Voluntary Conservation Areas for the Native Irish honey bee Apis mellifera mellifera
A key tool in the protection and augmentation of populations is the designation of conservation areas in which the organism of interest is accorded special protection by improving supports such as habitats and reducing threats such as competitors or diseases. The use of voluntary conservation areas is a key element of the strategy advocated by NIHBS in support of the native Irish honey bee, Apis mellifera mellifera. This is a bottom-up approach to conservation of the native bee first promulgated by the Galtee Bee Breeding Group in 1991 and now is the declared voluntary policy of 16 local beekeeping associations.
The native Irish honey bee is part of the subspecies that evolved in north-western Europe and research supported by DAFM and NIHBS confirmed unambiguously in 2018 that it is genetically distinctive. This distinctiveness contributes the traits that make it the bee most adapted to Irish climate and weather patterns. Nevertheless the bee is vulnerable to external threats principally hybridization with bees from a different genetic stock and to diseases that might be imported with bees from abroad.
Local beekeeping organisations aware of both the merits of the native bee and the extent of the threats it faces have declared local voluntary conservation areas in which members undertake to keep only native bees and to encourage new members to do likewise. NIHBS provides support and encouragement to such initiatives. To learn more about this topic and why it is important, see the item by Hayden and Ferguson1 elsewhere on this site.
1 Hayden T and Ferguson B (2018) Voluntary Conservation Areas for the Native Irish Honeybee. Four Seasons No 71 Autumn: 20-27.