The East Midlands group meets at the Thrumpton Apiary on the Nottinghamshire/Derbyshire border. Its members work together to improve local near native bees and welcome others committed to this aim.
Our aim: To breed local near native Apis mellifera mellifera (Amm) queens of the best genetic stock and to make these queens available to our members to establish the sub species in their own apiaries.
The Thrumpton Apiary, situated on the Derby/Nottingham border, and its bees have a distinguished 85 year history. East Midlands group has used the site since 1982. The current membership recognises the efforts of past local bee breeders and is building on this legacy. We have over the last six years replaced hives, assessed stock and experimented with different bee improvement methods and are now involved in a detailed bee improvement programme.
In 2014 we rediscovered our out-apiary site in a secluded valley and since 2015 have taken breeder drone colonies and virgin queens there for mating.
We continue to refine our assessment and evaluation protocols alongside a robust group wide record keeping system. To reduce intrusion of a colony’s natural development we are unifying ways to manage each colony.
The logic to our approach is that within the Amm subspecies are variants (ecotypes) across the British Isles that have adapted to local climate, forage and seasonal patterns. Given the history of the group and its apiary we assume that the Thrumpton bees have at least the average (45%) Amm DNA linage documented in recent research papers. It would be irresponsible to divert attention away from our current stock by only breeding new pure-bred queens from other UK sources that have adapted to the environment in which they were bred. The occasional judicious introduction of new genetic material from another UK source will be applied when collective agreement determines so.
Key to our plan is using line breeding based on Ruttner’s method. We are able to steadily extend the total colonies in the scheme by using the 200 plus colonies spread across the membership (currently 23). Members become custodians of the group’s colonies and agree to use the same assessment procedures ensuring that complex decisions of potential breeder queen qualities are comparable across the entire stock. Members also contribute to the operations at the main and out apiary sites particularly during the breeding season. Currently the group meets on Sunday afternoons and mid-week to accommodate family and work commitments.
Working together at the Thrumpton Apiary gives us as members a real opportunity to evolve local near enough native bees that can improve the stock in our personal apiaries.
Our group is very inclusive and welcomes all who wish to support the core purpose. We run informal training sessions to ensure those who wish to become involved have opportunities to develop their skills. Topics range across practical queen rearing, hive manipulation techniques, record keeping, assessment for ancestry and breeder potential, tasks for managing the three sites and taking nuclei to the out apiaries. Everyone will be involved in keeping colony and queen records, alongside the morphometrical data, to guide our practice. The group possesses instrumental insemination equipment that a sub group will be experimenting with during the coming season.
Having now consolidated our activities at Thrumpton and refined the rationale of all activities we are as a group now able to play a more active part in the BIBBA national network and welcome more members into the group committed to our aims.