November 2022 BIBBA Monthly

November 2022 BIBBA Monthly

November 2022 BIBBA Monthly

Winter 2022/23 Webinars

below are the next two in our winter series; check the home page for the registration link.

BIBBA members must register to view webinars; a registration link will be emailed out and will also appear on the home page (to logged in members) one week before the event .
If a webinar is being recorded, this will be shared at a later date, usually 4 weeks later.
Only 100 members can join us in Zoom; overflow members can watch on YouTube (you will be prompted to watch on YouTube if the meeting is full).
Enjoy our winter webinar series!


Maximising Production with Native Honey Bees
- Colm ONeill

From 7:25 for 7:30

Colm ONeill has been beekeeping for over 50 years, he and his three brothers worked 30 colonies with their father until Colm took over the beekeeping operation in his early 20s. With his wife Imelda he manages 60 honey production colonies and supporting nuclei, producing honey, native queens, drones and worker bees.
They use only Amm bees for local adaption, ease of management and rapid Spring build-up. Both have full-time jobs, working the bees the weekends and queen rearing tasks as needed on weekday evenings.

He is education officer for his local association, a committee member for the Native Irish Honey Bee Society and holds beekeeping, bee improvement and queen rearing classes at his home apiary. Along with Jonathan Getty, he has been giving online training to the more than 200 members of the NIHBS Queen Rearing Group Scheme since 2021. Their management system gives them little or no swarming and facilitates the replacement of up to 50% of the brood combs each year. While there may be 20 or more frames with brood in a colony, only 14 frames need to be looked at during weekly inspections.


Genetics for the Beekeeper - Helen Mooney

From 7:25 for 7:30

Helen Mooney keeps 20 stocks of bees in the West of Ireland in County Mayo.  The climate is tough on bees that are not locally adapted to harsh damp weather, and with 12 years of beekeeping experience she has come to value the survival traits of the Dark bee. There is hybridisation to the North, in Sligo and also in South Mayo, but further South, in Connemara, County Galway are fellow Dark bee breeders and the overall Irish population remains robust and pure.

Helen is a Bee Master with the Federation of Irish Beekeepers Associations and a member of NIHBS, the Native Irish Honey Bee Society, for which she has written a chapter on basic genetics for beekeepers.  Along with maintaining and breeding dark bees in several apiaries, she now teaches on the Diploma in Apiculture in the University of Galway, her friendship with Prof Grace McCormack, who set up this course, dating back 30 years to when they were both PhD students in that University.

Normandy Black Bee
Norman black bees have been present in Normandy since the last Ice Age. They are threatened by commercial bees, parasites and the Asian hornet.

Normandy black bee gets protected species status and queen bee project

Native black bees have been declared a breed to be promoted and protected by Normandy regional council, which is funding associations to help boost the species.

Present in the region since the last ice age, the black bees, also called wild bees, are threatened by the introduction of commercial bees, especially the hybrid Buckfast bee, which was bred for quick reproduction and higher honey yields.

Pests, including honey bee mites and Asian hornets, also threaten the Norman black bees.


Article reproduced courtesy of France's English language newspaper,  

Plan to keep genetic purity of black bee

“The problem is that black bees and Buckfast bees can mate, and so the genetic purity of the black bee risks being lost,” Jean-Marie Godier, the president of one of the associations, Abeille Normande du Calvados, told The Connexion.

“In Normandy and to a certain extent in Brittany, our bees have been protected because the region has never been popular for the transhumance of bees, where keepers load hives on lorries and drive to new areas, like those seeking honey from lavender in Provence, for example.”

Breed more Norman black bee queens

DNA testing is used to identify pure Norman black bee queens and these individuals are then used to breed more black bee queens (queen bees develop when they are fed ‘royal jelly’ a special food, when they are at maggot stage.)

The black bee queens are then sent out to members of the association, who promise not to use hives with other bees within a three kilometre radius of the black bee hives.

“There are many myths about black bees which I have certainly not found true, mainly that they are fiercer and they do not produce as much honey,” said Mr Godier.

“I have been handling black bees with bare hands for 30 years without problems, and some years I have managed to gather 45kg of chestnut flower honey from black bee hives.”

He added: “In my experience it is only when there are hives crossed with hybrid bees that you get aggressive behaviour, by creating hybrids man has caused problems which did not exist before.”

Conservation of the Dark European Bee in Germany

Armin Lochner

(Translated using online facilities and tidied up by Jo Widdicombe)

The Landesverband Dunkle Biene Bayern e.V.,

Founded 2019

The Landesverband Dunkle Biene Bayern e.V. is dedicated to the preservation of the dark bee in Germany through various activities. Since its founding in 2019, the Association has grown steadily and now has 85 members, spread over the whole of the Federal Republic of Germany.

Within the Association, information is provided on various aspects of beekeeping, particularly with respect to the dark bee. The club communication runs via a platform for clubs, called the "club room". In addition, a cloud-based solution was introduced on which members can download information such as knowledge of the background of Apis mellifera mellifera, such as colony management, breeding and selection, as well as record card templates for the evaluation of colonies.

In practice, the Landesverband Dunkle Biene Bayern e.V. has the use of a mating station in Bavaria to produce pure bred queens. This is operated by our first Chairman, Armin Lochner. Assessments of colonies with queens mated here in 2021 were so positive that the number of drone colonies in 2022 was increased to 30 colonies with the hope of further successes on a larger scale.

We were proud that a joint project with Norway was launched this year and, we feel, this shows us that we are on the right track. It brings us a step closer to the long-term goal of creating stable, but genetically diverse, dark bee populations. The Landesverband Dunkle Biene Bayern e.V. is of the opinion that only through the exchange of genetic material, in both directions, long-term stable populations of Apis mellifera mellifera can be achieved, particularly in the original distribution areas.

In 2020 and 2021, a high number of pure-bred queen bees were imported from the Scandinavian distribution area to Germany. In 2022 we were able for the first time to export queens, whose mating took place in Germany, back to Norway for use as drone-producing colonies. This is unprecedented, never having been attempted before, and lays the foundation for the integration of new genetic diversity into the lines. This mutual exchange of genetics and knowledge is important to the Landesverband Dunkle Biene Bayern e.V. in the context of conservation breeding for the long term.

We have also made contacts in the British Isles and the Association aims to develop these contacts further. We look forward, with hope and determination, to a bright future for the dark bee and success in forming stable and genetically diverse populations of Apis mellifera mellifera throughout Europe. The results produced by the energetic work of dedicated breeders and propagators speak for themselves. In Germany, in particular, where poor genetic material is available, cooperation with foreign colleagues has proved a valuable factor. Our gratitude is reflected in friendly cooperation between the Landesverband Dunkle Biene Bayern e.V. and many individual breeders that  have been developed across borders.

Wishing for good over-wintering of colonies and a good start to the 2023 season.

The honeybee’s fingerprint – Simple methods of distinguishing honeybee races

“The honeybee’s fingerprint – Simple methods of distinguishing honeybee races” is a recording of a BIBBA workshop that was led by the Rev Eric Milner. The copyright date is 1991 and it was produced by Claire Waring, a long-time BIBBA member.

The video covers several topics that are still relevant to bee breeding today, including colony assessment and characteristics. There is a lengthy and instructive element on measurements (morphometry) of bees, using manual techniques to determine the races or degree of hybridisation. Before bespoke software became available, that is all beekeepers had, but accurate measurements could be made by using simple equipment that many beekeepers had. Although DNA techniques have become available, morphometry is still used by many, making this video a valuable resource, as there is still some relevant and useful information.

This is a digitally restored version of a VHS tape, therefore some of the beekeeping knowledge and research might have been superseded. The quality is not up to modern standards and in places the sound is rather poor, nevertheless, it is considered the video should be saved historical reasons.

Thanks to BIBBA members Phil Tomlinson for finding it and Richard Senior for digitising it.

You may also be interested in:
Honey bee origins, evolution & diversity by Ashleigh Milner

BIBBA (and VBBA, as was the previous name) were prolific in producing films and other material.
If anyone is aware of anything (VHS tapes etc) that can be copied for posterity please email Roger.