Limerick IT study reveals pure native Irish honey bee alive and well

Nick Rabbitts

Reporter:

Nick Rabbitts

LIT student Jack Hassett, whose studies have revealed the honeybee remains alive and well in Ireland

LIT student Jack Hassett, whose studies have revealed the honeybee remains alive and well in Ireland

A LIMERICK Institute of Technology (LIT) student’s studies have revealed the pure native Irish honey bee is still alive and well on the island.

The ‘apis mellifera mellifera’ has long been considered extinct.

But now applied science postgraduate Jack Hassett has established millions of the native species are living in around 300 hives across the country.

His study shows that while this black bee should still be considered endangered, there are enough of the pure native honeybee in Ireland to not only ensure its survival with the proper support, but also enough Irish bees to repopulate northern Europe, where the majority of apis mellifera mellifera has died out or been hybridised.

“It had been presumed that the pure form of the native Irish honey bee was extinct, but on examining bees from more than 300 hives from 25 Irish counties, we now know otherwise,” said Mr Hassett.

“We have found that not only are these black bees a pure form of apis mellifera mellifera, but they also have markers specific only to Ireland. The vast majority of the DNA samples taken showed greater than 95% purity for Apis mellifera mellifera, the native honeybee for northern Europe and Ireland. Anything over 90% is considered a pure form of a species,” explained the applied scientist post graduate.

Jack has been working on his studies for over four years under the guidance of Dr Elizabeth Moore and Dr Michael Geary.

Dr Moore has a background in Genetics and Biomolecular Forensics while Dr Geary is an Analytical Scientist and a beekeeper of 15 years.

Dr Geary also co-founded the BeeActiv company, which is profiled in this weekend’s Business Leader.

The worldwide decline in honeybees has led to serious concerns about this essential pollinator and the potential drastic impact their loss will have on the quality and diversity of foods available.