Other common names: Black Bee; German Black Bee; Pomeranian Brown Bee; Alps Black Bee; Black Scandinavian Bee
Scientific name: Apis mellifera mellifera
The European Dark Bee (Apis mellifera mellifera), is a subspecies of the European Honey Bee (Apis mellifera). The European Honey Bee is one of seven recognized species of honey bee, and is the most commonly domesticated species of honey bee (the other being the Asian Honey Bee (Apis cerana)).
The European Honey Bee is believed to have originated in eastern tropical Africa and spread from there to Northern Europe and eastwards into Asia. There are many subspecies which have adapted to local geographic and climatic environments. The European Dark Bee originated from Britain to eastern Central Europe. Apis mellifera mellifera is no longer a significant commercial subspecies of the European Dark Bee, but there are a number of dedicated hobbyist beekeepers that keep these bees in Europe and other parts of the world.
Appearance / health:
The European dark bee can be distinguished from other subspecies by their stocky body, abundant thoracal and sparse abdominal hair which is brown, and overall dark coloration; in nigra, there is also heavy dark pigmentation of the wings. Overall, when viewed from a distance, they should appear blackish, or in mellifera, rich dark brown. The aggressive feral hybrids with other subspecies can be distinguished by the lighter, yellowish banding on the sides of the abdomen, but this is often difficult. For breeding pure dark bees according to the standard, details of the wing veins are nowadays considered to be the only reliable distinguishing character.
Behavior / temperament:
All honey bees live in colonies where the worker bees will sting intruders as a form of defense, and alarmed bees will release a pheromone that stimulates the attack response in other bees. Some beekeepers believe that the more stings a beekeeper receives, the less irritation each causes, and they consider it important for safety of the beekeeper to be stung a few times a season. Beekeepers have high levels of antibodies (mainly IgG) reacting to the major antigen of bee venom, phospholipase A2 (PLA). Antibodies correlate with the frequency of bee stings.
Beekeeping (or apiculture, from Latin apis, bee) is the maintenance of honey bee colonies, commonly in hives, by humans. A beekeeper (or apiarist) keeps bees in order to collect honey and beeswax, to pollinate crops, or to produce bees for sale to other beekeepers. A location where bees are kept is called an apiary or "bee yard". A domesticated bee colony is normally housed in a rectangular hive body, within which eight to ten parallel frames house the vertical plates of honeycomb which contain the eggs, larvae, pupae and food for the colony.
Beekeepers typically use movable frame hives. Straw skeps, bee gums, and unframed box hives are now unlawful in most US states, as the comb and brood cannot be inspected for diseases. However, straw skeps are still used for collecting swarms by hobbyists in the UK, before moving them into standard hives.
honey producer, important pollinators, extremely rewarding pasttime, important hobby, surprising yield
average honey yield, varroa mite, Colony Collapse Disorder, Need intensive checking, challenge bees
bee suits, british black bees, dark honey bees
"If you want to keep bees, but don't like being stung, this is the One
Bees are all the rage at the moment! It seems as that now they are apparently in danger of getting wiped out, everyone wants to get involved and bring them back from the brink of extinction. However, if you are thinking of keeping bees, one thing needs to be made clear from the outset - bee stings HURT! They always hurt, and they never hurt less. Anyone who tells you different is fibbing, and you need to be ready for this, as no matter how carefully you protect yourself (gloves, bee suits, veils, boots etc.) you will get sting if you keep bees.
Personally I hate getting stung, and it gave me ‘the Fear’ for a good year or so after I got stung in the face twice one summer. However, I love keeping bees - they really are fascinating, and even my children enjoy getting suited and booted and joining in the hive manipulations.
The European dark honey bee is not as prolific a honey producer as the Italian honey bee, but I chose to keep this breed as it much more laid back, and they do not protect their hives quite so aggressively as their lighter-coloured cousins. I am usually happy if a colony produces 30 pounds of honey a year, and with my three hives that is plenty for my family (I don’t like honey, otherwise we might need more!)
If you are seriously considering keeping bees, I recommend you buy Ted Hooper’s book ‘Guide to Bees & Honey’. This is simply THE best book on keeping bees, written by a man with more experience of beekeeping that I have of breathing. This book will let you know all the equipment you need to get hold of, most of which is fairly expensive, so be warned - this is not a low-cost hobby to start!
Beekeeping is not for the faint-hearted, but thankfully, with so many other beekeepers around these days, there are always people willing to help you get started and even collect your first swarm. If you don’t like getting stung and don’t mind getting merely an average honey yield, I definitely recommend the European bark honey bee.."
From Phin Hall Jan 20 2013 12:24PM
"Helping Save British Native Dark Honey Bees
From archaeological evidence, it can be shown that from about 6 000 years ago until the 19th century the dark honey bee (known locally as the Black Bee) was the native British honey bee. Then, in the 1810s a few Italian honey bee colonies were imported from the continent. This and infestation of the native population by Acarapis woodi (acarine mite) rendered the dark honey bee almost extinct in England and Wales. They remained with a stronghold in Scotland and were still found in a few pockets in England and Wales though.
To top up the bee populations imports came in from Denmark and the Netherlands and latterly from Australia, America and New Zealand. They interbred with the existing bees, so that most British bees are a hybrid of the native and the Italian, with Italian bee characteristics predominating. Yet, British conditions favour selection for the Dark honey bees. And with the recent discovery that a virus spread by the Varroa mite is causing winter deaths of the Italian bee in Britain there is renewed interest in our native species.
New colonies were recently discovered in North Wales and East Anglia and a queen breeding program is underway. The fascinating thing is that British black bees are much darker and have evolved thicker, longer hair and a larger body than their golden-coloured, southern European cousins, in order to keep them warm in cooler climates.
I am interested in rare and native breeds and despite having a fear of bees (I fell into a wasp's nest as a child) I decided that starting a hive and keeping this species would help me overcome that fear. So I got a small hive, a smoker, veil, hive tool, bee brush, top feeder, spray bottle, queen catcher and queen muff. Everything ready I drove up to North Wales (near my parents in fact) to get a marked queen in a 1.5kg package (about 10 000 bees in all!) with workers and drones.
With the hive set up in an open and sunny spot, the bees were introduced to the hive. The package is a wooden box with mesh fronts. To install, open up your hive and take out three of our frames. Now take the top off the package and fish out the queen. She will be in a small box plugged with wax and a cork. Remove the cork and attach the box to one of the frames. If you have taken the frame from an existing hive you can just squash the box into the wax, otherwise attach to the frame with twine or elastic. Put this frame back into the hive and squash agains the frame next to it to ensure that the queen's box is firmly held. The queen will take about a day to work her way through the wax plug and after two days you can remove the box. By this time the queen will be used to her new hive.
Now you can pour the worker and drone bees into the hive. When they have all been added put the removed frames back in. Now add a lid and put in a feed (typically sugar water which is used by the bees as energy to make wax). Cover the hive with a lid and let the bees get on with it.
Honey can be harvested once 80% of the cells in a frame are filled and capped with wax. Scrape off the caps and honey will flow out. If you leave too long in the season the honey will cool and crystallize and you will not get any honey out.
These are the first bees I have kept and they are fascinating animals. Black and quite hairy. They do not seem in the least aggressive... but maybe I am used to them now and actually the buzzing around the hive is strangely comforting. The interesting thing is how warm the hive feels when you put your hand inside.
I am just at the start of this and there is much to learn but I seem to have a productive and healthy hive. If I can help keep British Black bees going, this is a very good thing.."
From DLlE Sep 12 2012 9:02AM