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Native Bee Project

Improving our stocks of Bees – reviving the native Welsh brown bee.

You may be aware that the Society is investigating the potential of carrying out drone and queen rearing to improve the “nativeness” of our stocks.  You may also realise that there are many different methods of queen rearing.   The Society has chosen to follow the method presented to us by Robert Jones at the several talks he has kindly given to our members.  Those who attended will know that his method allows the bees to rear queens in a natural way, without needing to confine the Queen in Jenter or Cupkit “comb”.

At present, the project is in the very early stages, and is being piloted for this year to work out the practicalities and processes of implementing it.  It is very important that everyone who is interested feels able to become involved – whether they are a member of this Society or not!  Everyone interested in improving our bee stocks is most welcome and the greater the number of beekeepers who are prepared to be involved with their bees, the greater the likely success of this project.

The main objective this year, which is one that everyone can consider every time they visit their bees, is to identify as many promising stocks as possible.  One way to assess your bees is to compare their characteristics with the list of traits that Robert has identified over his many years of drone and queen and drone rearing.  These are given below:

Colony traits

Wide band of pollen distributed all around the brood nest
Some brood present all year
Docile, gentle bees
Survive the cold and work in the wet
Drones can be found in the hive in late November and early in the spring
Hygienic, keeping the hive floor and frames clean
Thrifty. Minimal use of stores at correct times especially when overwintering
Laying rate of queen controlled and reduced in times of dearth
Tolerates more than one queen in the hive
Minimal use of necessary propolis
Supersedure predominant over swarming

Bee traits

Drones are dark brown or black
Workers have rounded backsides, (meaning that they are less likely to sting)
Long-lived bees and queens
Long gingery brown hairs
Hygienic behaviour – indicated by bites taken out of varroa carapaces and bees witnessed grooming varroa and being agitated when the mite is on them.
No yellow/orange bands on the abdomen (Italian imported)
No white or grey hairs on any bees (German carniolian imported)

It is desirable to have as wide a gene pool as possible to select from when drone and queen rearing, so if you think you have native bees, or bees with a good degree of nativeness, they can be accurately tested using wing morphometry.  Please remember, morphometry is only worth doing if a colony of bees exhibits a significant number of the above traits.  If you feel you have bees that are native or have good native potential, and would like to become involved in this project, we would be very pleased to hear from you.  You can contact the Native Bee Project at the following email address: