Nest space

Although many people immediately think of a beekeeper when they see a honeybee, it should not be forgotten that the honeybee itself is a wild animal. However, today these wild animals live with us almost exclusively in beekeeping hives and no longer in tree hollows in the great outdoors. Yet this hive for honey bees is actually no more or less than what a nesting box is for wild birds, namely a breeding area.

Humans started catching wild bee colonies centuries ago and then put them in all kinds of artificial nesting rooms that facilitated the “robbing” of honey. In northern Europe, this usually evolved from self-hollowed tree trunks, to straw hives, to the modern hives. And so also in southern Europe, where bee colonies were often housed in terracotta enclosures before the modern hive was introduced.

summer breeding stop

An example of modern hives, here the Segeberger model (Dylan Elen)

In our region, the Black bees, or hybridized descendants of them (see Dissatisfaction ), were also found in the wild until the 20th century. These bee colonies lived in hollow trees (and in rocky areas possibly in crevasses). The bee colonies could then be divided into “bee colonies of beekeepers” and “wild bee colonies”. But because of the same reproduction strategy, there was always interaction between both groups at the genetic level.

Today, there are no more populations of wild bee colonies. These populations were first decimated by the excessive logging in the Middle Ages and the subsequent forest management. As a result , almost all primeval forests disappeared and potential nesting sites were massively destroyed. The blow of grace, however, followed in the 80s of the last century by the Varroa mite ( Varroa destructor ). This ectoparasite of subspecies of the Eastern honeybee ( Apis cerana ) arrived at the time at the hands of mankind, among other things in Europe, and since then has been attacking and killing , indirectly via virus spread, all subspecies of the Western honeybee ( Apis mellifera ). Beekeepers could use acaricides to fight the Varroa mite and save their bee colonies. Wild bee colonies, however, received no help and perished, especially due to the Varroa mite, but naturally also due to the general decline of nature.

Occasionally we sometimes come across a bee population living in the wild. This then concerns bee colonies that have escaped as swarms from a beekeeper and have moved into the wild, for example in an abandoned woodpecker nest. Usually these wild bee colonies do not survive long, the Varroa mite is again one of the main reasons. Beekeepers still fight the Varroa mite, in addition to acaricides often with other means and techniques, whereby resistance of the mite to these means is increasingly lurking.

Nevertheless, there are hopeful reports that bee colonies from subspecies of the Western honeybee, just like those of the Eastern honeybee, could survive without Varroa control. Provided that you have the right conservation plans and appropriate forest management, it may therefore be possible to have Black bees in the wild with us again within a few decades. therefore regards this as an important working point for the future, although we would like to emphasize that simply releasing Black bees into the wild is anything but a good idea considering, among other things, the extremely high risk of hybridization (after all, a hybrid carries nothing to the maintenance of the pure subspecies itself).

Wild colony Black bees in old woodpecker nest (Dylan Elen)