Irish bees under threat again

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This is probably directed primarily to the Irish denizens of this site.

I'm sure many here remember the rather fractious discussion about supplying hybrid bees to Ireland, and the huge level of opposition. Anyway, it's starting again. Black Mountain Honey are planning on drop-shipping Buckfast queens to Ireland from Malta, despite this opposition. I have plenty of time for Laurence - his videos are generally excellent and I have up to now recommended them to beginners and more experienced alike, but this is directly harming our environmental heritage.

I contacted Laurence and he indicated that there has been a large number of orders from Ireland, which disappoints me since I thought Irish beekeepers were mostly hobbyists who want to protect the environment, not harm it.

For those who don't understand the issue, it's quite simple:
  • The Northern European honeybee, Apis mellifera mellifera (Amm), has almost been eliminated across Europe by hybridisation cause by introduced non-native bee subspecies. There are a few pockets left, in the Alps, in Perm, in Corwall and, probably most famously, in Colonsay in Scotland where Andrew Abrahams managed to get legal protection for black bees on the island.
  • However, there is a large population remaining in Ireland - probably the last remaining reservoir of Amm genetics. Research has shown that there are certain unusual genetic markers that could potentially indicate a specifically Irish branch of Amm, although that has yet to be confirmed.
  • The Native Irish Honeybee Society (NIHBS) has been trying to protect these bees from hybridisation and there are areas now designated as Voluntary Conservation Areas where beekeepers focus on preserving the native bee. A bill is currently going through the Senate that would outlaw imports of non-Amm in order to limit hybridisation.
  • Another problem is that Ireland is still free of DWV-B and DWV-C, both of which are common across the rest of Europe, including Malta, so importing bees is threatening all bees here.
Basically if anyone purchases one of these bees, they are introducing a whole set of problems:
  • The drones will almost certainly mate with native queens, creating hybrids. Apart from the fact that this will destroy the genetics which can never be restored, a number of beekeepers I know have had to cull dozens of queens last year because of the aggressive hybrids they were producing.
  • Buckfast bees are hybrids, i.e. they are not a pure subspecies but rather a mix of subspecies. In a couple of generations, the offspring of these queens will do what all hybrids do: the offspring of the F2 queens will almost certainly be flying demons. And their replacements will have to be imported again. So this becomes a never-ending cycle of importing Buckfast queens with the associated extra cost.
  • They may be carrying a disease that will kill many bees
NIHBS have driven a wave of new queen rearing groups across the country over the past couple of years and this very successful movement has produced thousands of native queens for free or at a very low cost so if anyone actually needs a queen, contact your local association rather than importing something that directly harms the environment.
 
The issue you raise is similar to what happens in Spain (apis mellifica iberensis) and particularly in the Canary Islands (canary black bee).
The Spanish bee has 5 African halotypes and one Central European halotype. The black canary bee presents Atlantic African halotypes in 73%.
Regarding the restrictions, I am little friend of them and I believe that associations or protection societies should promote scientific studies that endorse the best qualities of the local bee compared to imports, creating and reinforcing a network of beekeepers and giving extra promotion (indication protected geographical area) to its production of honey, jelly, pollen and other derivatives.
 
This is probably directed primarily to the Irish denizens of this site.

I'm sure many here remember the rather fractious discussion about supplying hybrid bees to Ireland, and the huge level of opposition. Anyway, it's starting again. Black Mountain Honey are planning on drop-shipping Buckfast queens to Ireland from Malta, despite this opposition. I have plenty of time for Laurence - his videos are generally excellent and I have up to now recommended them to beginners and more experienced alike, but this is directly harming our environmental heritage.

I contacted Laurence and he indicated that there has been a large number of orders from Ireland, which disappoints me since I thought Irish beekeepers were mostly hobbyists who want to protect the environment, not harm it.

For those who don't understand the issue, it's quite simple:
  • The Northern European honeybee, Apis mellifera mellifera (Amm), has almost been eliminated across Europe by hybridisation cause by introduced non-native bee subspecies. There are a few pockets left, in the Alps, in Perm, in Corwall and, probably most famously, in Colonsay in Scotland where Andrew Abrahams managed to get legal protection for black bees on the island.
  • However, there is a large population remaining in Ireland - probably the last remaining reservoir of Amm genetics. Research has shown that there are certain unusual genetic markers that could potentially indicate a specifically Irish branch of Amm, although that has yet to be confirmed.
  • The Native Irish Honeybee Society (NIHBS) has been trying to protect these bees from hybridisation and there are areas now designated as Voluntary Conservation Areas where beekeepers focus on preserving the native bee. A bill is currently going through the Senate that would outlaw imports of non-Amm in order to limit hybridisation.
  • Another problem is that Ireland is still free of DWV-B and DWV-C, both of which are common across the rest of Europe, including Malta, so importing bees is threatening all bees here.
Basically if anyone purchases one of these bees, they are introducing a whole set of problems:
  • The drones will almost certainly mate with native queens, creating hybrids. Apart from the fact that this will destroy the genetics which can never be restored, a number of beekeepers I know have had to cull dozens of queens last year because of the aggressive hybrids they were producing.
  • Buckfast bees are hybrids, i.e. they are not a pure subspecies but rather a mix of subspecies. In a couple of generations, the offspring of these queens will do what all hybrids do: the offspring of the F2 queens will almost certainly be flying demons. And their replacements will have to be imported again. So this becomes a never-ending cycle of importing Buckfast queens with the associated extra cost.
  • They may be carrying a disease that will kill many bees
NIHBS have driven a wave of new queen rearing groups across the country over the past couple of years and this very successful movement has produced thousands of native queens for free or at a very low cost so if anyone actually needs a queen, contact your local association rather than importing something that directly harms the environment.

Laurence has posted on Facebook that he has listened to concerns and pulled the plug on his proposal.
 
Laurence has posted on Facebook that he has listened to concerns and pulled the plug on his proposal.
Sounds familiar: remember the long and acrimonious thread post-Brexit? Bee Equipment flew nucs into NI to get round the Brexit ban on imports direct into the UK.

Recall that Murray McGregor (ITLD here) of Denrosa proposed setting up a queen rearing unit over there, but that too came under fire and (I believe) came to naught.
 
Regardless of whether this is happening or not, drop shipping in queens seems a very different issue to bringing in colonies. I presume the queens would have been shipped to Ireland, passed relevant checks then moved on to wherever @Black Mountain Honey distribute them from (presumably Wales) or directly distributed from the import location. With dropshipping a fresh cohort of queens each week this would not require releasing bees to forage or otherwise (presumption, please correct if I'm wrong) putting said queens into colonies in Ireland thus there should not be a threat to whatever genetics are present in Ireland. If I recall correctly, all attendants travelling in with the queen have to be culled and replaced.

Whether Irish beekeepers choose to buy in queens is another issue entirely.
 
I'm inclined to believe that Buckfast F2 aggression is a myth. It wouldn't surprise me if for every beek who claims to have had an aggressive F2 Buckfast, you'll find another who has had one that's been perfectly fine. I suspect there's a strong element of confirmation bias involved, and that should a colony headed by an F2 Buckfast queen become aggressive, many will just say "Oh, well, that's how Buckfast F2s are. I'd best get a new queen." without actually stopping to consider any other possible causes. It would hardly be the first time a beekeeping myth had become "true" by repetition, after all.

I wonder if anyone has actually designed and carried out a reliable study to determine the reality? Or even if it's actually possible to do so, if the F1 queen is open-mated and therefore carrying indeterminate genes in the first place?

James
 
inclined to believe that Buckfast F2 aggression is a myth
I believe it is (at least, in my areas).

A beekeeper local to me runs about 20 or so and from the start used Buckfast. He ran his strong colonies very effectively and produced a lot of honey from calm bees.

After nine daughters he reckoned that the temper of a few was declining so bought in a few replacements from the same supplier (Ged Marshall, now trading as bhpqueens.co.uk), but of course he was probably spoiled by the pussy-cats of the previous generations.

I reckon London is awash with enough Buckfast to give a background of good temper and productivity; in the last five years I think I've had to tread on two or three queens.

There's a competent beekeeper up Hertfordshire way (he doesn't buy in bees or queens) and I asked him why his colonies were so productive and good-tempered. He put it down to regular queen selection, but was unaware that his virgins were pleasured by the drones of a very good local beefarmer who uses Buckfast at scale.
 
My first queens were from Pete Little. I replace my Buckies from BS honey bees. All of them have been fine down the generations till they just become local mongrels. The only aggressive colony I have ever had was a mongrel one I got from a friend.
 
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