The bees in the first swarm that I caught last week were very black. Noticeably different from the brown and black stripes on most of the honey bees I have kept so far. So the article below encouraged me:
From The Daily Telegraph
By Ian Johnston
Published: 7:00AM BST 18 May 2009
Britain could be saved from the devastating effects of a collapse in its bee population by turning to a native British species, which is more aggressive and hairier than the southern European honeybees favoured by apiarists.
One in three hives were lost over the last winter alone for reasons that are not clearly understood although bad weather, the use of insecticides, a lack of wildflowers and the varroa mite, which has spread rapidly since arriving in Britain in 1992, are thought to be partly to blame.
However, the majority of the bees in Britain’s 274,000 hives are actually a subspecies which originated in southern and eastern Europe.
New research has found the native black honeybee could be better able to survive any external threats as it is better equipped to deal with the British weather.
A study by the Bee Improvement and Bee Breeders’ Association (BIBBA), backed by The Co-Operative supermarket, found the black honeybees’ thick hair and larger body helped them to keep warm and cope with the shorter breeding season in Britain.
Paul Monaghan, the Co-operative’s head of social goals, said the supermarket was taking the bee crisis seriously and asked the public to report sightings of the species so more research could be carried out.
“The hardy native black honeybee has had a bad press over the years, but it may hold the key to reversing the decline in the UK’s honeybee population,” he said.
“There are isolated populations of the native black bee dotted around the country and we want to help BIBBA to confirm these and map these populations.
“We would also like to help to develop a breeding programme that would increase the number of native colonies and hopefully help reduce the losses experienced in recent years.”
You can also listen to a radio programme from the BBC’s Farming Today channel: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00kcprd