Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The British Black Bee Project

I can't remember the exact figure, but something like 85% of honeybees in the US all come from the same handful of genetic lines? According to bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey of University of California, Davis and Washington State University, “Genetic diversity has been reduced by three distinct bottleneck events, namely the limited historical importation of a small subset sampling of a few honey bee subspecies, the selection pressure of parasites and pathogens (particularly parasitic mites) and the consolidated commercial queen-production practices that use a small number of queen mothers in the breeding population.”  Increasing genetic diversity is an important issue as it leads to "healthier and hardier bees that can better fight off parasites, pathogens and pests."

British black bees

I'm totally on board with the idea of increasing genetic diversity, which is why I love this project that is being kickstarted by noted beekeeper Phil Chandler. The native British black bee has been supplanted in many areas of its home country by imported Italian bees. In fact, they were thought to have been wiped out by 1919, but they were rediscovered in a church after about 80 years. This project seeks to to increase bring back the native bee and increase genetic diversity on that side of the pond. If you have a minute, You might want to check out his video and crowdfunding page. The project has a target of £25,000, but so far, has raised only about 6% of that figure.

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