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” local bees as the ways and means to the end of bee improvement. Since then has coordinated the Group’s breeding programme and its arduous task of learning about queen and drone-rearing, natural mating and instrumental insemination, colony assessment and bee morphometry and breeder evaluation and selection.

Lecture Title: “A current attempt to recover Apis mellifera mellifera from mongrelised stocks in the Welsh Borders”

Achieving sustained and demonstrable bee improvement in only a few years requires the use of selective breeding applied to bees which are nearly-enough from a single race, so that they breed true. In Britain, the native race Apis mellifera mellifera (A.m.m), is argued to be the best one to use, but it is hard to find in proven near-pure form except in a few parts of the Celtic fringe.

This talk describes an on-going attempt to use selective breeding to move locally-available mongrelized bees to “near-enough A.m.m” so that breeding for improvement is a practicable proposition. The emphasis is on the assessment and evaluation criteria for selecting breeding queens, including colony behaviour, bee morphometry, and if funding permits, affordable DNA testing.

Context is provided by outlining how the breeding for “near-enough A.m.m” is being conducted within the programme of breeding for improvement (i.e. colony productivity and ease of management).


Conference organisers note.

I became aware of what Mike Saunders was doing and I felt it was appropriate to include it in the conference programme, even though this approach is often not considered to be possible. In consultation with bee and genetic scientists he is developing a programme of bee improvement which it is hoped will be practicable for committed amateur beekeepers to use. It is hoped that the work will also be able to show that a new and more affordable DNA testing technique will help speed up the necessary task of recovering the native bee, and hence increase the rate at which mongrelised bees can be improved.

The programme is ongoing and during the presentation we will be brought right up to date with what might prove to be an exciting development.

Roger Patterson