Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Ardnamurchan Black Bee Project

From Trevor Potts:

Kate withdrawing a frame from the nucleus hive
Tom Bryson and I had an interesting afternoon at a site meeting for the Ardnamurchan Black Bee Project, the location of which is confidential at the moment. Kate Atchley from Acharacle was on a recent bee breeding course on Colonsay and brought back two queen bees, Apis mellifera mellifera.  These bees are commonly called native black bees. It is the intention of the project to start breeding these bees in our area with an eventual aim of trying to re-queen all our managed bee stocks at the west end of Ardnamurchan with these pure bred native black bees. We think that this area is ideally suited to the project as there are very few managed bee colonies in the area and anecdotal evidence has it that the wild stocks of bees have probably reverted back to native black bees. Hopefully the re-introduction of these new queens will help to preserve the native species of Apis mellifera mellifera.

Well behaved bees covering a frame – they are not lifting off the frame in an angry cloud
The Ardnamurchan Black Bee Project has some funding from the British Beekeeping Association for bee breeding equipment but more funding is still required if we are going to turn Ardnamurchan into an important stronghold for native black bees.  Anyone is welcome to join Sunart, Ardnamurchan, Moidart and Morvern Beekeepers Association (SAMMBA) of which Kate Atchley is the secretary.

Queen bee with attendants on a frame of drawn comb ready to lay eggs
 “These bees could hold the key to reversing the dramatic decline in honeybee numbers, as they have evolved characteristics that are suited to the UK’s climate, but experts had previously feared that the native black bees were now only found in remote northern areas. Over the last ten thousand years, the native sub-species evolved thick black hair and a larger body to help keep it warm in our cooler climate, and a shorter breeding season to reflect the UK’s summer. This makes it less susceptible to the vagaries of the British weather which some experts suspect is a reason for a reduction in honeybees, nature’s most important pollinator, by up to 30 per cent in recent years.” http://www.co-operative.coop/plan-bee/whats-our-plan/native-bees/

Close up of queen (marked with a red dot)

All photos:- Trevor Potts, taken on Sunday 13th July at the Ardnamurchan Black Bee project.
Many thanks to Trevor for the material.
Trevor runs the Ardnamurchan Campsite in Ormsaigbeg


  1. Does the queen bee have her wings clipped to keep her in the hive as her left wing looks much shorter than the right.


  2. A very late answer to this question, but "better late than never". Kate (or perhaps Andrew who probably raised the queen) will have clipped the wing ... not to keep her in the hive, but to stop the loss of the colony through swarming. If the colony swarms the queen and about half of the workers leave the colony. Since the queen can't fly she'll crash (in a rather undignified manner) to the ground. Without the queen the flying bees eventually return to the colony. The queen may also return, often climbing up the hive stand leg and ending up underneath the hive. This gives the beekeeper a chance to recover the bees. Clipping the wing of a queen doesn't seem to have any detrimental effects - the queens have a similar lifespan for example. It simply allows the beekeeper to keep bees, rather than losing them ;-)