A key tool in the protection and growth of Apis mellifera mellifera (Amm) populations is the designation of Conservation Areas, in which our Native Irish Honey Bee is accorded special protection by improving supports such as habitats and reducing threats such as competitors or diseases. The use of CAs is a key element of the strategy advocated by NIHBS in support of these objectives. This is a bottom-up approach to conservation, first promulgated by the Galtee Bee Breeding Group in 1991, and now the declared voluntary policy of local beekeeping associations, social and commercial enterprises, heritage sites, farmers, queen raising groups and environmental organisations. The variety and quantity of CA’s have continued to increase year on year whilst each must be seen to be both viable and credible. The native Irish honey bee is part of the subspecies that evolved in north-western Europe, and scientific research conducted by LIT & NUIG supported by DAFM and NIHBS confirmed unambiguously in 2018 that Ireland’s population is genetically distinctive. This distinctiveness contributes the traits that make it the honey bee best adapted to Ireland’s climate and weather patterns. However, honey bees mate in the open, outside of beekeepers control, making our
native honey bee vulnerable to external threats, principally hybridization with bees from a different genetic stock and to diseases that might be imported with bees from abroad e.g. Varroa. Organisations aware of both the merits of the native honey bee and the extent of the threats it faces have declared CA’s, in which members undertake to keep only native honey bees and to encourage new members and participants to do likewise. NIHBS provides support and encouragement to such initiatives.
To learn more about this topic and why it is important, see the article by Hayden and Ferguson1 elsewhere on this site.
NIHBS now has a Conservation Area Officer, John Greenaway
1 Hayden T. and Ferguson B. (2018) Voluntary Conservation Areas for the Native Irish Honey bee. Four Seasons, No. 71 Autumn: 20-27