🏆Four incompatible approaches to bee improvement- BIBBA

For over a century, some beekeepers have manipulated the genetic composition of their stock, believing the resultant colonies superior to those derived from local open mating. Such “bee
improvement” is essentially anthropocentric.

Excluding importation of alien subspecies, there are four extreme bee improvement methods, all others being lesser variants. Each used the scientific understanding of its day to address a different contemporary challenge. The first three approaches chronologically produced the Buckfast bee; local strains of “village” bee; and the Midnight and Starline hybrid bees. Each approach had its own big-name champion and its own enthusiasts. The techniques behind each approach altered honey bee colony genetics in strikingly different ways. Whilst each approach arguably met its strategic goal, the supposed benefits seen in Buckfast, Midnite and Starline honey bee colonies rapidly and predictably transformed into serious problems in subsequent generations. Likewise, the desired features of any “village” bee strain could only be perpetuated in a closed population and such strains always carried the potential of becoming too inbred after several generations.

“Darwinian beekeeping” is a new bee improvement approach that has yet another dramatic impact on the honey bee colony genetics. Some might consider it extreme whereas others are likely to
consider it totally natural. How could it fare? This presentation considers all four bee improvement approaches and concludes that they are incompatible with each other.

Part of a series of webinars on Bee Improvement. These webinars are appropriate for all beekeepers. The emphasis will be on using bees that will thrive and survive in the locality they are kept in.

BIBBA Webinars

If you are looking for more webinars by BIBBA, you can find them here.

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13 Apr 2021


7:30 pm - 8:30 pm




  • John Chambers

    John currently maintains about 20 colonies. When starting with locally-caught swarms, he was struck by their diverse behaviours. A busy town-living professional with children, he loves how his bees immediately draw him into the vibrant ecological network on his doorstep. He attempts to interpret rather than inspect, believing observant beekeepers can predict what they will find next time with reasonable accuracy. He does not feed his colonies during nectar dearth and is frugal with syrup after the honey harvest. Likewise, believing angry, weak or underproductive colonies to be so for reasons that have no place in his apiary, he does not spare the queens or unite such colonies. He rears more queens than required and chooses which of these to keep. By these means, he believes that he is developing a frugal, gentle, hardy and productive survivor stock that overwinters well.

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