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Dublin: 9 °C Wednesday 20 November, 2019
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The Irish honeybee was thought to be extinct. But a scientist found them in 300 hives

The native bee once dominated all of northern Europe and researchers hope it can make a comeback.

Native Irish Honey Bee Apis mellifera mellifera on Pear Blossom.
Native Irish Honey Bee Apis mellifera mellifera on Pear Blossom.
Image: Picasa

NEW RESEARCH HAS revealed that the pure native Irish honeybee is not extinct as had long been feared.

It had been thought that the pure form of the native Irish honeybee, Apis mellifera mellifera, was extinct.

However a new study by a Limerick Institute of Technology (LIT) scientist, which examined bees from around Ireland, has proven otherwise.

Post-graduate student Jack Hassett has discovered that millions of the pure native species are living in at least 300 hives in 25 counties across the country.

Bee DNA 2 Jack Hassett working on Honeybee DNA extraction in LIT. Source: LIT

The researcher found that not only are the bees a pure form of Apis mellifera mellifera, the native honeybee for northern Europe and Ireland, but they also have markers that are specific to Ireland.

The vast majority of the DNA samples studied showed greater than 95% purity, experts consider anything over 90% to be a pure form of a species.

“The study exceeded all our expectations, and has excited beekeepers across the continent,” Mr Hassett explained.

It has belied the myth that there is no native Irish honey bee in existence.

Jack explained that this presumption has its roots all the way back in the 1920s when England’s bee population was decimated due to disease and bad management and it was wrongly assumed that Ireland’s bees had suffered a similar fate.

This new study proves that Ireland now has potentially the greatest reserve of Apis mellifera mellifera in the world, the honeybee that dominated all northern Europe.

He added that the Irish bees could be used to restock parts of Europe where the Apis mellifera mellifera has died out or has been crossbred with other species.

READ: Can you spot a bumble bee? One of the lessons learnt at Ireland’s beekeeper school>

READ: A swarm of bees swept through Midleton’s main street today>

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Ceimin Burke

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