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27 May 2014

Saving the original Cornwall black honey bees

Our accommodation in Cornwall is lucky enough to see the Cornish honey bee buzzing around on occasion during the summer months and they’re under threat, but now they’re getting the help they need to save their species. Cornish bee experts have been successful in being awarded a Lottery grant in order to assist their work in saving the county’s very own honey bee – and our neighbours in Devon have a conservation charity which is playing its part.

B4, which is the abbreviation for Bringing Back Black Bees – is a Cornwall-based conservation society striving to promote the qualities of the native black honey bee in the area.

Their project, Strengthening the Heritage of the Cornish Black Bee, has been awarded a Heritage Lottery Fund Sharing Heritage grant of almost £10,000 to help to convey the benefits of the honey bee native to Cornwall and to encourage bee enthusiasts to keep it.

The B4 Project was engineered by Tavistock dentist Andrew Brown who has continued to build on 30 years of work carried out by Jo Widdicombe, James Kilty and Roger Dewhurst.

The project is currently receiving support from the geneticists at FERA (the Food and Environment Research Agency) regarding the understanding of the genetic heritage of Cornish black bees.

This work, which is funded by the B4 project, will highlight the extent to which the Cornish bee population has hybridised with non-native honey bee sub-species and will provide guidance for future conservation efforts.

B4 has also worked closely with Mike Bungard, curator of lower vertebrates and invertebrates at Paignton Zoo Environmental Park, to install two colonies in the zoo’s grounds, where visitors can read about the bees and what is being done to help them.

With the support of Tim Smit, B4 is developing a good working relationship with the Lost Gardens of Heligan and the Eden Project, and is hoping to contribute to a major new exhibition of bees and pollinators at the heart of Eden’s global garden.

B4’s network also includes regional bee improvement groups (the Bee Improvement Programme for Cornwall and the Cornwall Bee Improvement and Bee Breeders Group), Paradise Park wildlife sanctuary at Hayle and Duchy Nurseries at Lostwithiel. B4 is also working with Ross Dyter Bee Hive Supplies who design and manufacture polystyrene hives.

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