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What is Apis mellifera mellifera?

What is Apis mellifera mellifera? Apis mellifera mellifera, Linnaeus 1758 is a subspecies and northern geographical race of Apis mellifera, the western honeybee. It may be subdivided into many local ecotypes. Its various vernacular names include: “Dark European Honeybee” (English), “L’abeille noire” (French), “Die dunkle Biene” (German) and “Det mörka Nordiska Biet” (Swedish). Apis mellifera mellifera is distinguished from other…

Mike Saunders “A current attempt to recover Apis mellifera mellifera from mongrelised stocks in the Welsh Borders”

Professional engineer. Keeping bees since 2006. Helped two very experienced beekeepers for 2 years trying to improve bees by small-scale rearing of first-cross Carniolan queens. In 2009 switched to using "nearish-native" native bees, and since then has been studying the native bee and the science of bee breeding. In 2010 started a local Group using selective breeding of the "nearish-native"…
Read more » Mike Saunders “A current attempt to recover Apis mellifera mellifera from mongrelised stocks in the Welsh Borders”

The Dark Bee Apis mellifera mellifera in the United Kingdom

The article below is based on a lecture given by Philip Denwood to the SICAMM Conference in Landquart, Switzerland, on 1st September 2012 Articles by Dr. Dorian Pritchard,1 and by Norman Carreck2 of the Laboratory of Social Insects at Sussex, have presented the evidence, convincing in my opinion, for the immigration of the honey bee into mainland Britain across the…
Read more » The Dark Bee Apis mellifera mellifera in the United Kingdom


beo1 Beowulf Cooper founder member and driving force behind BIBBA BIBBA was formed originally as the Village Bee Breeders Association (VBBA) in 1964 by Beowulf Cooper and a small group of beekeepers.


Dave Cushman's Website Several thousand pages of beekeeping and bee breeding information. Considered to be one of the world's most informative beekeeping websites. Beekeeping through the eyes of biologist Randy Oliver: "this site is a record of my learning process as I try to understand aspects of colony health and productivity, and the reasons why various management techniques work…

Male Fitness of Honeybee Colonies

We found clear evidence for an extensive diversity in male mating success at the colony level. Some colonies had significantly more matings (about an order of magnitude) than other drone producing colonies in the same year.

The Honeybees of the British Isles

mellifera) and covers their characteristics, supersedure, management, breeding, selection and mating behaviour, including an explanation of apiary vicinity mating and the formation of drone assemblies.

Honey bee conservation

In order to compensate the dramatic losses of honeybee colonies that we see globally for many years now, beekeepers try to restore their apiaries by importing colonies or queens in the hopes that those survive better than their previous bees. Such imports increase the level of introgression with local honeybee populations in which genetic variability is geographically highly structured. In…

Find, Mark & Clip the Queen

Finding queens in Spring, and marking and clipping them whenever necessary, has become an integral part of my seasonal beekeeping programme. Advice from Micheál Mac Giolla Coda

Laesoe 2004

Laesoe Conference 2004 BIBBA and SICAMM Combined Laesoe Conference 2004 Ten delegates from Ireland and the UK decided to approach the Danish island of Laeso, venue of the 2004 SICAMM/BIBBA Dark Bee Conference, from Gothenburg in Sweden. The chosen conveyance, Mr. Börjeson's "sea taxi", provided an efficient though very choppy passage. Once on the island we joined other BIBBA members…

Native Honey Bees

It is fairly certain that the Dark European Honey Bee, Apis mellifera mellifera, has been native to mainland Britain since before the closing of the Channel Landbridge, when sea levels rose following the last Ice Age. They became isolated and adapted to the different conditions they found themselves in.

John Dew’s Views – the Best Bee

There is a tendency amongst some beekeepers to believe that the “grass is greener on the other side of the fence”, that imported bees are superior to the indigenous bee

Terry Hitchman

Terry lives in South Warwickshire in a village near Stratford-upon-Avon. He is a self employed builder with a farming background and his hobbies are beekeeping, farming and horses. Terry has 35 years experience in beekeeping and has been a member of BIBBA for approximately 20 years. He purchased his first Apis mellifera mellifera virgin queen at the East Midlands bee…

Colonsay a honey bee haven

TWO remote Hebridean islands have become the UK’s first reserve for native honey bees after a landmark ruling by Scottish ministers. There are around 250 native species of bee in Britain but just a single honey bee – Apis mellifera. The isles of Colonsay and Oronsay are currently home to around 50 colonies and have now been named in a…

A Native Dark Bee Project

Margie Ramsay reports on a project reintroducing A.m.m. to a reserve in Scotland. Update July 2015 In 1905, just before the First World War there was a 20 year long bee plague called Isle of Wight disease which was considered by many, including bee breeder Brother Adam, to have eradicated the native subspecies of dark European honeybee Apis mellifera mellifera

Galtee Bee Breeding Group

The Galtee Bee Breeding Group was formed in the year 1991 with the object of conservation, study and improvement of the native strains of dark European Honeybee Apis mellifera mellifera in the Galtee/Vee valley and surrounding areas of South Tipperary. In the first year we had only four members and increased our membership only very gradually during the early years.…

Eoghan Mac Giolla Coda “Producing Honey Under Difficult Conditions”

Eoghan Mac Giolla Coda is a commercial beekeeper based on Ireland's east coast. As a fourth-generation beekeeper, he learned his craft through helping his father with the famous Galtee black bees of Co. Tipperary. After settling in Co. Louth, he embarked on his own beekeeping enterprise using local strains of native Irish honey bee. He is Education Officer for Co.…
Read more » Eoghan Mac Giolla Coda “Producing Honey Under Difficult Conditions”

Colony Assessment Criteria

Simple criteria we can all set for our bees Despite what you may hear or read, it is fairly easy to change some of the characteristics of your bees. This can be done by assessing colonies against a set of criteria that you want in your bees, using queen cells from colonies displaying those criteria and culling those that don't.…

Genetic Identification and Introgression Analysis

This system describes an essential tool in Europe for genetic stock identification and estimation of admixture levels which can assist management strategies and monitor honey bee conservation programs. View pdf
Read more » Genetic Identification and Introgression Analysis


Beekeeping Lecturers The following list of lecturers and demonstrators is intended to help event organisers plan their programme. All of them support the aims of BIBBA, but BIBBA are unable to verify their knowledge, ability or suitability to your requirements. Please make arrangements directly with the speaker. Roger Patterson Roger Lives in West Sussex and will travel any distance. Tel…

B4 Project – Cornwall – PL17

The purpose of the B4 Project is to conserve, protect and increase the population of Apis mellifera mellifera, the European Dark Honey Bee (EDHB), by the fusion of science and beekeeping. This will be achieved by: Setting up reserves with like-minded beekeepers. Working closely with scientists to identify genetic purity of samples taken geographically. Informing the public about the EDHB.…

Genetic Origin & Survival

On average, colonies with queens from local origin survived 83 days longer compared to non-local origins (p < 0.001). This result demonstrates strong genotype by environment interactions. Consequently, the conservation of bee diversity and the support of local breeding activities must be prioritised in order to prevent colony losses, to optimize a sustainable productivity and to enable a continuous adaptation…

Controlled Mating and Hygienic Behaviour

we compared the levels of hygiene in colonies headed by daughter queens reared from hygienic mother colonies that were either instrumentally inseminated with sperm from drones reared from hygienic colonies or allowed to mate naturally with naturally-occurring drones.

The Marches Group – SY10

We operate on a small scale in the Tanat Valley, rearing and improving our stocks of native Apis Mellifera Mellifera contact Steven Jones

AGM 2016

09.30         Coffee & biscuits10.00         Welcome from PresidentSpeaker: Sue Loughran, Bangor University, Wales.11.30          Annual General Meeting Trustees Report & Accounts Now Online Sue Loughran "A Tempero Spatial Analysis of Bee Races in North Wales" I live in hill farming country in North West Wales, near the village of Llanfairtalhaiarn, Abergele. Originally from Liverpool, I moved to Wales in 2001, where I…

What is the ‘British Black’ bee?

This is a local name for the honey bee sub-species Apis mellifera mellifera (Amm) that is native to the British Isles. There are about 28 different sub-species of the western honey bee, Apis mellifera, originally distributed through Europe, the Near East and Africa. In the British Isles and Northern Europe, from France to the Urals, the native sub-species is commonly…

Tony Maggs “Bee Farming with Native/Near Native Bees”

After pestering a friend of the family for many years, who was an experienced beekeeper in the Nottinghamshire Beekeepers Association, he eventually helped me to start beekeeping by taking me with him to hive a swarm. This mentor turned out to be a keen member of BIBBA, so pointed me the right direction. After five years of beekeeping, I started…
Read more » Tony Maggs “Bee Farming with Native/Near Native Bees”

Philip Denwood “Towards a History of the Dark Bee in Britain”

Philip has been keeping bees in the Chiltern area since 1971, and was attracted to BIBBA by seeing the publications on display at the National Honey Show in 1972. He served on the BIBBA Committee for many years. After Beowulf Cooper’s death he collected his published and unpublished writings and from them compiled “The Honeybees of the British Isles”. He…
Read more » Philip Denwood “Towards a History of the Dark Bee in Britain”

Steve Rose “My Approach to Bee Selection”

Steve keeps around 40 colonies on high ground in North Wales with Snowdonia to the West and the Berwyn mountains to the East. He finds that for bees to thrive in his locality they have to be particularly well adapted. He thus heads a breeding group which selects for native traits that are typical of the local ecotype and makes…

The health and status of the feral honeybee population of the UK

abstract of thesis Catherine Eleanor Thompson: While declines in managed honeybee colonies are well documented, little is known about the health and status of feral honeybee populations. To date no studies have considered the wider pathogen burden in feral colonies, whether they represent a genetically distinct population, a remnant native population or a unique source of genetic resistance.
Read more » The health and status of the feral honeybee population of the UK

Some history of the East Midlands group

A problem that has long been with us, has been to find a mating site that gives reasonable isolation. We have used sites several hundred miles from our base. These include Spurn Point on the East Coast, and the Elan Valley in Wales. The restriction on movement of bees when varroa arrived put an end to such travelling, and over…

Keith Pierce “Apideas: Their operation and maintenance”

I have been beekeeping now for over 25 years, selectively rearing queens of our Dark Native Irish Bee, Apis mellifera mellifera. My selection program is based on the ability of my bees to over-winter strongly, together with disease resistance, docility, productivity, colour and more. My home and main mating apiary is just on the outskirts of Dublin city, with the…
Read more » Keith Pierce “Apideas: Their operation and maintenance”

Dorian Pritchard “Selective breeding without inbreeding; where’s the happy medium?”

Dorian Pritchard is a retired university lecturer in medical genetics. He has a PhD in genetics, is author of “Foundations of Developmental Genetics” and first author of “Medical Genetics At A Glance”. He has run 4 – 20 national hives in Northumberland since 1979 and was inspired to concentrate on the native Dark Bee, A. m. mellifera, after comparing the…
Read more » Dorian Pritchard “Selective breeding without inbreeding; where’s the happy medium?”

New Approach to the Mitotype Classification

The main problem of the black honeybee in Russia and European countries is the preservation of the indigenous gene pool purity; A new approach to the classification of the honeybee M mitotypes was suggested.

Work with Bangor University

North Wales BIBBA groups have teamed up with South Clwyd Beekeepers and Bangor University. The first study by Bangor concerned a survey of bee wings throughout South Clwyd. The wings were analysed using DrawWing and Morphplot. The samples were collected by BIBBA breeding groups and members of SCBKA and then tested by a number of BIBBA queen rearers and the…

test post

La mauvaise réputation L’utilisation de l’abeille noire par les apiculteurs a fortement reculé car elle a la réputation d’être agressive et de produire peu de miel. L’abeille noire n’est certes pas une abeille docile. Pour certains, cette capacité à se défendre, cette réactivité au stress, est même un avantage car elle oblige les hommes à adopter des pratiques apicoles qui…

The black bee, an increasingly rare pearl

translated from Pollinis "l'abeille noire" In addition to the many factors that are decimating bee colonies around the world, the black bee, the local bee, is facing a race for short-term profitability which favours the import of bees that are often unsuitable for our areas and are more fragile. A marvel of adaptation Lively, frugal and resistant, the black…

BIM 41 – Spring 2013

News from North Wales – Steve Rose AGM Proposal 2012 – Will Messenger The Native Bee – Dorian Pritchard Wing Morphometry Service – Will Messenger Trustees Report – Will Messenger Report and Accounts – Iain Harley Project Discovery Phase 2 – Will Messenger NIHBS – Aoife McGillycuddy Morphometry Measurements – Jacob Kahn PhD Genuine Imported Queens Part 2 – Will…

BIM 49 – Spring 2017

From the President – Jo Widdicombe Trials and Tribulations – Frank Hilton Are you a Natural Beekeeper? – Brian Dennis Natural Beekeeping – Philip Denwood Racial Profiling of Mongrels – Paul Honigmann Bee Improvement and QR – R Patterson History of Manx beekeeping – Cilla Platt Making Increase – Brian Dennis Locally Adapted Bees – Wally Shaw Bee Races in…

BIBBA Monthly – June 2020

keep up to date with NatBIP strategy take part in some DNA research see what you can do with a nuc box book up some BIBBA webinars

Albert Knight

an appreciation of one of BIBBA's stalwarts, by Brian P. Dennis and Roger Patterson.

Estimating C-lineage Introgression

Conservation efforts for A. m. mellifera are underway in multiple European countries requiring reliable and cost-efficient molecular tools to identify purebred colonies. Here, we developed four ancestry-informative SNP assays for high sample throughput genotyping using the iPLEX Mass Array system.


Strategy Statement BIBBA supports and promotes the sustainable conservation, restoration, study, selection, and improvement of honey bees that are native to the British Isles and Ireland (often referred to as the European Dark Bee or Apis mellifera mellifera). It supports: The restoration, study, selection and improvement of both the native honey bee (Apis mellifera mellifera) and the near-native honey bee;…

Sustainable Beekeeping:  A Future without Imports 2020

The morning will see presentations covering research relevant to native bees by collaborating research scientists from the Roslin Institute and The University of Plymouth. Apiary group contributions from the South West, presenting achievements, goals, events and participation opportunities.
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Bucks Berks & Oxon Bee Improvement (BBOBI ) – RG9

BBOBI was set up in 2019 as a co-operative in Henley-on-Thames, which borders Bucks Berks and Oxon. Although a large geographical area, the climate and forage are remarkably consistent across the area. As the first BIBBA group in the home counties, we aim to be a springboard for other local clusters, as they attract more members and hopefully set up…
Read more » Bucks Berks & Oxon Bee Improvement (BBOBI ) – RG9