Buck Berks & Oxon Bee Improvement (BBOBI)
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 their own regional groups.
To provide help, support and training to likeminded beekeepers. We encourage the sharing of educational material, the setting-up of group mentoring and small workshops by those more experienced. We encourage the sharing of knowledge to widen beekeepers expertise in queen breeding with the long term goal of bee improvement.
Breed a locally adapted dark honey bee
While we realise we are unlikely to be able to introduce a near native Apis mellifera mellifera (Amm) in the short to medium term, we wish to breed local adapted dark bees of the best genetic stock and to make these available to local beekeepers interested in establishing the sub species in their apiaries. We want to focus on temperament in the short term, with the aim of introducing other traits such as productivity, low swarminess and hygienic behaviour in the medium.
Hive nutrition and drones
We want to encourage beekeepers to actively seek out their best hive and encourage drone production using drone comb, and practice drone removal in hives of poor temperament. Poor drones are one of the main reasons for poor queens. They have a significant impact on the longevity of queens, because of poor mating and infertility. This is thought to be caused by poor nutrition and chemical miticides. We encourage beekeepers to value and nurture their drones with the same care they would their queens.
Encourage the use of British hybrid queens
We want to encourage people to buy British and support their fellow beekeepers by buying locally adapted British hybrids. We want to discourage the use of the so called ‘Buckfast bee’ whose name has become synonymous with open mated mongrels of dubious pedigree.
Discourage the importation of foreign bees
Lastly, we wish to discourage the use of imported foreign bees. Both BIBBA and the BBKA are now actively encouraging British beekeepers to breed their own queens rather than buying bees.
Most pests and diseases we are now having to manage are a direct result of imports. Tropilaelaps and Small Hive Beetle will both be able to survive in our climate and it’s only a matter of time before they are introduced into the UK. Each year we import thousands of queens from Italy, Greece and other parts of Europe. We hope to encourage more beekeepers to raise their own queens, or at least buy local.
Initially, we plan to use an existing dark bee strain, which was first introduced by Reg Hook, a founding member of SCBKA and a tutor at Berks College of Agriculture. Reg has been breeding near native dark bees for over 20 years and has distributed stock to both members of Reading and Wokingham BKA while teaching at BCA, so it makes sense to continue his work in the local area.
Free Virgin Queens
Due to a lack of resources, attempting to distribute mated queens, would significantly slow the progress of spreading local genetics and being able to modify temperament. It was therefore proposed to give away marked virgin queens during 2019 to anyone prepared to monitor and record their progress over 2 years and to record their results on a group app called Hivelog. Any beekeepers with queens demonstrating good temperament would be asked to add a frame of drone comb in year two and may also be asked to provide a frame of larvae for grafting.
Using this method we can have the maximum effect, using minimum resources. We encourage others to do the same with their own near native stock, to maximise the distribution of selected genetics in the local neighbourhood.