The Colonsay Black Bees

Colonsay is home to one of Europe’s few populations of pure Black Bees (Apis mellifera mellifera), the UK’s native honey bee, and Andrew Abrahams has kept these bees commercially on Colonsay for over 40 years.  As well as being managed for commercial honey production and queen rearing, the bees are of unique interest to honey bee conservationists and scientists studying bee diseases. Years of selection have produced a productive and gentle strain in the 50-60 stocks of Colonsay Black Bees which have been isolated and self sustaining for decades.

In his presentation at The National Honey Show 2023 (see below), Andrew outlines the harsh and often difficult conditions where our native honey bee survives and thrives on this remote Hebridean island. 

Over the decades Andrew has evolved a beekeeping management system that is closely tied to Colonsay’s bee forages. This management system has aimed at improvement, but also the stability and the long term maintenance of a unique gene pool. These are normally opposing and divergent aims! 

Andrew also highlights some of the adaptive traits of A.m.m. that have evolved over millennia by natural selection. It is these traits that allow Colonsay’s bees and their keeper to survive at the edge!