Native Black Honey Bees

We rear Native Irish Black Queen Bees (Apis mellifera mellifera) and are the main breeder in the Republic of Ireland of these queens. Native Irish Honey Bees are under threat due to hybridisation with non native strains of honey bee. It is important to protect them as a genetic resource. Importations of honey bees into Ireland and the propagation of non-native sub-species can have a devastating effect on them. The Native Irish Honey Bee is a strain of the Dark European Honey Bee which was once native to most of Europe north of the Alps. It is now relatively scarce in mainland Europe.

Through DNA research carried out by Jack Hassett in Limerick Institute of Technology (LIT) in conjunction with National University of Ireland Galway (NUIG), it is known that Ireland has one of the largest populations of these honey bees in the world. Galtee Honey Farm were involved in this research from the beginning and the first samples to be tested were from our bees. We were also involved in a European wide genetic testing project (BABE) carried out by Bo Vest Pederson at University of Copenhagen in 2000. Our bees were identified as being ecotypes of Apis mellifera mellifera termed ‘Galtee’ and ‘Glengarra’ Through this project it was discovered that our bees were almost identical to the Tasmanian Black Bee which is widely believed to be the purest strain of Dark European Honey Bee in the world.

The DNA carried out in both projects showed that our bees are 95% to 100% Apis mellifera mellifera which is the native honey bee. For many years there was a misconception among some beekeepers that this type of bee was extinct.

Why are Native Honey Bees Important?

  • Known as ‘Black Bees’ due to appearance, but colouration may vary
  • Naturally adapted to the Irish climate
  • Can be very docile with low swarming tendencies
  • They are ideal for Irish honey production
  • Excellent at sparing their stores during bad weather
  • Can fly at lower temperatures
  • Good honey producers, even in poor weather conditions
  • Genetically diverse populations in Ireland

We are proud of our involvement in the formation of the Native Irish Honey Bee Society and of giving it ongoing help and support. We are patrons of NIHBS & have contributed to the NIHBS Research Fund which helps to support the important research on the Native Irish Honey Bee.

NIHBS was established in 2012 by a group of beekeepers who wish to support the various strains of Native Irish Honey Bee (Apis mellifera mellifera) throughout the country. It is a cross border organisation & is open to all. It consists of members & representatives from all corners of the island of Ireland.

Its main aim is to promote the conservation, study, improvement & re-introduction of Apis mellifera mellifera (Native Irish Honey Bee), throughout the island of Ireland. For more information on the Native Irish Honey Bee Society, log onto