The Black Honey Bee (Apis Mellifera Mellifera - I'm not stuttering) also known as the European Dark Bee, long thought to be extinct in most of Britain has been found in Londonderry, the Isle of Man, West Sussex, Cambridgeshire, Preston, Lancashire, Fife, Argyll and Bute and Denbighshire.
Black bees have evolved adaptations to survive the cooler, wet British climate. They are darker, have thicker, longer hair and larger bodies than their southern Mediterranean cousins (Italians, Carniolans).
Francis Ratnieks, professor of apiculture at Sussex University, said: "People claimed the black bee went extinct, but it's good that this research proves that their genes are still around. It makes sense to use native bees because they are better adapted to the local climate."
Due to the discovery of the native Black Honey Bee Martin Tovey, president of the British Beekeepers Association is encouraging British beekeepers to breed the Black Honey Bee rather than importing bees from southern Europe. “More bees bred from black bees would be a good thing as they survive the winter better, but I’m not sure they alone will reverse the collapse of colonies we have been suffering,” he said.
The European Dark Bee or Black Honey Bee is distinguished by it's dark, stocky, hairy body with dark pigmentation of the wings. Until 100 years ago the dark bee breeds were the original honey bee stock until the creation of the hybrid Buckfast bee created to counter the Acarine mite (sound familiar) which devastated European bees at that time. During the second World War the British Black Bee nearly became extinct in Europe as the Nazis ordered the destruction of all breeding stock whose honey production they felt was not up to modern standards.
The Black Honey Bee would be better adapted to our cool, wet Vancouver weather than the Italian and Carniolan bees which dominate beekeeping throughout North America. Unfortunately, because of government regulations we can't import bees from Britain.