23-Feb-2017 : Brexit for bees needed as foreign strains dilute purity of Welsh honeybees

From an article in North Wales Live:-

The native bees of Wales are less productive than foreign strains but they are low maintenance and can live frugally in the inhospitable Welsh climate, beekeepers heard this morning. However keeping strains pure is becoming increasingly difficult as queen bees mate on the wing with imported bees, resulting in aggression and excessive swarming.

More than 100 beekeepers gathered in Machynlleth for a conference looking at benefits of using native and near native Welsh bees.  The free event, at the Centre for Alternative Technology, was hosted by Cywain Bee, an initiative launched two years ago to increase honey production and marketing in Wales.  Among the speakers was Lampeter beekeeper Peter Jenkins who inherited his hives from his father Griff – an authority and author on Welsh bees.

He said native bees (Apis mellifera mellifera) may not produce as much honey in the short-term, but their hardiness made them a better and more consistent source of honey.  “Natives are nearly always able to get some honey and, being frugal, their stockpile lasts longer, which also benefits the beekeeper,” he said.  “Is it better to have bees that produce 100lbs of honey in good weather, have to be fed 50lbs of sugar and still struggle to survive our Welsh winters – or have bees that produce 50lbs of honey year in year out and not have to be fed any sugar?  Perhaps, the latter.  I believe that native bees are more successful in the long run because you have more honey for less work, less cost, and less input.”

In contrast, imported bees were not always suited to the climate and conditions, said Mr Jenkins.  And as Queen bee mating can’t be controlled, unwanted crossbreeding with mongrel drones can lead to non-productive bees. Whilst first generation crosses may display hybrid vigour, and be productive, the following generations were often aggressive and unproductive, he said.

Waving the flag for Welsh bees, Mr Jenkins added: “Welsh bees have evolved over millions of years to survive and prosper in our fickle climate.  “If nature has decreed Welsh bees suitable for our country, then why go against it?”

Denbighshire beekeeper Steve Rose also highlighted queen rearing efforts in north east Wales, while Teifi Valley solicitor Kevin Williams talked about the history and traditions of beekeeping in Wales.

The RDP-funded Cywain Bee Project is a satellite of Cywain – an initiative set up by Menter a Busnes to bring added value to farm produce.


This entry was posted in Blog. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply