2021 Survey for Scottish Native Honey Bees

Open to all beekeepers in Scotland

We hope 2021 will see a gradual easing of restrictions as the Covid pandemic comes under control. We have planned an extended search for native honey bees this year which involves an easy to use initial photo screening and further assessment by a team of experienced Conservation Project assessors.

Our aim is to find good strains of native and near-native honey bees that are endemic to Scotland.

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Conserving Black Bees

(Apis mellifera mellifera) in the Hebrides, Scotland

By Andrew Abrahams

We are grateful to the author Andrew Abrahams and the editor of the American Bee Journal for permission to use this article.

Readers might ask, why on earth spend much of a lifetime con­serving what most beekeepers perceive as an aggressive, unproduc­tive race of honey bee — a race per­haps left behind by history? I was fortunate, often by chance rather than grand design, to gather up some pure remnants of Scotland’s native honey bee (Apis mellifera mellifera) in the late 1970s and since then I have managed over decades to improve this popula­tion in the isolation of the remote is­land of Colonsay, which lies 16 miles off the west coast of Scotland (see https://colonsay.org.uk).

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Queen rearing: five stages to manage

Queen rearing can be a hugely rewarding aspect of beekeeping when successful and the most exasperating when it does not go to plan. I recommend you embark on it willing to learn incrementally from your experience and not be deterred by disappointments. Success generally follows careful application and practice of sound guidance.

There are five basic stages to plan and manage, from the laying of eggs to successfully mated queens laying eggs in their own colonies. I will explain each of these, briefly, highlighting key aspects. These stages involve the raising of queen cells from fertilised worker eggs rather than using swarm, supersedure or emergency cells already drawn by bees.

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The Moorfoot Group

The Moorfoot Group currently comprises six beekeepers setting up an isolation Amm mating apiary in the Moorfoot area. We aim to develop approximately 20 Amm colonies to overwinter in the the Edinburgh, West Linton, Gordon, Penicuik and Kirknewton areas. At present we have approximately sixteen queenright Amm and hybrid/ Amm colonies, mostly grafted by us from Amm frames kindly donated by Kate Atchley and John Durkacz  with additionally five grafted Amm queen cells which are awaiting local mating. The locally mated hybrid/ Amm  colonies are to supply Amm drones and will be transferred to Moorfoot next April before local non Amm stowaway drones can hitch a ride.

The philosophy of the group was to site the apiary where no sensible beekeepes would want a colony.

However we have found that if the transferred colonies can manage the harsh springs there is ample forage for a good honey crop that will help the site to be self sustainable. 

We’re grateful to have recieved a £400 grant from SAMMBA and thank John and Kate for their generous assistance.

Jim Lindsay

SNHBS 4th Annual Meeting

Loch Leven Community Campus, Muir, Kinross – 14 March 2020

By Justine Swinney

Thanks to everyone who attended our Annual meeting on 14 March at the Loch Leven Community Campus in Muir, Kinross.  Considering the uncertain situation we were in just nine days before the full Covid-19 lockdown, we had an impressive turnout; and thank you to everyone for following the guidance at that time in terms of vigilant handwashing etc. 

Jo Widdicombe, President of BIBBA (Bee Improvement and Bee Breeders Association) valiantly journeyed up from Cornwall and gave us two inspiring talks on bee improvement (read more about Jo’s presentation here).

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Queen rearing and bee breeding groups

Pathways to success

Why have a queen rearing and breeding group?

Breeding groups form a vital part of the work of the Scottish Native Honey Bee Society. They work well by pooling their expertise, sharing equipment and having access to larger numbers of good locally adapted stocks. Although groups show differences in their organisation reflecting local circumstances and preferences some features are likely to be shared.

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Forging Links in Lothian and the Borders

[I apologise for the very late publishing of Kate’s post about the Lothian and Borders Breeding Group.   Perhaps this can serve as a reminder that it soon will be time for all of us to think about next year’s breeding programme.  We  look forward to hearing more from the Lothian and Borders Group.
Kitta   7 December 2019]

13 April 2019:

Four members of SNHBS met in Humbie, East Lothian today to look at ways of working together to promote A.m.m. bees in the area south of Edinburgh. On the agenda were group aims, bee breeding and queen rearing techniques, skills development needs, access to suitable areas for mating apiaries and protocols for the use of such apiaries by members of the group. Continue reading “Forging Links in Lothian and the Borders”

Colonsay’s Honeybee Reserve given international acclaim

[Article from the August 2019 newsletter]

World leading honeybee researcher Professor Tom Seeley from Cornell University, Mass. U.S.A. recently honoured Colonsay’s Black Bee Reserve with a two-day visit to study at first-hand the behaviour of our native honeybee, Apis mellifera mellifera, and also to learn about the conservation work, breeding and management systems being carried out by the island beekeeper, Andrew Abrahams.

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