SICAMM 2021: the online conference that’s got everyone buzzing

With over 200 delegates, the first SICAMM online conference about dark European honey bees has been a huge success.

SICAMM has held conferences every two years “to support the survey, conservation, management and breeding of all extant ecotypes and geographical variants of the dark European honey bee Apis mellifera mellifera.” Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, SICAMM was unable to hold the planned 2020 meeting in Ireland and, so the SICAMM committee organised and held its first online conference beginning on 23rd October, 2021. It has been followed with a weekly lecture series held every Wednesday evening at 6pm GMT. These sessions run until 22 March 2022.  

Viewers joined the opening day from many countries across Europe, representing the large area over which the dark European honey bee is naturally found. The lectures covered various aspects of bee science, conservation, and elements of beekeeping. Hosts Gabriele Soland and Norman Carreck introduced knowledgeable and thought-provoking talks on molecular studies into local bee populations in Switzerland with Matthieu Guichard; the Irish wild honey bee study with Prof. Grace McCormack; and, the Colonsay dark bee reserve with Andrew Abrahams. Feedback was positive, with compliments received on the professional viewing service and range of interesting talks.  

The conference has continued with a weekly lecture series covering a wide range of topics covering genetics, biology and disease control, as well as conservation. These talks include proteomic comparisons of winter and summer bees; exploring varroa tolerance in dark honey bees; to looking at the honey bee gut microbiome as a possible source of probiotics, through to the conservation efforts made to rebuild stocks of dark honey bees in Belgium, Germany, Ireland and Russia. Already, delegates have heard from Dylan Elen on his studies of Welsh bees, and how he learned to love a Welsh cup of tea; Galtee bee farmer Aoife Nic Giolla Coda and the Native Irish Honey Bee Society; and, Plymouth-based Victoria Buswell spoke engagingly on her genetic studies on UK populations of dark honey bees. We learned that UK dark bee populations, like those of Ireland, appear to have a unique genetic signature, although wisely both she and Grace McCormack thought confirmatory studies were needed. Discussions after each talk have been lively, with hosts fielding questions in English, French and German.  SICAMM has recorded the talks and Q&A sessions. Within a week of each talk, they are available to watch again via SICAMM’s subscription service for 30EUR to access the entire season of live and recorded lectures. The full lecture programme and how to subscribe can be found on www.sicamm.org. The recorded talks can be viewed with subtitles in English, French, German and Russian to make the presentations as inclusive as possible to its international audience.

SICAMM – Societas internationalis pro Conservatione Apis Mellifera mellifera is an international non-profit organisation, creating a network and information platform for organisations and scientists protecting the endangered Dark European honey bee (Apis mellifera mellifera; “Amm”).

The Amm bee is native throughout much of temperate Europe, from the Atlantic coast of Britain and Ireland, through western and central Europe, reaching as far north as Norway and Sweden, to the Carpathian and Ural mountains, and beyond.

The subspecies is threatened because some beekeepers have and continue to import and use other subspecies and hybrids of honey bee which interbreed with the local dark Amm bee. It is important to conserve local Amm genetic lines not only to maintain biodiversity, but also for their productivity and adaptation to survive in their indigenous range.

Every two years, SICAMM (now SICAMM Foundation) hosts conferences throughout Europe sharing expertise in identifying the subspecies correctly, its characteristics, and conservation.

Founded in 1995, the association of SICAMM was established between beekeepers, conservationists and research scientists. On 14 November 2019, the organisation was formalised as SICAMM Foundation. 

SICAMM Foundation is a not for profit Foundation no. 76394166, registered in the Netherlands.

Registered address: SICAMM Foundation, douwe Totlaan 27, 881CW Terschelling, Netherlands 

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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Identify Those Native Honey Bees – Winter workshop 2018

Newbattle Bee Academy – 17 Nov 2018

First of all, a note about the Bee Academy at Newbattle Acdemy: what a wonderful place for a workshop.  For those of you who haven’t visited, it’s a beautifully restored wooden hut, adjacent to the main college building, built for military purposes in the run up to WWII.  It’s now a cosy space – helped by the huge, well stacked wood burner! – well equipped for events such as this and home to an impressive library of bee-related materials.

Continue reading “Identify Those Native Honey Bees – Winter workshop 2018”

SNHBS Annual Meeting

Our annual meeting this year, held on the 17th March, saw 61 of our 181 strong membership join us at Kinross Community Campus to listen to speakers Per Kryger, Jon Getty and Ian Lennox and to participate in the afternoon’s business meeting of the Society. Thank you to all of you who managed to attend despite the dire weather forecast, and also to those of you who got in touch with well wishes for the day.

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Identify those native bees – Winter workshop, 18 November 2017

How do we identify native honey bees? This question is fundamental to everything we aim to do at SNHBS and members were invited along to the University of Aberdeen in November to get a handle on just this question.  Forty-five attendees had a full day hands-on introduction to the basic features and traits of Apis mellifera mellifera and got to hear about really exciting new developments in DNA analysis that might be available to hobby beekeepers soon.

Continue reading “Identify those native bees – Winter workshop, 18 November 2017”

Summer 2017 Queen Rearing Workshop in Perth

by Gavin Ramsay

Forty-six beekeepers, mostly SNHBS members, came to Perth for the queen-rearing workshop organised by the Ochils Breeding Group over two days in August. After a classroom session going through the principles of selection, queen rearing, queen mating and subsequent management, the attendees divided into three groups for the three practical sessions occupying much of the day. Jeff took them through the grafting session, showing the right stage of larva to use and the methods employed to move the larvae into cups for cell raising. Participants worked in pairs to ensure that everyone had a chance to try grafting for themselves, many using magnifying headbands to help the careful handling of larvae of the right stage. John took his groups through everything to do with mating nuclei, the types available with their good and less good points, making them up with young bees and their management. I showed finding and handling queens and demonstrated harvesting queens from mating nuclei after the new queens were established. Everyone was encouraged to try their hand at lifting young workers and handling them as if they were queens. The yellow-spotted workers can still be seen in the MiniPluses now! Continue reading “Summer 2017 Queen Rearing Workshop in Perth”

SNHBS – News from launch event

Compiled by Kate Atchley from texts by Ewan Campbell, Em Mackie and Gavin Ramsay.  (Article first published in The Scottish Beekeeper, July 2017)

On 1 April at the Lovat Hotel in Perth, almost 80 members of the newly-formed Scottish Native Honey Bee Society (SNHBS) met to launch and help to establish priorities for the society.  In this article we offer news of the launch event as well as confirmation of the society’s aims and initial activities. Continue reading “SNHBS – News from launch event”