Super-Bee: Brand new bee species being bred in Sheffield

Beekeepers are trying to breed their own Sheffield Super-Bee to improve honey yield in the city.

The Beekeepers Association has tried for the past four years to create a variant of the British Black Bee that is adapted to the conditions of Sheffield.

Harsh winters make it difficult to accommodate bees that are imported from places such as Italy and Denmark as they need constant feeding, and without the vital nutrients most bees die.

This means it cannot sustain a population of foreign bees.

It started the breeding process because of these issues.

Phillip Khorassandjian, the Chair of the Sheffield BKA, said: “We’re trying to breed a bee that performs well in Sheffield, when you import bees they won’t breed true and can turn aggressive and lethargic if they’re cross bred.”

Beekeepers are trying to follow examples set in places such as Buckfast Abbey, where a special type of bee was bred over 100 years ago.

The man-made variant of the bee was created by introducing a queen to a queen-less colony who was then raised by the rest of the colony.

However, there are a number of stumbling blocks in the way of successful breeding.

Breeding requires isolated mating sites and the right type of queen and, even though the association has a number of queens, there are not a lot of mating sites with the right conditions to support breeding in South Yorkshire.

The association currently has a breeding site in Hathersage which is surrounded by 25 apiaries in a 10km flying distance, which keepers use to collect honey. This means they have no control over the bees mating.

This is also due to the method of open mating the BKA use, which allows the bees to fly freely and mate mid-air.

Despite this, Mr.Khorassandjian still believes a native British Black Bee will be beneficial for Sheffield.

He said: “The advantage to the native bee if that they fly in cold weather and don’t need a lot of feeding. If we have a bad summer the Italian bee might need a lot of feeding whereas the British Black Bee will produce honey.”

The association is still dedicating its efforts to not just breeding a native bee but also to maintaining a sustainable bee population in South Yorkshire.

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