CAMPAIGNERS behind a West Country project to save the honey bee are buzzing after winning £35,200 of support from the National Lottery.
The B4 Project aims to conserve the remnant of the dark European honey bee, Apis mellifera mellifera, while encouraging Cornish bee-keepers in particular to develop their own local stock.
The project will enable voluntary bee-keepers to recognise these rare bees, reduce our reliance on imported bees and open reserves to protect the remaining population.
The B4 Project is in partnership with The Eden Project, The Lost Gardens of Heligan and Plymouth University with research centred at Heligan’s observation hives.
The Eden Project and Lost Gardens of Heligan co-founder Sir Tim Smit said: “We believe that this work is a vital act of conservation that is absolutely crucial to ensure the survival of our native honey bee.
“We have been hugely encouraged by progress so far and by the obvious support of hundreds of thousands of visitors to both sites.
“The momentum that has been built up gives us a very real chance of success,” Nick Bentham-Green, chairman of B4, said. “This is a fantastic opportunity to look more closely at our local bees and celebrate their vital role as a crucial part of the UK’s natural biodiversity.
“Local bees are under threat from imported bees and their alien parasites.
“It is shocking that we import one in 20 of all UK queen honey bees and as if that wasn’t bad enough we import 70,000 colonies of European farmed bumble bees each year.”
Victoria Buswell, a PhD student at Plymouth University, said: “The four-year project to study honey bees in Cornwall and across the UK aims to investigate the relationship between traits of local adaptation, levels of subspecies hybridisation and diversity in honey bee populations.
“The research relies on an active collaboration, with bee-keepers keeping some basic records of the behaviour of their bees throughout the season for us, after which we will select colonies to investigate the level of diversity through genetic analysis.
“This is a great opportunity for bee-keepers to be part of a large-scale experiment and to get some detailed genetic information on the provenance of their colonies.
“Our project is interested in a variety of bees across Cornwall and welcomes all bee-keepers.”
* Bee-keepers interested in taking part can get involved by contacting the project through: firstname.lastname@example.org