Native Irish Honey Bee Society – Apis mellifera mellifera

Native Irish Honey Bee Society
Apis mellifera mellifera

M. Alice Pinto, Professor at the Polytechnic Institute of Bragança, Portugal

To whom it may concern:

My name is M. Alice Pinto. I am a Professor at the Polytechnic Institute of Bragança (IPB; and a researcher at the Mountain Research Centre (CIMO; in Portugal. I have dedicated most of my research career to studying honey bee genetics ( I have used molecular markers to interrogate the genomes of different honey bee populations for their genetic integrity and adaptation to local environments. In one such study, I surveyed several populations of the dark honey bee, Apis mellifera mellifera to reveal that many populations from Europe suffer from genetic pollution due to recurrent importations of foreign queens of Eastern European ancestry (Pinto et al. 2014. Journal of Apicultural Research, 53: 269-278)

The native range of A. m. mellifera once encompassed a large territory in western Europe, from the Pyrenees to southern Scandinavia and from the United kingdom to the Urals. Unfortunately, in large tracts of this immense territory the dark bee has either been extirpated or seriously threatened by introgression, with consequences of maladaptation. However, in contrast with most western European countries, in Ireland, a recent genetic survey of bee populations revealed unexpected low levels of introgression from foreign subspecies and the presence of pockets of pure A. m. mellifera colonies.

This genetic patrimony deserves to be protected from the pollution of foreign subspecies. The Irish bee populations are not only a repository of unique gene combinations that have been shaped by natural selection over evolutionary time but also represent a valuable resource for selection and breeding of locally adapted bees. Protecting this irreplaceable dark bee legacy is, in my view, of uttermost importance and for that reason any initiative towards this goal has my full support.


Prof. Maria Alice da Silva Pinto
Instituto Politécnico de Bragança
Centro de Inestigação de Montanha
Campus de Santa Apolónia 5300-253 Bragança

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