Black bees brought back to France

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Hives of black bees are being put back into commercial use by French beekeepers who hope to be able to revive an industry hard hit by climate change, pesticides and new predators, such as Asian hornets.The name is given to all wild bees, which are generally smaller, hairier, and darker than honey bees, but the true black bee, apis mellifera mellifera, is the most widespread of the 20,000 varieties in France.

It makes up 35% of all bees, but only about 10% of those used for honey are black bees.

“They are good at repelling predators, including the dreaded Asian hornet”

There are different varieties across the country, including the best known in Limousin, Brittany and Haute-Savoie.

Beekeeper Céline Daubord said: “They are very well adapted to the flowers and conditions of their region and are excellent pollinators because they are fast and hairy.

She owns black bee hives from Limousin in Châteauponsac, in Haute-Vienne. She added: “Black bees are small, not as productive as modern bees of mixed varieties, move easily, do not always adapt to hives and honey frames, and sting faster than many modern bees.” . This is why they have fallen out of favor with many commercial beekeepers.

France has around 54,000 beekeepers, whose bees produce around 20,000 tonnes of honey per year, or about half of the amount consumed in the country.

Previously, there was enough honey produced to meet demand, but climate change, disease, Asian hornets and pesticides mean that half is now imported – and it’s cheaper than domestic honey.

It was Ms. Daubord’s training as an apitherapist that led her to deepen her research on black bees.

His company Délices de Lylou-Beille uses bees and honey in alternative medicine treatments, such as bee venom, to relieve arthritis pain. She said, “I found out more about them and decided to have them in some of my hives. There are old beekeepers who prefer them and I was able to learn techniques from them.

Black bees also adapt to inclement weather through a variety of techniques – for example, the queen stops laying when there is not much food.

They are also, above all, adept at repelling predators, including the dreaded Asian hornets, which can kill the hives of other bees.

“They do this by increasing the ventilation system of the hive so much that all the air around the hornet is sucked in and they suffocate.”

Bee honey is known for its “all flower” flavor due to the wide variety of bees and the different flowers they visit.

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