton of Glarus (about 1000 colonies), Biosfera Val Müstair (about 300 colonies), Diemtigtal Natural Park (about 300 colonies) and the Great Melchtal (about 50 colonies) - are maintained locally. The VSMB offers support and advice when needed. However, the necessary input exceeds the financial capacity of the local beekeeper's organizations. The Federal Ministry of Agriculture (BLW) evaluates the projects proposed jointly by apisuisse (the national beekeepers organisation) and VSMB to promote endangered Swiss bee subspecies13. This also testifies the legitimacy of protected areas. The funds will be mainly used for finding racially pure colonies in partly hybridized populations and to assess drone colonies for local mating stations. With purchase of racial pure and ecotype queens, hybridized colonies are requeened. The hybrid test is performed with DNA analysis of the queens. Thus it can be determined whether the queen emerged from a non-pure mating or a pure breed mating14. Beekeeping in VSMB is based on two pillars: on the one hand pure breeding from typical colonies. In this, drone colonies are stationed, which consist of sister queens, bred from a colony according to the rules of ‘Beebreed’ 15, 24. The whole population consists of many lines and is managed in a well-balanced way. Special care is taken to avoid inbreeding. The second pillar comprises the protected areas in which local, mixed mating is not only possible but highly desirable, because the whole bee population in the area is free from other races or hybridized colonies. Due to the free mating a great genetic diversity is maintained. That does not, however, mean that in a conservation area no quality promotion by selection in the population should be aimed at. In our case, race specific mating stations (B stations) are found in some protected areas. The drone colonies there originate from different sources. For the care and management of colonies in a conservation area the VSMB has established guidelines16. Colonies and queens from protected areas are very important for the entire mellifera breeding program as a genetic reservoir for new blood. In recent years, several projects have been realized in Switzerland, which had the objectives to identify purebred stocks of the Dark Bee, to multiply it, to protect it and to preserve it for future generations. These are the legally protected conservation area in the Canton Glarus, the mating stations Grund and Gletsch in the Canton of Valais as well as the Great Melchtal (OW). Additionally legally unprotected areas exist in the Val Müstair. In the following, we report on the status of these efforts and the necessary measures taken in the various regions17. Canton Glarus In 1977, the political bodies of the Canton of Glarus decided that in their Canton only native bees may be kept. This decision was anchored in the cantonal agricultural law. All other races are not admitted. In Article 1 of the corresponding law on beekeeping and bee breeding from BIM 49 – Spr ing 2017 17 Fig. 2. Round table at the Apimondia 2013 in Kiev on the topic ‘Conservation of endangered bee races’. Chair: Maria Bouga, University of Athens, then from left: Per Kryger, University of Aarhus, Denmark and rightmost Ralph Büchler, Bieneninstitut Kirchhain. (Photo: Balser Fried.) May 1 1978 it is literally stated that “across the canton only bees of local landrace the Dark Alpine bee Apis mellifera mellifera may be held and maintained”. Other articles regulate the breeding issues, the notification requirement and the temporary colony migration. In the years 2006- 2008 the Swiss Association of Bee Friends (VDRB) realized a project with the aim to promote pure breed type colonies. Wing measurements were used to differentiate hybrids from pure bred colonies. After the results were analysed, a series of queens were replaced in the northern part of the canton because it was recognized that in this part of the canton a strong mixing had occurred18. In 2012 the Society of Friends of Glarner Bees (VGB) launched together with the VSMB (financed by the company ‘Innocent’, fruit juice manufacturer) a project to obtain a preliminary verification of racial purity in Sernftal (local valley) using the DNA hybrid test. The aim was to obtain a clue about the extent of mixture there. Samples were taken and analyzed. In 16 of 17 cases, racial purity was found. In a new project, again funded by the VSMB and ‘Innocent’, started in 2014, and in one apiary in Sernftal hybrid colonies were replaced with purebred queens. A second activity is driven by three family beekeepers. They produce from their 'old' Glarner colonies queens and sell them to interested beekeepers in the canton or elsewhere. The local society subsidizes the queens and covers the costs of the office which executes the wing measurements to determine the racial purity. The VSMB funded DNA analysis. The aim is to achieve that pure ‘Glarner blood’ is propagated. For 2015-2017 it is planned to carry out similar work in the canton, mainly in the northern part of it. A problem to be solved in the canton of Glarus remains to be solved: the mating station, which had existed for over 100 years in Klöntal, had to be closed in 2013 because of foreign influence through a newly established Buckfast mating station in the neighbouring Wägital19. For this unsatisfactory situation one will continue to look for an acceptable solution. Val Müstair The Val Müstair (Münstertal) is located in the south-eastern part of Switzerland and is surrounded on three sides by high mountains. To the southeast, the valley opens up to Italy. The local beekeepers’ association was founded in 1897 and as long as anyone can remember dark bees have been kept there20. After the Second World War individual beekeepers began to requeen with Carnica bees hoping to earn higher yields and gentler colonies. The concomitant hybridization with the negative by-product of increased defence readiness followed at once and did not satisfy the majority of the local beekeepers. Therefore, in 2006 the local beekeepers association unanimously decided within the project Biosfera Val Müstair (Care and Development Zone of UNESCO), to initiate a project of propagating the pure Dark Bee. The request for the project came from local beekeepers association and the VSMB together with Pro Specie Rara. In the following second phase, Apisuisse was included (Fig 3). The aim was to build a sanctuary for the Dark Bee and thus contribute to the preservation of it. Funding was provided by the BLW and internal voluntary work. Altogether, about 300 colonies from about 20 beekeepers are held in the valley. In the six years of the project (two phases, each of three years, 2006-2012) about 500 queens were produced and distributed. The main activity focused on the raising of local queens for requeening hybridized colonies and the procurement of purebred drone colonies for the mating station. In the first phase of the project the racial purity was determined by means of wing analysis, in the second phase the DNA hybrid test was used for it. Overall, the project can be assessed as very suc- 18 BIM 49 – Spr ing 2017 Fig. 3. The Val Müstair is surrounded by high mountains. View from the Ofenpass to Lü at 1920m above sea level, the highest village in the valley. (Photo: Balser Fried.) Fig. 4. The maiing station Las Clastras in Val Müstair is located at 2000m and is open all year! The electric fence protects against bears and is being reactivated here after work by Duri Prevost, Breeding Chief, and Renata Bott, President. (Photo: Balser Fried.) cessful. But to secure what has been achieved, it is still necessary to continue with the DNA hybrid tests and especially towards the southeast substitution of queens may be needed. Diemtigtal Christoph Wissler, a dedicated local beekeeper, took the initiative in 2010 to start the project of a protected area for the Dark Bee in the Nature Park Diemtigtal21. The goal was to locate and identify the existing population of purebred mellifera colonies, to breed queens from these colonies and requeen the hybrids. The Diemtigtal is geographically well suited to ensure secure local mating. A survey of the local beekeepers found 90% support for this idea. The project was also welcomed by the Diemtigtal Nature Park and financially supported. In the year 2011 150 DNA samples were taken, 60 pure colonies were identified and 66 queens were substituted. In each year of 2012 and 2013 82 queens were substituted. A project of this magnitude requires meticulous planning and coordination of all stakeholders. In addition, in the Diemtigtal Valley when at lower altitudes dandelions already bloom, at higher altitudes there is still snow on the ground. In the following years it is necessary to consolidate the work. For that, external visual characteristics are considered, supported by DNA analyses, and where hybridization is there, queens are replaced. Additionally queens will be bred and hybridization monitored. Grosses Melchtal In the canton of Obwalden various bee races are held: the dark bee, the Carnica and the Buckfast. In order to avoid crosses between races, welldefined protection zones where only the dark bee may be held are necessary. The Beekeepers’ Association Obwalden has set itself the task to contribute his part for the conservation and propagation of the dark bee by establishing a mating station in Melchtal (Stöckalp). Such a mating station was mentioned in documents as early as 1898. Today it is increasingly used by members of the association but also of external breeders. After the Beekeepers’ Association Obwalden had in principle decided for the protection of the dark bee, increasingly the desire was also expressed to establish a legally bound conservation zone in Melchtal. Contacts with interested parties and the various offices were established. Based on these investigations then the government of the canton Obwalden approved the request for the conservation region ‘Grosses Melchtal’ by adapting a supplement to the regulations on protected animal and plant species. This supplement entered into force on April 1, 201322. Thanks to financial support of the company ‘Innocent’, DNA analysis and changing of queens could be made in 2013. Similar work was planned for 2014 and 2015. Canton Valais It remains to mention that two mating stations in the Valais have been declared protected areas. This is the B-mating station in Grund on the Simplon Pass and the A-mating station Gletsch on the Furka Pass. The corresponding order from the Valais State Council was issued on September 28th, 2008 based on the Law on Agriculture and Rural Development23. Final considerations These protected areas are already more than a ray of hope for the conservation of biodiversity of honeybees in Switzerland. Their consolidation and security will remain an ongoing task. This requires funds (the Federal Government has promised this) and continuous engagement of committed beekeepers who fulfil the task with a lot of passion. We recognise their work with thanks and appreciation. With the breeding work in the context of Beebreed24, our native bee developed into a quiet, powerful partner and in which the hygiene aspect is given greatest attention. There is no objective reason not to keep the dark bee. The VSMB who is heavily involved in this activity is neither naïve nor fundamentalist. We do not want to turn back the wheel of time. But it is a reality: the dark bee does not exist anymore everywhere in Switzerland. Although the conservation of biodiversity is recognized politically and socially at all levels, there are still areas with predominant mellifera population where selective resistance to protective measures are found, leading to unnecessary tensions. For a consensual, sustainable coexistence the mellifera beekeepers expect a more considerate behaviour in the following points: u Individual beekeepers living in the middle of a proven area of a breed should not establish differently bred colonies and hybridize the whole environment. This applies analogously to migrant beekeepers. u No queens of other races are to be sold in established protected areas. Free market economy in honour, but not at any price! u Bee houses and bee sheds that have an obvious impact on sanctuaries and mating stations are to be moved. It would also be highly desirable if there were national legal bases for the implementation of such protected areas. The fundamental constitutional principle of proportionality should be respected: must it really be accepted that in a larger area with dark bees, differently bred colonies can be kept, hybridizing the local indigenous mellifera population? A lot has already been achieved, but there are still challenges to work on the legitimate aim of sustainable preservation of our unique Swiss breed of bees. It's not only important to start something, it’s crucial to lead it to an end. Balser Fried, Padruot Fried Swiss Association of Mellifera Bee Friends (www.mellifera.ch) B. Fried, Azmoos, Switzerland. E-Mails: fried@mellifera.ch, and padruot.fried@mellifera.ch BIM 49 – Spr ing 2017 19 References 1. http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Biodiversit%C3%A4ts-Convention 2. http://www.bafu.admin.ch/ international/04692/04696/index.ht ml?lang=de 3. Ordinance on Livestock: Art. 12 4. http://www.beekeeping.com/ artikel/canaries.htm 5. Final Report of the EU project «Beekeeping and Apis Biodiversity in Europe» (https://wiki.ceh.ac.uk/ display/biota/BABE ). 6. Büchler, R. (2011) “Eine Frage der Herkunft? A question of origin?” German Bee Journal 2011-12: 8-9. http://www.bienenjournal.de/ die-zeitschrift/archiv-suche/ 7. Blumer-Meyre, P. (2014) “Local bees are better.” Schweizerische Bienenzeitung 7: 42. “Lokale Bienen sind besser.“ http://issuu.com/vdrb_ch/docs/sch wbienenzeitung_juli2014 8. Meixner, M.; Büchler, R. (2014) “Where to find ‘the best bee’?” ADIZ 8: 7-9. 9. Quote Dr. R. Büchler; Report DIB Breeder Conference 2012: “ According to current knowledge, the genetic predisposition of the provenience and their local adaptation is of utmost importance. The diversity of races and ecotypes must be obtained. For our breeding success in Carnica we are indeed envied, but the unilateral selection for honey resulted in an increase of susceptibility to Varroa. Therefore a lot of responsibility lies with the breeders". 10. De la Rúa, P.; Jaffé, R.; Dall Olio, R.; Muñoz, I.; Serrano, J. (2009) “Biodiversity, conservation and current threats to European honeybees.” Apidologie 40:263-284 http://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/docs/ 00/89/20/07/PDF/hal-00892007.pdf 11. Pinto, M. A. et al. (2014) “Genetic Integrity of the Dark European honey bee (Apis mellifera mellifera) from protected populations: a genome-wide assessment using SNPs and mtDNA sequence data.” Journal of Apicultural Research 53 (2): 269- 278 http://www.ibra.org.uk/articles/ Diversity-of-protected-A-m-mellifera 12. Bouga, M. (2013) RT_conservation_ Bouga_Apimondia_Kiev.doc (www.mellifera.ch and then click on “Literatur”). 13. Maintenance and preservation of the endangered dark bee in Switzerland in four protected areas (www.mellifera.ch and then click) on «Publications». 14. Soland, G. (2012) “The importance of DNA Hybrid Tests for breeding and conservation of the dark bee in Switzerland.” Mellifera Magazin 1: 22-26 “Die Bedeutung des DNA-Hybridtests für die Zucht und Erhaltung der Dunklen Biene Schweiz.” http://www.mellifera.ch/cms/ magazin/16-magazin-1-12 15. Sutter, F. (2014) “The father side.” Swiss Bee Journal 5: 13-15. “Die Vaterseite.“ http://issuu.com/vdrb_ch/docs/ schwbienenzeitung_mai2014 16. VSMB document: (2014) “Strategy of protected areas VSMB.” www.mellifera.ch and then click on “Publications”. 17. The text on protected areas is based on relevant chapters of the project submitted by apisuisse to Ministry of Agriculture (responsible R. Ritter and involvement from VSMB Padruot Fried) (www.mellifera.ch and then click on “Publications”). 18. Rickenbach, Ch. (2011) “Sanctuary for Apis mellifera mellifera in Glarnerland.” Mellifera Magazin 2: 15-17 http://www.mellifera.ch/cms/magazin/ 17-magazin-2-11 Schutzgebiet Apis mellifera mellifera Glarnerland 19. Knobel, R. (2012) “History and operation of the Mating station Klöntal.“ “Werdegang und Betrieb der Belegstation Klöntal.“ (www.mellifera.ch and then click on «Literature» ). 20. Letter by Hunkeler from the year 1947 to BZV Val Müstair in which he refers to the beautiful Dark Nigra Bee and recommends to maintain it carefully (www.mellifera.ch and then click on “Publications”). 21. Wissler, Ch. (2011) “Sanctuary for the Dark Bee in Diemtigtal.” Mellifera Magazin1:19 http://www.mellifera.ch/cms/ magazin/18-magazin-1-11 Schutzgebiet Dunkle Biene Diemtigtal 22. Huser, E: (2013). “A Sanctuary for Apis mellifera mellifera in Melchtal.” Mellifera Magazin 1: 16-17 http://www.mellifera.ch/cms/magazin/ 14-magazin-1-13 Schutzgebiet Apis mellifera mellifera Melchtal 23. Sanctuary agreement with the canton of Valais www.mellifera.ch and then click on “Publications” 24. Breeding concept ‘Beebreed’ https://www2.hu-berlin.de/beebreed/ ZWS/ A.m.Mellifera Genetic evaluation Swiss Association of Mellifera Bee Friends no.: 50 NOTE: Literature not available at ”www. Mellifera.ch” can be obtained from the author: balser.fried@bluewin.ch 20 BIM 49 – Spr ing 2017 The B4 Project – Press Release Bees are among the most charismatic and familiar animals of the insect world. Thoughts of a summer’s day picnic in a meadow are not complete without the recollection of the hum of bees or the sight of a belaboured bee lifting off from a flower with its heavy load of pollen. And of course, some bees give us honey too. Despite these positive associations, many casual observers are unaware that there are many different species of bee. In the UK alone there are around 250 species, which includes the honey bee, 24 species of bumblebee and many solitary species. Unfortunately, many of these species are now under threat, with widespread records of significant reductions in their abundance. The reasons for the declines are complex but are generally associated with agricultural intensification and the associated losses of floral diversity, and the use of agrochemicals and pesticides. There are also interconnected threats from the spread of novel diseases and pathogens. It is important to tackle threats to bees not just for aesthetic reasons, but because of the value of the pollination service they provide. Insect pollination of crops and wildflowers has been estimated to have an annual economic worth of €153 billion. Honey bees are the most commercially important of all bee species, for their role in pollination of crops and because they provide us with honey, but like many of their sister species they have suffered recent heavy declines in numbers. “Colony collapse disorder” has become welldocumented over recent years as having a very significant impact on honey bee colonies, but there is no single smoking-gun identified as its cause. Like all other bees, honey bees face losses of floral diversity, the impacts of pesticides (like neonicotinoids), the spread of pests and diseases (such as the Varroa mite, foulbrood and chalkbrood) and are affected over winter by the weather and the strength of the colony in the autumn. One important aspect of the conservation of bee diversity is recognising the diversity that exists within species. There are 27 subspecies (distinct varieties) of honey bee across the world, and 10 within Europe alone (which owe their origin to the glacial history of Europe). Within these varieties lies much genetic variation. Having genetic variation and thus diversity within species is important as it enables species to adapt and survive in changing environments. Favourable traits that allow individuals to survive (e.g. disease resistance) are coded for in DNA and passed on from one generation to the next. Because genetic variation is this raw material for evolution, it is important to conserve it: species that are more genetically variable have a greater probability of long-term survival. Genetic variation in natural populations of honey bee is distributed among individuals but also among different varieties of honey bee, and populations of these varieties. Conserving the diversity that exists among varieties of honey bee now is therefore a crucial legacy for future generations. There is some debate amongst academics about how this genetic diversity should be maintained. On the one hand, commercial practices used by commercial honey bee keepers could threaten the native diversity that exists. Most commercial honey bee colonies are from two Mediterranean varieties of honey bee (Apis mellifera ligustica and Apis mellifera carnica). Hybridisation between these varieties and native ones can potentially erode the local adaptations and genetic integrity of naturally occurring varieties. On the other hand, hybridization itself can increase genetic diversity, although the way that it is ‘structured’ and distributed amongst natural varieties is altered. Many conservation biologists believe the best way to manage and ‘futureproof’ natural populations is to maintain the natural population structuring that occurs. This allows varieties to act as important ‘reservoirs’ of genetic variation. Being alert to this potential loss of diversity amongst varieties, a group of beekeepers in Cornwall have come together to try and conserve native honey bee diversity in south-west England. Under the banner ‘B4: bringing back black bees’, this group is interested in protecting the UK’s native honey bee variety, Apis mellifera mellifera. Recently, the group has come together with staff at Plymouth University to use modern genetic methods to ask how distinct black bees are in south-west England, and whether much uncontrolled mating with commercial colonies has already taken place. Building on this project, which has revealed that while there has been some hybridisation, some apiaries contain relatively pure Apis mellifera mellifera, B4 and staff at Plymouth University are about to embark on an exciting new project that will investigate local adaptation in UK populations of dark honey bee. This will involve using the latest in genetic screening techniques as well as looking at colony traits such as worker production, disease susceptibility, colony longevity and honey yield of honey bees with different genetic signatures. They will also investigate the feasibility of cryopreserved sperm as an archive of genetic material for safeguarding present day genetic variation (and therefore local adaptation) for the future. A Ph.D project is currently being advertised, funded by the Natural Environment Research Council. For more details see http://www.jobs.ac.uk/job/AWF502/ nerc-case-studentship-bringing-backblack- bees-investigating-the-genomic- and-phenotypic-basis-of-localadaptation- in-the-black-honey-beeapis- mellifera-mellifera/. School of Biological & Marine Sciences, Plymouth University BIM 49 – Spr ing 2017 21 On October 20th-23rd, 2016, over 60 delegates from 15 countries met at De Werelt Conference Centre in Lunteren for the latest SICAMM (International Society for the Protection of the Black Bee) conference. SICAMM was established in 1995 at a meeting in Flekkefjord, Norway, of beekeepers and scientists concerned about protecting the remaining populations of the European dark bee (Apis mellifera mellifera, A.m.m.). The Lunteren conference was held in association with the Dutch organisation De Duurzame Bij (The Sustainable Bee). Opening the meeting, SICAMM vice-president Per Thunman pointed out that the original range of A.m.m. stretched across Europe northward from the Pyrenees and Alps and from Ireland in the west to Russia in the east. Almost all countries within this range were represented at the conference. As well as the status of the various European A.m.m. populations, topics covered included varroa tolerance, legal and practical aspects of conservation, bee improvement and breeding, foraging by A.m.m., genetic research, and commercial opportunities for A.m.m. beekeepers. Romée van der Zee reported on studies of the A.m.m. population on the Dutch island of Texel. Research revealed lower losses among the 200 or so A.m.m. colonies on Texel than in the mixed honey bee population of the mainland. Opening of thousands of sealed worker cells revealed a much higher percentage of non-viable varroa offspring. Given that the optimum temperature for mite reproduction is 33ºC and that mite reproduction is limited or delayed at temperatures above 34.5ºC, it may be that black bees are better at maintaining a higher temperature in the brood nest. Marleen Boerjan of the Dutch organisation De Duurzame Bij (The Sustainable Bee) discussed efforts to develop varroa-tolerant honey bees. Initially, the organisation combined the varroa-tolerant properties of Primorsky bees from the U.S. with A. m. carnica and Buckfast strains already showing some varroa tolerance. However, in recent years, research has concentrated on A.m.m. from Texel because of its apparently high tolerance to varroa. Varroa-tolerant behaviour is analysed using a statistical protocol based on the continuous counting of mite fall. The data can be used as fundamental selection criteria for varroa tolerance, and more and more of the tested colonies are surviving winter without varroa treatment. Aat Rietveld described an ongoing project in the Dutch city of Breda to provide more diverse forage for urban bees. Beekeepers in Breda are trying to provide bees with an integrated environment in the city, exploiting all opportunities to create nutrition for bees and also improve the human environment. Beekeepers have also formed an alliance with an important bulb gardner, and together, they are enriching urban green areas that until now have just contained grass. A highlight of Aat's presentation was images of a bulbsowing machine that could plant hundreds of bulbs per hour. Roger Patterson discussed efforts by the Bee Improvement and Bee Breeders association (BIBBA) to encourage UK beekeepers to improve their bees. Roger described BIBBA's ‘Bee Improvement For All’ days, indoor events held during the winter, and ‘Bee Improvement’ courses, partly apiary-based events held during the summer. Among the topics covered at these events are colony handling, queen selection, larval transfer, cell building and queen-cell distribution. Philip Denwood reviewed some recent developments in the U.K. in the areas of treatment-free beekeeping and genetic research. Studies in North Wales have found survival among non-treated colonies to be higher than that of treated colonies, and there is evidence of aggressive grooming of mites by native or nearnative bees. A major genetic study of many colonies from across England and Wales also revealed that, on average, honey bees continued to retain 45% A.m.m. genes even after 22 BIM 49 – Spr ing 2017 SICAMM Conference, Lunteren, the Netherlands Over 60 delegates from 15 countries met at De Werelt Conference Centre in Lunteren for the latest SICAMM conference Fig. 1. De Werelt Conference Centre, Lunteren. (Photo: De Werelt.) over a century of importations. Philip also presented observations made by Gareth John of the Natural Beekeeping Trust of the development of varroa resistance in openmated and wild honey bees in the south of England. Gareth found that the presence of untreated wild honey bees nearby appears to provide a source of varroa resistance that is passed on to open-mated queens. He has also found that with time the behavioural and physical characteristics of his bees have become increasingly similar to those of A.m.m.. Pierre Barois of Pollinis, the French association for the conservation of the black bee, explored the legal status of A.m.m. in France. Three islands in Brittany are expressly restricted to A.m.m., and there are also several areas on the mainland where local decrees allow only A.m.m. to be kept. On a national basis, legal tools aimed at combatting the introduction and spread of non-native species refer only to “wild” organisms, whereas a ministerial order has formally identified honey bees as being domestic. In contrast, EU law allows member states to protect their native honey bees. Strict regulations exist in some French metropolitan areas and on overseas islands, such as Réunion, preventing the introduction of bees due to the risk of disease, especially varroasis. On the island of Corsica, honey can only be sold as Corsican if it is produced by black bees. Overall, the French government is becoming increasingly concerned about preserving the native black bee, as demonstrated by its financial and technical support of conservation areas, but is unwilling to back this up with legal measures. Anja Laupstad Vatland discussed the status of the Flekkefjord black bee of Norway. In 1987, a legally binding A.m.m. conservation area of 3,500 square kilometers was established in the southeast of Norway. Although there were 100 beekeepers keeping 2,000 colonies in the conservation area in 1995, this had declined to 40 beekeepers with less than 500 colonies in 2015. Efforts have been initiated to revitalise beekeeping in the area by motivating existing beekeepers, recruiting new ones and improving commercial possibilities for A.m.m. beekeepers. It is also hoped to expand the conservation area, and to strengthen its legal basis. Already, these efforts have resulted in 30 new beekeepers keeping 100 hives, three existing beekeepers becoming commercial and one planning to breed A.m.m. queens. Ole Hertz reported on the status of A.m.m. in Denmark and Greenland. Three Danish islands are home to A.m.m., with Laesø being the most famous. Despite the decision by the Danish government not to support the European Court ruling on the conservation of Laesø's unique A.m.m. population, black bees are increasing on the island. Black bees introduced to Greenland are providing local people with a new source of income, with Greenland honey commanding a premium price. Ingvar Arvidsson of Projekt NordBi provided an update on the preservation and development of the Swedish black bee. Following 100 years of considerable imports, A.m.m. had almost become extinct in Sweden. A mating project on Lake Vänern had limited success due to poor control of drones. With the establishment of Projeckt NordBi in 1990, an inventory of black bees across Sweden was carried out, and pure-mating areas were set up. Today, the project produces 600-800 pure-mated queens per annum, and there are 1,200-1,500 pure A.m.m. colonies. Although varroa has been a major problem in southern Sweden, A.m.m. colonies show very low mite levels. Dylan Elen of the Limburgse Zwarte Bij vzw (LZB, the Limburg Black Bee Association) described recent efforts to promote the native black bee of Limburg, in northeastern Belgium. Decades of imports of A. m. carnica and then Buckfast bees into Flanders has resulted in the demise of the local black bee. However, growing interest in the native bee resulted in the establishment of LZB in 2015, and the association now has 50 Flemish and Dutch members. Black queens were introduced from Chimay in the southeast of Belgium and initial matings of their progeny provided bees with higher than expected A.m.m. morphometric characteristics given that the area is dominated by A. m. carnica. A survey of 75 beekeepers in the area also found that 86% would switch to A.m.m. if they could. Ralf Ullrich of Zuchtverband Dunkle Biene Deutschland discussed efforts to reintroduce the native black bee BIM 49 – Spr ing 2017 23 Fig. 2. Conference participants. (Photo: mellifera.ch.) of Germany. From the 1930s, major imports of of A. m. carnica bees from Austria resulted in an extremely hybridised population, and from the 1950s onward, it was decided to keep only A. m. carnica in Germany. Initial attempts to reintroduce A.m.m. was hampered by problems relating to the introduction of A.m.m. queens into A. m. carnica colonies, as well as practical issues relating to cell building and mating nuclei. Many of the best mating locations in Germany are already being used by non-A.m.m. beekeepers, but a suitable site was found in the Alps, and successful matings were carried out for two years. However, there was no legal protection for the site and other beekeepers moved into the area. This year, a new mating station has been set up, and initial efforts with instrumental insemination have developed well. The association now has 56 members keeping around 200 pure A.m.m. colonies. Andrew Abrahams discussed the legal status of the black bee reserve on the island of Colonsay in the Scottish Hebrides. Although there was a black bee mating apiary on Colonsay in the 1940s-1950s, Andrew was responsible for establishing the current reserve. This involved tortuous negotiations with government officials and a comprehensive exploration of both agricultural and conservation legislation. After many years, a bill was passed in the Scottish Parliament setting up the reserve, which now provides A.m.m. queens for export to the rest of Scotland. In a second talk, Andrew examined challenges relating to selection and improvement within the small, isolated Colonsay population. The island population is based on just 30 queens, and new queens cannot be imported because of the threat to Colonsay's varroa-free status and because of the possible introduction of undesirable genes. Some improvement of the population is needed to maintain good productivity, docility and swarming characteristics, but too rapid improvement would lead to loss of genetic variability. Andrew practices a strategy in which the worst queens are culled and the rest are allowed to replace themselves. Genetic studies of the Colonsay A.m.m. population in 2000 and again in 2010 revealed that inbreeding was practically negligible. Janis Trops reported on the status and breeding of the black bee in Latvia. There are around 4,000 beekeepers in Latvia, mostly managing A. m. carnica, Buckfast and A. m. ligustica of Finnish origin. Around 20 beekeepers keep roughly 350 A.m.m. colonies, although the black bee is increasing in popularity. The A.m.m. breeding programme involves station mating and instrumental insemination, and there is a strong emphasis on breeding for hygienic behaviour. Black bees are found to forage ling heather better than Buckfast bees, where heather honey fermentation is a major problem possibly due to the genetic influence of A. m. anatolica. Marija Ivoilova of the Russian Association for the Conservation of A.m.m. examined the influence of various factors on the quality of queens produced in a queen rearing programme. A graftless system involving the Jenter system provided more and heavier queens. Queens should be selected at the capped-cell stage, and cells with a length of less than 22 mm should be rejected. The best queens were produced during the swarming period, at average temperatures of 16-28ºC, and with flows of less than 1.2 kg/day. Feeding using a newly developed supplement (APIKAR) increased the number of queens reared and their laying abilities. Anna Brandorf of the same group examined flower specialisation of A.m.m. in north-eastern Russia. Analysis of the pollen loads of foragers returning to A.m.m. and A. m. carpatica colonies revealed that the former prefer to specialise on a small number of flowers and that A.m.m. foragers tend to work more on plants that produce nectar and pollen simultaneously. This narrow floral specialisation would make A.m.m. better at pollinating agricultural crops. Interestingly, despite their shorter tongues, A.m.m. foragers had no problem collecting nectar from red clover, probably due to the exploitation of capillary action in warm temperatures. Eoghan Mac Giolla Coda discussed the efforts of the Native Irish Honey Bee Society (NIHBS) to preserve and breed Irish strains of A.m.m. He out- 24 BIM 49 – Spr ing 2017 Fig. 3. Presentation by the Finnish delegation: l-r Raija Haataja-Nurminen, Aimo Nurminen, Lassi Kauko, Maritta Martikkala, Tuula Lehtonen. (Photo: Philip Denwood). lined NIHBS' involvement in training and educating beekeepers on bee improvement and bee breeding, the society's research collaborations with third-level institutes, its interactions with governmental agencies in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, and challenges faced in conserving the native Irish honey bee. Jack Hassett of Limerick Institute of Technology reported on the ongoing genetic analysis of the native Irish honey bee. DNA was extracted from the hind legs of honey bees from several locations in Ireland. Mitochondrial sequences were analysed to examine subspecies and lineage and microsatellite sequences were used to determine the level of hybridisation. The data revealed a large and diverse A.m.m. population, including genotypes possibly unique to Ireland. In addition, hybridisation was found to be extremely low, with preliminary indications that the Irish A.m.m. population is one of the purest in Europe. Keith Browne of National University of Ireland, Galway, reported on research into factors that influence the health of the Irish A.m.m. population. Data from managed A.m.m. colonies reveals a considerable amount of variability in the ability to tolerate/resist varroa, providing scope for selecting and breeding from the more tolerant ones. Keith is also studying the ecology and genetics of feral honey bee colonies around Ireland. The findings suggest that these unmanaged bees have a very high proportion of A.m.m. genes, that they are adapted to the available, local habitats, and that they are capable of persisting without assistance. Gabrielle Soland of Apigenix and mellifera.ch, the Swiss Black Bee Association, described the application of modern molecular methods to the conservation and breeding of indigenous honey bees. Gabrielle highlighted problems associated with using wing-vein morphometry to quantify hybridisation. She emphasised that initially morphometry involved measuring a lot more morphological characters and was aimed at differentiating between different subspecies rather than determining hybridisation. Microsatellite DNA analysis has the advantage of not being affected by selection pressure and provides a strong differentiation between different subspecies. Such molecular techniques have played a major role in conserving Swiss A.m.m. populations, resulting in a decline in hybrid stocks. Balser Fried, also of mellifera.ch, discussed lessons learned from the breeding of A.m.m. queens in Switzerland. According to Balser, sustainable conservation of A.m.m. requires the line breeding of purebred queens. Even the presence of a small number of strange drones at a drone congregation area causes a considerable reduction in the proportion of purely mated queens. However, controlled mating with pure-bred drones can reduce the amount of hybridisation in a population in a few generations. Padruot Fried reported on efforts to protect A.m.m. in Switzerland. Of the estimated 150,000 honey bee colonies in Switzerland, about 10% are pure A.m.m., although there are also many hybrids between A.m.m. and A. m. carnica. Around 5,000 pure-bred A.m.m. queens are produced each year. In 2014, mellifera. ch, together with the national beekeeping organisation, Apisuisse, initiated a project in four areas in which A.m.m. is dominant to study the structure of the local bee populations and to replace hybrids with pure-breed queens. It is hoped that once good A.m.m. populations are established, mating stations can be set up to provide a high degree of purity in following generations. Alexander Uzonov of the Smartbees Project discussed activities for genetic improvement of A.m.m. within the project. Alexander first described the Beebreed database (beebreed. eu), which has a large amount of data on A. m. carnica breeding lines but very little on A.m.m.. He then reviewed the results of the COLOSS pan-European study on genetic- environmental interactions in honey bees. This found that local bees perform significantly better than non-local bees with regard to survival and that productivity also depends on local adaptation. There were large variations in many other characters, but it is obvious that local honey bees could improve even further with more organised breeding activities. Alexander then described the Smartbees project, outlining the criteria for testing and selection and the breeding goals (www.smartbees.eu). Job van Praagh of the Blankensee Breeding Programme in Germany discussed the potential benefit of homogenous mixing of sperm for the selection of honey bees for varroa tolerance using instrumental insemination. Sperm was collected from as many as 7,000 drones and stirred to- BIM 49 – Spr ing 2017 25 Fig. 4. Presentation by Balser Fried (Switzerland) (Photo: Philip Denwood.) gether with 10% new sperm containing the varroa-tolerance VSH trait. A total of 250 queens were inseminated with the mixed trait, and genetic analysis confirmed that mixing was homogeneous. The behaviour of the bees in the various sisterqueen groups was found to be consistent. Martine Dermine of the Belgian black bee organisation Mellifica and Balser Fried of the Swiss black bee organisation, mellifera.ch, highlighted two projects in which the Slow Food movement supports A.m.m. beekeepers. In the Belgian black bee conservation area of Chimay, a Slow Food certification scheme allows A.m.m. beekeepers to market their honey with a special origin label. The initiative has garnered considerable media and political attention and has attracted the attention of non-A.m.m. beekeepers. A similar collaboration in Switzerland among mellifera.ch, Slow Food, and the COOP supermarket chain enables A.m.m. beekeepers to put a unique label on their honey. Most of the logistical support for the scheme is provided by COOP, and the jars contain considerable information on A.m.m.. There are now 25 beekeepers producing 12,000 jars per annum under the scheme. Overall, this was probably one of the best beekeeping conferences I have attended. The presentations were generally excellent and provided great insights into the challenges faced by A.m.m. beekeepers across Europe, the progress being made, and scientific research into the black bee. As well as the formal lectures, there was considerable information exchange in question-and-answer sessions after each talk, as well as in more informal exchanges at breaks and meals (and of course at the bar!). The lecture facilities, the accommodation and the meals were excellent, and Marleen Boerjan and her team at De Duurzame Bij deserve congratulations for their outstanding hosting of the event. From the point of view of the Irish delegation, of whom I was one, the work being carried out by a myriad of black bee groups across Europe show that NIHBS are not alone, and we should probably do more to benefit from the experiences of these other groups. The Irish research presented at the meeting was extremely well received, and there was astonishment at the purity and healthy status of the Irish population. There were also many enquiries about the availability of black Irish queens, especially for areas in which native A.m.m. populations have been all but wiped out. The next SICAMM conference will be held in Mustiala, Finland, on July 13- 15, 2018. (The summer date is because snow can often arrive in Finland in autumn, and the hosts want to bring delegates to see Finnish A.m.m. colonies). The conference has yet to be hosted by Ireland, despite our strong black bee movement, but maybe 2020? Eoghan Mac Giolla Coda This article is reprinted with some minor editing from The Four Seasons, Magazine of the Native Irish Honeybee Society, Issue 64, Winter 2016, pp. 14-21. 26 BIM 49 – Spr ing 2017 Fig. 5. Delegates dancing to folk music from the Low Countries by the group “Madlot”. (Photo: Philip Denwood) When considering the complex organisation of a honey bee colony, the bees appear to be showing intelligent behaviour. However, much behaviour is governed not by intelligence, i.e. the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills, but by chemical responses. These chemical responses are produced by pheromones: a chemical or mixture of chemicals released by a bee that affects the behaviour or physiology of other bees. They may cause rapid changes in behaviour e.g. the alarm pheromone quickly engages other bees to defend, or long-term changes in both behaviour and physiology e.g. the brood pheromone suppresses worker’s ovary development. Examples of honey bee pheromones: Alarm pheromones The Koschevnikov gland near the sting shaft releases an alarm pheromone containing more than 40 components including iso-pentyl acetate. They are highly volatile and smell like bananas. They attract other bees to sting. The solvent in aftershave or perfume is similar to iso-pentyl acetate and will elicit the same response. It was thought that another alarm pheromone was 2-heptanone released by the mandibular glands. However, it has been determined that bees use it to anaesthetise and paralyze intruders – bees sink their mandibles into their opponents and emit 2-heptanone into the lesion to numb the area. The bees are then able to remove the intruders from the hive, which gives protection from their main enemies, wax moth larvae and varroa.1 Beeswax pheromone affects intensity of hoarding behaviour. Brood recognition pheromone is produced by larvae and pupae and helps nurse bees distinguish between worker and drone larvae and pupae. It also inhibits development of ovaries in workers. Diploid drone cannibalism pheromone, produced by diploid drone larvae, causes workers to eat diploid drone larvae preventing the colony rearing diploid drones.4 Drone pheromone enables drones to form a congregation area. Dufour’s gland pheromone (‘alkaline gland’) only occurs in females i.e. queens and workers. It is not clearly understood. It is said to be responsible for retinue formation around the queen3 and allows worker bees to distinguish between eggs laid by a queen and those laid by workers. The composition of the pheromone changes as a worker evolves into a laying worker. Egg marking pheromone allows worker bees to distinguish between queen-laid and worker-laid eggs. Faecal pheromone is produced by virgin queens. Fights between virgin queens or virgin queens and workers are sometimes resolved when virgin queens squirt faeces on the opponents. Workers covered in pheromone-laced faeces retire to groom; virgin queens covered in faeces are ignored by the workers. Footprint pheromone is secreted from the workers’ feet and is attractive to other bees. It may help foragers locate a good food source and aid finding the hive entrance. Forager pheromone (worker pheromone). Ethyl oleate is released by older forager bees to slow the maturing of nurse bees to keep the ratio of nurse bees to forager bees in the balance that is most beneficial to the hive. Nasanov gland pheromone. Workers expose the gland located between the sixth and seventh abdominal tergites and by fanning send the scent into the air. It is used to attract nest mates to the hive entrance, a clustering swarm or a food source and attracting a swarm to a nesting site. The smell of the Nasonov pheromone, including geraniol, citral, nerolic acid and geranic acid, can often be detected in the air. Tarsal (Arnhart gland) pheromone is similar to the footprint pheromone but is secreted by the queen. It is deposited on the surface of the comb and is believed to delay or prevent queen cell construction – it diminishes as the queen ages. Tergite pheromone is produced by all the bees in the hive, but the composition and amount varies with the type of bee. Virgin queen’s tergite pheromone is believed to be related to fighting among virgin queens. Queen mandibular pheromone (‘Queen substance’) regulates social behaviour, swarming, mating and suppression of laying workers. It is spread throughout the hive by the BIM 49 – Spr ing 2017 27 Intelligence v chemical responses in honey bees Brood recognition pheromone is produced by larvae and pupae and helps nurse bees distinguish between worker and drone larvae and pupae workers alerting colony members that the colony is queen-right and operating normally. The most important components are: u 9-oxodec-2-enoic acid (9-ODA) inhibits queen rearing as well as ovarian development in worker bees, strong sexual attractant for drones when on a nuptial flight, critical to worker recognition of the presence of a queen in the hive. u 9-hydroxy-2-enoic acid (9-HDA) promotes stability of a swarm. Queen retinue pheromone encourages workers to groom and feed the queen and causes a retinue of attendants to surround and care for her. A pheromone affects the behaviour of another individual of the same species. A pheromone that affects the behaviour of individuals of a different species is called a kairomone, used by parasitic or predatory insects to locate their hosts or prey. Varroa destructor and Apis mellifera are different species. Varroa uses the odour produced by the honey bee to find a host. Brian P. Dennis Acknowledgement: Rusty Burlew, Honey Bee Suite for permission to use her article on pheromones. References: 1. “Honeybee Bites Can Act As Anesthetics,” Medical News Today, 17 Oct. 2012. 2. www.honeybee.drawwing.org/ book/dufour’s-gland. 3. Wikipedia: Honey Bee Pheromones. 4. www.easternmobeekeepers.com. Nowadays, no smoking signs outside public buildings are commonplace. I suggest that they should also be displayed outside hives! Before opening a hive for examination, the usual advice is to smoke the hive entrance. Almost any beekeeping primer could be cited e.g. in Guide to Bees and Honey1, Ted Hooper says ”Gently smoke the entrance to the hive. The smell of smoke causes the bees to fill themselves up with honey … and this renders them much more amenable to handling. It takes about two minutes for the bees to fill up and for the full effect of the smoking to be obtained.” This is what I was taught to do and it is what I did. I then read Don’t be an Awful Beekeeper2 by Bruce Crookson in which he wrote “Awful beekeepers pump smoke into the entrance, driving the bees to the top to meet the keeper! The other books tell you to. Don’t. Be awless. Smoke through the feedhole. Loosen the crown board and take it off when they’ve got over the shock of your breaking the propolis.” Several years before I started keeping bees I had read Bee-Keeping Practice3 by F. S. Stuart. Although it aroused my interest, I only had a minimal recollection and understanding until I had a hive of bees. I reread what F.S. Stuart had to say about ‘Manipulation and Examination’: “A manipulation hint sometimes given is to blow smoke into the hive entrance before manipulation. This should be done only with the greatest caution. On a hot day it 28 BIM 49 – Spr ing 2017 This entrance is a non-smoking area. Gently smoke the entrance to the hive. The smell of smoke causes the bees to fill themselves up with honey … and this renders them much more amenable to handling ... drives off all the fanners; the subsequent manipulation creates excitement and still further raises the temperature of the hive. I have seen dozens of suffocated bees carried out after too much entrance-smoking, and occasionally the brood gets ‘scalded’ through subsequent excitement and heat in the hive. Apart from that, the process of smoking the entrance does not seem to me to make the slightest difference to the behaviour or temper of the hive!” Browsing through some old Bee Craft magazines, I discovered that criticism of the practice of smoking the hive entrance was not new. In 1938, an article entitled The Smoker by L. J. Rogers was published in which he wrote: “In spite of what most of the text books say, NEVER smoke the hive entrance: confine the smoke solely to the parts of the hive that are being opened. The only effect smoke has when applied to an entrance is to demoralize the entire guard on duty there; render the bees open to any annoyance from robbers or other enemies, and send them running to the tops of the frames – exactly where they are not wanted. “This is not a modern fad, but an accepted fact amongst present-day beekeepers. Leave the entrance alone, and a glance at the flight board after a manipulation will show that both the guards, and the field bees coming and going, are actually unaware that any disturbance of the hive has taken place.” It may have been “an accepted fact amongst present-day beekeepers” in 1938, but appears to have been forgotten by the time I started beekeeping! To be fair to Ted Hooper, an experienced and well-respected beekeeper, he does go on to say: “The beekeeper, as he becomes more experienced and confident in his handling, will find that smoking at the entrance can be cut out entirely, smoke being applied under the crown board as this is removed.” L.J. Rogers also goes on to say: “There is, of course, one exception to this rule, i.e. when a savage colony has to be dealt with. Then a thorough subduing with smoke at the entrance is often the only means of making the bees tractable.” When it is necessary to examine a colony, I ensure my smoker is handy and burning well. Having removed the roof and crown board, I use the smoker to control the bees i.e. if they start to come up, a little smoke sends them down. If they are tetchy, more smoke may be needed. I want to cause as little disturbance as possible – on a warm day when the bees are actively foraging, they should hardly notice my presence. In poor weather they will not be foraging and will be ‘at home’ and not happy! Rather than using smoke in an attempt to subdue them, leave the examination (if possible) for another, better, day. Apart from the reason for the examination, I want to assess their temper without subduing them with smoke. I try not to keep bad tempered bees, but they can be useful in an out-apiary! In which case I follow L.J. Rogers’ advice. Brian P. Dennis References: 1. Blandford Press Ltd. 1976. ISBN 0 7137 0782 8. 2. Northern Bee Books 1987. ISBN 0-907908-40-3. 3. C. Arthur Pearson Ltd. 1945. From the archives. “He had rather an unusual veil for it had a smoke blackened hole in the front and through it was protruding a lighted pipe. I asked him later if it was to keep the bees away, but he said ‘No. I don’t like to miss the chance of a smoke even when beekeeping and I can’t very well smoke a cigarette inside’.” A tribute to the late Mr Lewis – NBKA’s Bulletin Spring 1975. Mr Lewis died aged 86. BIM 49 – Spr ing 2017 29 BIBBA Membership Subscriptions Subs were due on 01.01.17 Please ensure that you pay your annual subscription to the Charity promptly. You may do this via our website at www.bibba.com/subscribe where you can use a Credit/Debit card or set up a Direct Debit for renewals. Alternatively you may use the renewal form printed on the back of the address cover sheet sent with your magazine and send us a cheque. Early payment helps our Treasurer Iain Harley and saves time and unnecessary money in sending out reminders to late payers. 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