Bees

Newton Farm Bees

On our smallholding at Newton Farm, I am breeding native European Black Bees  (Apis mellifera mellifera) or AMMs and have joined forces with David Ledger BSc (Hons) Environmental Science who is a full time bee keeper . Dave will enrol for a PhD at Plymouth University next September, looking at the correlation of wing morphometry and DNA sequencing in AMMs in general and Cornish AMMs in detail.

At Newton Farm we have recently taken delivery of equipment from University College London for artificial insemination and queen rearing for our own breeding program. Our intention is to breed AMMs for supply to other bee keepers in the region, because AMMs are not readily available as an alternative to nationally supplied and/or imported bees.

Newton Farm Bees Newton Farm Bees

Dark European Honey Bee

The establishment of programmes to specifically breed the European Black Bee (Apis mellifera mellifera); is important to beekeepers and honeybee health nationally as these bees have evolved to cope with the specific environmental conditions found in the UK and Northern Europe.

During the last ice age, the ice sheet divided the populations of the European Honey Bee (Apis mellifera) into specific areas.  These populations evolved into differing sub species specifically adapted to the local conditions.  The considerable differences between the Atlantic Coast and Mediterranean Southern Europe produced significant differences between these bee populations.

As the ice sheet receded and the bees re-colonised Northern Europe, the European Black Bee (Apis mellifera mellifera) already adapted to colder conditions colonised all of Europe North of the Alps.  The adaptations of the Black Bee to these cooler areas were so successful that they were the only type of bee found in them until 1850.  After this time, the bees were heavily hybridised by beekeepers to try to achieve greater honey crops.  This hybridisation, combined with the importation of bees from Southern Europe, has virtually wiped out the European Black Bee.  These hybrid bees and imported bees do not have the genetic adaptations to cope with the local cooler climate, producing colonies that are therefore less likely to survive cold winters, remain healthy and be successful.

In the UK, there are only a few suppliers of Dark Bees and these are relatively small operations, the majority of large bee retailers, import bees in large numbers, from breeders in Southern Europe or elsewhere overseas, which are not adapted to the cooler damp climate found in Britain.  Cornwall is ideally suited to Black Bee breeding programmes.  The relative geographic isolation means that if there are sufficient black bee colonies within Cornwall, through interbreeding, non-black bee colonies will gradually acquire more black bee characteristics and genetics, thus improving their adaptations to the British maritime climate.

We are  working with a retired naval architect who  designs and manufactures polystyrene bee hives here in the Tamar Valley, Cornwall.

Polystyrene  is significantly warmer than wooden beehives  and is also completely waterproof. Wooden beehives absorb water from condensation internally, from  rain externally and from the ground, which creates a damp interior that has a detrimental effect on honey bee health.

Polystyrene bee hives Polystyrene bee hives

Thriving colonies transferred into polystyrene hives for a warm dry winter.

Collaboration

We think we are at a truly pivotal moment where a combination of environmental and scientific breakthroughs, could make a serious difference to the future of bee keeping in the South West and in the UK as a whole.

Cornwall appears to be relatively rich in stocks of AMMs hidden in geographically isolated pockets. These need researching and saving before they are lost.

We are members of the Bee Improvement Program for Cornwall or BIPCo.

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There is a waiting list for black bees and they are £200 for a 5 frame nucleus.

Bee swarm collection, capture and transportation. 10 mile radius of Callington £50.

 Getting Started

Home visits £40 for up to 2 hours advice on setting up your apiary.

Maintenance

Seasonal care feeding issues, and a myriad of advice can be offered. Chat to Dave for up to half an hour and get his advice for £12.

He will email a synopsis if wanted.

Interested?  Call 01579 351531