• STV
  • MySTV

Native honey bees 'doing better' across UK than previously thought

Experts discover the native black honey bee is holding on in parts of the country where previously thought to be extinct.

Honey Bees: 'Unacceptably' high bee hive losses in recent years.
© Wolfgang Hagele

Native black honeybees are doing better across the UK than previously thought, according to a study which raises hopes they could help boost the insect's fortunes.

Honeybee numbers have been hit in recent years, with beekeepers reporting "unacceptably" high losses of hives over the past few winters.

There are concerns that the bees, which are an important pollinator, are struggling from factors including a lack of nutritious food from wildflowers and pests and diseases, as well as possible effects of certain pesticides.

Most of the bees in UK hives come from imported sub-species, but now research by the Bee Improvement and Bee Breeders' Association (Bibba) has revealed that the native black honeybee is holding on in parts of the UK where it was thought to be extinct.

The study, funded by the Co-operative, showed that the native bees, which are more suited to the UK's cooler, wetter climate, were found throughout the UK and not just in remote northern and western areas as expected.

The researchers looked at physical attributes of bees in 117 hives thought to be native colonies and found more than half of them had significant native characteristics.

British black honeybees were found in Londonderry, the Isle of Man, Argyll and Bute, Denbighshire, Fife, Lancashire, Preston, West Sussex and Cambridgeshire.

The findings, which will be followed up by DNA testing, will enable the breeding of more queens of the sub-species as a hardier alternative to imported honeybees.

The native black honeybee has evolved over the past 10,000 years to have thick black hair and a larger body to help keep it warm in the cooler climate, and a shorter breeding season to reflect the UK summer.

Chris Shearlock, sustainable development manager at the Co-operative, said: "The results of this research show that there are far more colonies of British bees than was thought and we can now move on to support a breeding programme which will hopefully increase the number of British bees and in turn help reduce the losses experienced in recent years."

Terry Clare, president of Bibba, said: "We were pleasantly surprised to discover that there are more British bee populations than we suspected and this will hopefully persuade many more beekeepers to use British bees."

Funding from the Co-operative will support training for beekeepers with existing native colonies to help them rear queens and purchase nursery hives to support the production of black bee queens.

It forms part of the Co-operative's Plan Bee campaign to boost urban beekeeping, take action on pesticides and distribute wildflower seeds to provide pollen and nectar for insects.

One account. All of STV.

This field is required. That doesn't look like a valid e-mail format, please check. That e-mail's already in our system. Please try again.
ShowHide
Forgot password?
This field is required. This must be at least 6 characters long. Did you enter your details correctly?
If you've forgotten your details then use the 'Forgot password?' link.
Need to reset your password?

We'll send a link to reset your password to

We've sent you details on how to reset your password

Please check your email and follow the instructions.

Forgotten your email address?

Have you forgotten the email address that you previously joined with? Don't worry, by emailing enquiries@stv.tv we can help.

One account. All of STV.

This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This must be at least 6 characters long.
ShowHide
This field is required. This must be at least 6 characters long.
You must be over 16 to join STV.
This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid date
We need this to check that you live in an STV region.
This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid postcode
Would you like us to email you about our great shows and services from time to time?
We'll only send emails we think you'll like (see example) based on information you have supplied and shows you have watched on STV Player. For details on emails and advertising, see our STV & You page.
Would you like to receive emails from the Scottish Children's Lottery about draws, instant games and competitions?
We support the Scottish Children's Lottery (SCL), which is managed by our colleagues at STV ELM Ltd. You can find out more about the SCL on it's website, including its Privacy Policy.

By continuing you agree to our Terms of Use, and understand our Privacy and Cookie Policies.

Upload Profile Picture

Please make sure your image is under 2mb in size and a valid JPG, PNG or GIF.

Are you sure?

Unfortunately, you'll be unable to access our premium content. We’ll be sorry to see you go, but if you change your mind you can rejoin us at any time.

Please verify your STV account

Please verify your STV account using the email we sent you. If you have lost the email, we can send you another one, just click the button below.

Thanks

We've sent you a new verification email.
Please check your email and follow the instructions to verify your account.

Welcome to STV
Thanks for joining us.

Oops!

Sorry, you must be at least 12 years old to place a vote for your Real Hero.

Please review our Voting Terms of Use for more information.

Oops!

Sorry! It seems that you are using a browser that is incompatible with our voting service.

To register your vote please copy the below URL in to your regular mobile browser. We recommend Google Chrome, or Safari.

http://shows.stv.tv/real-heroes/voting

Oops!

Sorry, you seem to have already voted in this category.

Thanks for voting

Now share your vote with friends on your social network

Share on twitter Share on facebook

Cast your vote

Please register or sign in to continue.

Cast your vote

This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid date

Cast your vote

Please fill out this form to cast your vote. As you are under 16 years old you will not create an STV account. Why do we need these details?

This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. That doesn't look like a valid e-mail format, please check.
Location This field is required.
Parental Consent This field is required.

That's you. All that's left is to click the 'Submit Vote' button below. By doing so, you confirm that you and your parent or guardian have read and accept our Voting Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Cookie policy, and that the details you have entered are correct. We'll look after them as carefully as if they were our own.