Janvier 2020- 10e Congrès apicole d'Iran











2d International and 10th National Iranian Honeybee Congress, Karaj, January 22-23, 2020

Présentation orale initialement prévue.


European Apis mellifera subspecies: a history of globalization.

And now, back to the original Black Bee?


by Dr. Jean-Paul BURDY, professor of History at Grenoble-Alpes University (France), and beekeeper.


Summary:  From the 16th c., the history of the black bee Apis mellifera mellifera (and later A.m.ligustica) is one of a rapid globalization, connected to the European colonization of the world. But after a century-long search for "the ideal bee" with hazardous crossbreedings, we can see in Western Europe a tendency to rehabilitation and valorization of the original subspecies and their regional ecotypes, mainly A.m.carnica and A.m.mellifera. In the perspective of a sustainable beekeeping, local versus global?

Abstract : The history of Apis mellifera mellifera (the "Black Bee") is one of globalization in four centuries, connected to the colonization of the world (Americas, Siberia, Asia, Oceania) by the Western powers between the 16th and 19th centuries. Then, from 1860, A.m.ligustica (the Italian "Golden Bee") became in a few decades the bee most present on all continents, thanks to scientific progresses (morphological criteria, genetics), faster transport and technical innovations (moving frames hives, Benton box). The constant search for "the ideal bee" and “the best strains” continued throughout the 20th century, by controlled hybridizations (A.m.Buckfast bee, by Brother Adam) or through anarchic crossbreedings favored by the global South-North trade of queenbees. These hybridizations, and the tendency to annual requeening by importation of South-hemisphere queens, are among the genetic and health factors of weakening of bee colonies. The high mortality rates of colonies in Western Europe and North America, and the global environmental crisis, now favor less a return to a "Darwinian beekeeping" (proposed by Prof. Thomas Seeley) or the project of a "Super Bee" (considered by some laboratories), than the rehabilitation and valorization of the original and sometimes endangered subspecies and their regional ecotypes: thus, in Western Europe, Apis mellifera mellifera, the Black Bee that the French FedCAN and the European SICAMM networks are working to reintroduce; or Apis mellifera carnica, that has now become "the Slovenian national bee". In the perspective of a sustainable beekeeping, the globalized bee may have to return to her original lands and ancestors... Local versus Global?

These long-term developments are the subject of a book currently being written
[provisional title: "In search of “the ideal bee”. A global history of Western honey bee breeds" ], based on the publications of beekeeping societies since the 19th c., on the contemporary scientific literature, and on the author's participation in European and international networks on bees and beekeeping.



NB: les circonstances politiques du moment nous ont empêché d'être présent physiquement au congrès de Karaj, sinon à travers notre poster, présenté le 23 janvier.




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