Grafting frame with queen cells

Irish Native Bee

The Irish native bee has the Latin name Apis mellifera mellifera or A.m.mellifera for short. It is also known as the Dark bee.

How to recognise the Irish bee…

Jane's Native Irish Honey Bees

…these are some of my native Irish bees. Click the photo for a better view.

Here are some of the characteristics to watch out for when selecting breeding stocks:

  • Dark brown, almost black in colour with no amber or yellow rings on the abdomen;
  • Quite ‘burly’ in comparison to other races and hybrids – makes it easier to maintain body temperature;
  • Narrow bands of sparse dark hair on 3 abdominal segments;
  • Longer hairs than A.m.carnica and brown rather than grey;
  • Thrifty overwinter with a longer broodless period;
  • Slow spring build-up;
  • Will work in drizzly weather;
  • Tendency to supersede – less risky than swarming in bad climate;
  • Small, compact brood nest;
  • Short tongue reach – adapted for white rather than red clover;
  • Much pollen stored all the way round the brood nest to sustain bees through long spells of shitty weather;
  • Very fluid weather-reactive behaviour – will quickly throw out drones midsummer if weather is foul;
  • Nosema resistance;
  • Apiary vicinity mating – mating can be achieved even in vile weather. There is the risk of in-breeding though.

You’d be lucky to spot that last one but keep your eyes peeled.

The final arbiter is wing morphometry and a Cubital Index of 1.6-1.9.

Bee improvement links below:

Click here for more on Colony Assessment

Click here for more on Colony Appraisals

Click here for more on How to Improve your Bees

For more info on the Irish bee click here for Native Irish Honey Bee Society (NIHBS) website

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