To enable the Native Irish Apis mellifera mellifera to re-colonise back into the wild. This will be done by improving the health and survivability of Amm in Ireland though selective breeding for Varroa mite resistant traits. Other benefits include better quality bees for beekeepers with minimal, if any, Varroa treatment and improved genetic diversity and mating capabilities.
The Varroa mite is currently the most serious problem affecting honey bee health in Ireland. It is an external parasitic mite that attaches to the bee feeding off larvae and adults. Not only does their action of feeding on bees severely damage colonies they are also a vector for other diseases, in particular, viruses. Once infected, colonies not treated will die out in a few years. The mite transferred from the Asian to the European honey bee and reached Europe in the 1970s and then was accidentally introduced to Ireland in 1998. As a result, there are very few feral bee colonies remaining in Ireland. Bees found in the wild are mostly from recent swarms escaped from beekeeper colonies.
Apis mellifera mellifera (Amm) is the northern dark European honey bee . At one stage this bee covered the bulk of Northern Europe, however, due to movement of other subspecies by beekeepers leading to hybridisation, there are very few areas left with pure Amm. One of the areas where there is a high percentage of pure Amm is Ireland. This is in no small part due to the impressive breeding work by groups such as the Galtee Bee Breeders Group. The very wet weather and short season that the Irish climate brings has quite likely led to a unique local ecotype or Irish variant of Amm.