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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.

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…

What does ‘near-native’ mean?

Bees of other sub-species have been imported into Britain and Ireland for over 150 years resulting in much introgression of genetic material into the native stock. As a result ‘pure’ stocks of bees of the native sub-species can be difficult to find. ‘Near-native’ refers to bees which have a native appearance as well as characteristics similar to native bees although…

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…
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Scottish Native Honey Bee Society

Would you like to support the keeping of native honey bees in Scotland? Join SNHBS, find out all about native honey bees, how to help them and help shape the new society at its first meeting.

The Native Irish Honey Bee

The Native Irish Honey Bee Apis mellifera mellifera Launched on the 18th September by our close friends and colleagues in Ireland, this book will become a ‘go to’ source of information not just for beekeepers in the island of Ireland but for all beekeepers who keep Amm bees or who want to know more. It covers all the essentials: What…

History

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.

Links

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. ScientificBeekeeping.com 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…

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.

Constitution-2008

Bee Improvement and Bee Breeders' Association Constitution Adopted at the Annual General Meeting 20th April 2008. 1. Commencement. This Constitution shall operate immediately upon adoption and shall supersede all Constitutions previously in force. 2. Name. The name of the Association shall be the Bee Improvement and Bee Breeders' Association (BIBBA), hereinafter called the Association. 3. Objectives. The objectives of the…

Bee Improvement and Bee Breeding Groups

BIBBA encourages the formation of local queen rearing groups to aid the improvement of local bees and to support the objectives of BIBBA to improve and propagate the native and near native honey bees. Benefits of Local GroupsMany beekeepers only have a small number of colonies, so they find it easier to work with others. A group will have beekeepers…

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…

John Harding Queen Rearing

The main purpose of this systemis its versatility and to have an additional use so you always double its value in purpose, and it's not lying around for the best part of the year unused. Given the choice honeybees prefer vertical narrow empty spaces with unlimited depth, and just enough space to build 5 or6 combs side by side...

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…

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.…
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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
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Lecturers

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…

Upper Dee Bee Improvement Group

This group covers a substantial area stretching from the Dee valley (Glyn Dyfrdwy) between Corwen and Bala and Westwards to Cwm Main on the edge of the Snowdonia National Park. The aim of the group is to achieve a high percentage of quality native or near-native drones in the district so that everyone in the area can let their virgins…

Stiperstones & Long Mynd Area Bee Breeders – SY15

SLABB [Stiperstones & Long Mynd Area Bee Breeders] is based in mid Shropshire/adjacent Welsh Marches. Core activities centre around selective breeding from the best near-native bees and local bees showing native characteristics and behaviours, hence improving thrift, robustness and temperament. Happy to work collaboratively with individuals or other small groups in the area who share our aims. We use grafting…
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Ardnamurchan Jan 2016

Ardnamurchan Scottish Black Bee Project This Summer will be the third season for the project, which began in 2014 with funding support from BIBBA and 5 queens from Andrew Abraham’s Black Bee Reserve on the Isle of Colonsay. The Ardnamurchan peninsular, being isolated and with no known honey bee colonies before the project started, provides a near-unique opportunity for pure…

Events

BIBBA are committed to helping beekeepers to improve their bees in a number of ways, including courses, workshops, demonstrations, lectures and conferences. These will be in line with the aims of BIBBA, with the emphasis on native bees and those displaying their characteristics (termed "near native"). Events are of different duration and can take a number of forms, both with…

Frequently Asked Questions

BIBBA are regularly asked very similar questions via email or when attending shows and events.  These FAQs are intended to answer some of them in the hope they will help beekeepers understand BIBBA and native and near native bees. If you cannot find the answer to your question above, please complete this form

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…

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”

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…

Can BIBBA supply me with queens?

BIBBA as an organisation is not in a position to supply members with appropriate breeding material. BIBBA encourages members to work with other local beekeepers to select and improve the quality of bees in their area by using the best local material available. It is not advisable to source queens from a different environment from the one they have been…

Where do I find out about local groups or get support to start one?

BIBBA encourages members to set up local queen rearing groups.  click to see active groups here If you are already breeding or rearing queens with the aim of selecting for native traits but have not registered as a group we would be pleased if you would consider registering by contacting either the groups coordinator or the web master. If there…
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Huw Evans “Electronic monitoring as a tool for better beekeeping and queen breeding”

With a consuming interest in engineering and innovation since a young age, Huw obtained a First Class Honour’s degree in Electronic Engineering and PhD in Microwave Engineering. A keen beekeeper for over 15 years now, Huw has a passion for finding out what bees are doing while undisturbed. As a result, Huw is the managing director and co-founder of Arnia,…
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Jim Pearson “Myths, Legends and Lies”

Jim Pearson is a member of the Wakefield and Pontefract branch of the Yorkshire BKA. He is a practical beekeeper who applies science where required and where he sees the relevance to his beekeeping. As a progressive beekeeper he is always trying to understand bees more and in doing so he has discovered that some of what has become standard…

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.
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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…

Phil Chandler “Balanced Beekeeping: Top Bars, Eco Floors and Black Bees”

I took up beekeeping in 2000 after becoming increasingly concerned about the impact of modern agriculture on wild populations of pollinators. I started with WBC hives, but quickly became interested in more natural beekeeping systems, designing and building a number of variations of the top bar hive and experimenting with low-interference protocols. I worked at Buckfast Abbey for a year…
Read more » Phil Chandler “Balanced Beekeeping: Top Bars, Eco Floors and Black Bees”

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…
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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…
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Nick Bentham-Green “Bee Improvement in Cornwall, Achievements and Aspirations”

Nick was in a ‘former life’ a Royal Marines Officer for 32 years. Nick first started keeping bees in the early 90’s having between 2 and 5 colonies for many years. For most of that time he bred his own queens, quickly realising that there had to be a better way rather than importing queens. Nick chaired the Tavistock Branch…
Read more » Nick Bentham-Green “Bee Improvement in Cornwall, Achievements and Aspirations”

Bee Improvement Strategies – Kevin Thorn -part two

<- Part One More advanced Strategies in Bee Improvement suitable for native bees Many people find queen rearing a daunting prospect. There is an overwhelming amount of information, methods and advice. For clarity you simply need to select your selection criteria, a method of starting queen cells, a method of mating your queens and a method of introducing your queens.…
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Group Presentation & Discussion “Bee improvement and bee breeding groups – some experiences and ideas”

Three representatives from existing bee breeding and bee improvement groups, operating in different areas, under different conditions, will each give a short presentation on their own group. They will tell us about their history, how they have progressed and how they may have dealt with problems or opportunities. An open discussion will follow, which should cover the various aspects of…
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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…