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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
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    Forsyth, North Carolina
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    29

    Default German dark honey bee in NC

    I am looking for any news of feral German dark honey bees in North Carolina. It is probably unlikely that we have any pure German dark honey bees in North Carolina anymore, however, I would think that there are likely some feral colonies which have a pretty good share of these genetics. I think it would be interesting to capture swarms from such colonies in order to back cross and breed the closest we can to the old German dark honey bee.

    I have heard that these honey bees (also called the English dark honey bee) tend to be kind of defensive of their hives and runny on the combs--not traits that many a beekeeper wants. I too am not so interested in these two traits; however, I am interested in keeping genetic diversity available.

    Thanks for any information on dark bees you know of or have heard of in NC. Please send a pm to me if you like,
    Kyle

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Location
    Raleigh, NC, USA
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    761

    Default Re: German dark honey bee in NC

    I too am interested in these bees. There is a colony of what appear to be the German black bee somewhere in my home area --- unfortunately I have never been able to locate the nest. Good luck and please let me know if you find any!
    Triangle Bees

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Location
    Greensboro, North Carolina
    Posts
    2,714

    Default Re: German dark honey bee in NC

    I believe you are looking for Apis Meliffera Meliffera, or AMM for short.

    I've heard rumors that this strain has survived in the coastal NC area and the swamps of Louisiana. I've also heard rumors that there is a gentleman in Apex, NC who keeps AMM bees, and believes in repopulating the ferals by allowing them to swarm at nauseum. Unfortunately, all of these rumors I received from Russell Apiaries, who based on recent events, their reputation and credibility have been called into question.

    As far as I'm aware, other than those rumors and Russell Apiaries, I have not seen nor heard of anyone who can actually verify that they have pure AMM genetics in the US.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    jackson county, alabama, usa
    Posts
    4,038

    Default Re: German dark honey bee in NC

    kyell, we have some blackish bees flying wild around here. most of my hives have a small percentage of workers that are almost solid black.

    here is a picture of a queen that was part of a small swarm last fall that tried to take over one of my hives:

    usurping queen.jpg
    beekeeping since june 2010, +/- 20 hives, tf

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Belfast, Ireland
    Posts
    358

    Default Re: German dark honey bee in NC

    Quote Originally Posted by kyell View Post

    I have heard that these honey bees (also called the English dark honey bee) tend to be kind of defensive of their hives and runny on the combs--not traits that many a beekeeper wants. I too am not so interested in these two traits; however, I am interested in keeping genetic diversity available.
    Hi. They are also known as the Native Irish Honey bee. They are native to Western Europe and parts of Scandanavia.
    The stuff about aggression and runny on the combs is a beekeeping myth.
    I keep these bees (AMM) and if I get an defensive colony I cull the queen, same as you would do with an undesirable queen from any race of bee.
    I work mine with minimal protection, just nitrile gloves and a light veil.

    A lot of the dark bees you see are likely to be Carnica AMM hybrids and these have a very bad reputation for aggression. Ruttner described the AMM carnica cross as producing the most aggressive hybrids.

    This is what they look like
    .
    You can see the virgin queen at the front of the Apidea about 30 seconds into the clip.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    Trinity, NC, USA
    Posts
    143

    Default Re: German dark honey bee in NC

    Quote Originally Posted by kyell View Post
    I am looking for any news of feral German dark honey bees in North Carolina. It is probably unlikely that we have any pure German dark honey bees in North Carolina anymore, however, I would think that there are likely some feral colonies which have a pretty good share of these genetics. I think it would be interesting to capture swarms from such colonies in order to back cross and breed the closest we can to the old German dark honey bee.

    I have heard that these honey bees (also called the English dark honey bee) tend to be kind of defensive of their hives and runny on the combs--not traits that many a beekeeper wants. I too am not so interested in these two traits; however, I am interested in keeping genetic diversity available.

    Thanks for any information on dark bees you know of or have heard of in NC. Please send a pm to me if you like,
    Kyle
    I have tried locating local AMM's for two years and no luck.... Long time friend has started beekeeping at the NC coastal region, maybe another start to a find!?!?

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Belfast, Ireland
    Posts
    358

    Default Re: German dark honey bee in NC

    They are quite different from Ligustica of Buckfast as they make much smaller colonies.
    Mine live quite happily in a single brood box.
    In an area with a good predictable climate you would likely get more honey from a bigger colony but in marginal areas with a cool damp climate AMM are likely to do better.
    They fly at lower temperatures than some other races of bee.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Location
    DesAllemands, Lousiana
    Posts
    174

    Default Re: German dark honey bee in NC

    I see pure black bees quite often in south Lousiana, But i never caught a swarm of them yet. I set out swarm traps around the areas i see them in but all i catch are italian colored bees. Hopfully some day ill catch them.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Location
    Fair Grove,MO,USA
    Posts
    1,615

    Default Re: German dark honey bee in NC

    Careful what you wish for, i dealt with the German black bees back in the 60's. I've not dealt with AHB (killer bees) but i'd put the German black right up there with them for Mean. I took my Midnight bees (a gentle breed) up around the Big Sac river (St Clair co. Mo.) in 1965.They crossed with the German Black bees and made beekeeping (for me) a living Hell, couldn't walk within 300 ft of the hives without being nailed. Ended up burning two of the for hives that i couldn't requeen. I for one don't miss them.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Lincolnton, NC
    Posts
    1,018

    Default Re: German dark honey bee in NC

    I've seen dark workers in my hives for years-10 to 20% usually. I have always assumed they are from AMM but I don't know for sure. Haven't noticed them being mean.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Belfast, Ireland
    Posts
    358

    Default Re: German dark honey bee in NC

    Quote Originally Posted by brooksbeefarm View Post
    Careful what you wish for, i dealt with the German black bees back in the 60's. I've not dealt with AHB (killer bees) but i'd put the German black right up there with them for Mean. I took my Midnight bees (a gentle breed) up around the Big Sac river (St Clair co. Mo.) in 1965.They crossed with the German Black bees and made beekeeping (for me) a living Hell, couldn't walk within 300 ft of the hives without being nailed. Ended up burning two of the for hives that i couldn't requeen. I for one don't miss them.
    That's not a problem of the black bees. That's a problem with hybrids due to heterosis.
    You can cross two gentle strains and the hybrid will be vicious. That's what I was referring to with the reference to Ruttner in the previous post.
    I have seen AMM bees being handled without gloves or veil.
    Any pure race of bee should be gentle but when they hybridize it is Russian roulette with regard to the temper.

    Carnica bees are also dark and most people can't tell the difference. carnica is used much more by commercial beekeepers so I would say that dark bees are much more likely to be AMC rather than AMM. One way to tell them apart is by wing vein morphometry as the patterns are quite different.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Location
    Fair Grove,MO,USA
    Posts
    1,615

    Default Re: German dark honey bee in NC

    This was on my Uncles farm, it was homesteaded by his family, them and all the neighbors called them German Black bees. We would cut bees trees along the river(in the winter) when i was growing up and they were even mean in cold weather. His grandfather kept them in hives but always complained about how mean they were.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Belfast, Ireland
    Posts
    358

    Default Re: German dark honey bee in NC

    Hi
    I don't doubt what you are saying but not all dark bees are AMM (German Blacks) and I see the same thing here where all dark bees get called AMM even though a lot of them are mongrels. They could be Carnica or more likely a hybrid between Carnica and AMM. I have also seen really vicious black bees which followed for hundreds of yards but the AMM bees I have seen and worked with in Ireland are generally very good natured. These are essentially the same bee as the German Black as these are native to the British Isles, France, Germany and the lower regions of Scandanavia.
    In terms of relatedness, AMM is closesly related to AM Iberica the native bee from Spain.
    Carnica and Ligustica are closely related genetically even though carnica is dark and Ligustica is yellow banded.

    There is a paper, Thrice out of Africa which explains how bee races evolved from a common African ancestor and shows which ones are closely related.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Location
    Fair Grove,MO,USA
    Posts
    1,615

    Default Re: German dark honey bee in NC

    My uncle (he died in 2004 at age of 84) said these were the only bees around when he was growing up and started seeing a change for the better when out of state beekeepers started bringing in 75 to 100 hives every summer for the sumac honey.He said they were yellow bees with black stripes (Italians my guess) and you could stand and watch them come and go from their hives without getting stung. By the mid 70's you rarely seen the black bees anymore,none of the native people in the area has seen any since the mid 80's and most say there glad of it.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    Weeki Wachee, Florida,USA
    Posts
    1,820

    Default Re: German dark honey bee in NC

    I see solid black bees occasionally in my hives headed by Cordavon Queens.
    It makes me angry.
    I've yet to see a swarm of black bees.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Location
    Forsyth, North Carolina
    Posts
    29

    Default Re: German dark honey bee in NC

    Thanks for all the replies so far. I look forward to reading more. From this thread (as well as from conversations and articles), I do get the impression that the German (or Irish ) dark honey bee in the USA was probably largely hybridized by the early 1900s with all sorts of mongrels being the result. I would guess that most dark honey bee colonies a beekeeper might cut out of a tree or capture as a swarm out in the North Carolina swamps and forest now-a-days will probably be pretty aggressive. I doubt that I am the first to think this, but I would guess that, with back-crossing and re-queening the hottest hives, a beekeeper or team of beekeepers could work together to come up with some honey bee stock that is largely A.m.m. genetically as well as having the calmer nature that Jonathan talks about in the pure A.m.m.s he works.

    Thanks,
    Kyle

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Location
    Hamilton, Alabama
    Posts
    1,190

    Default Re: German dark honey bee in NC

    You will find that there is very little of the AMM genetics left here in the U.S. They had a few advantages, but an overwhelming number of faults. They were extremely aggressive. They swarmed at the drop of a hat. They were very runny on the combs. Manipulating colonies was a crapshoot, you might be stung hundreds of times or you might get off scot free. They tended to collect the blackest honey around. I don't miss them.

    On the plus side, they maintained small colonies overwinter, had the most explosive imaginable spring buildup, were extremely thrifty with stores, would fly at temps as low as 35 degrees, would always make a small surplus of honey, had the longest lived queens, and were exceptionally good at raising queens.

    There are a few feral colonies just north of here (NorthWest Alabama) that show most of the AMM traits. They are obviously heavily crossed with Italian bees.

    DarJones
    DarJones - 44 years, 10 colonies (max 40), sideliner, treatment free since 2005, 11 frame broodnest, small cell

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Belfast, Ireland
    Posts
    358

    Default Re: German dark honey bee in NC

    Hi Kyell.
    I run a breeding group for my local beekeeper association based on AMM and we rear maybe 100 queens per season and hope to produce a greater number in the future.
    With any race of bee, you have to graft from your best stock or the quality will degenerate over time, mainly due to hybridization with whatever drones you happen to have in the area, and in my experience that is where most of the aggression comes from.
    Unfortunately there are very few regions where everyone keeps the same sub species of bee which complicates breeding efforts enormously unless the program is based on instrumental insemination. This is beyond the average hobbyist and is expensive as well.
    Bear that in mind if you want to keep AMM and all the other beekeepers around you have Ligustica. It will be next to impossible to keep any purity in your stock without using either II or by requeening with pure race queens every year and those will likely be very hard to find in the US.
    AMM is not per se an aggressive bee like scutellata and without doing DNA analysis there is no way of ascertaining what dark ferals might or might not have in their genetics.
    Last edited by jonathan; 03-11-2013 at 07:33 AM.

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Location
    Raleigh, NC, USA
    Posts
    761

    Default Re: German dark honey bee in NC

    About two years ago, Russell Apiaries advertised and sold what they were calling AMM queens. I ordered (almost 6 months in advance of the planned delivery date) several of their Sunkist and VSH queens plus an AMM queen. After many email exchanges and pleading she was delivered about 3 months late. She looked like an AMM. I gave her special attention (extra brood, feed, etc). She was accepted OK but was superceded after about a month. Maybe Russell still has some of these?
    Triangle Bees

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Location
    Forsyth, North Carolina
    Posts
    29

    Default Re: German dark honey bee in NC

    If I catch any dark colored feral swarms, I guess I need to send a sample to the bee lab in Beltsville to have them identified. I think I heard that they can do this there if you send them a sample of about 50 or more of the bees from the colony you want identified. Jonathan's point that dark bees do not necessarily equal German honey bee (A.m.m.) is very important. Looking for that dark coloration is only a starting point.

    From what I have read on the history of beekeeping in the USA, there was a period in the 1800's to about 1920 that there were some imports of different honey bee races into the county. This included at least two dark races which gained some following--Carniolan and Caucasian. I think I would be pretty excited about finding any of these genetics mixed up in feral colonies.

    As for my search, I suppose I should extend my question on locating dark colored feral honey bees to include Southern VA and East Tennessee.

    Thanks,
    Kyle

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