According to some recent reports (the Guardian and Radio 4) a new study is looking at the potential of the native black bee as a solution to the disappearance of about 30% of the UK’s honeybees. The current bee population is based on an Italian bee which is relatively docile and very prolific as a honey producer. The theory being tested is that the cold wet summers have left the Mediterranean bee less well equipped to deal with the Winter, whereas the native black bee is more used to the typically damp British weather and is therefore better equipped to last through the Winter on depleted food supplies.
I had heard about the black bee, but did not realise there are several colonies in the UK. The first step is being helped by the Co-Op which has launched a fund to help map where existing populations exist so they can be used to increase the numbers of native black bees.
For more background on the current problems in the bee population (although it is admittedly slightly USA – centric despite being written by a British couple) a good place to start is the book ‘A World Without Bees‘ or read the story as published in the Guardian this week.