The rationale for BIBBA
From the 1920s it was often supposed and still is in some circles, that
both native and recently imported subspecies of honey bees in the British Isles
were largely wiped out between 1905 and 1919 by an infectious disease, namely
acarine or tracheal mite ('Isle of Wight disease'). Subsequent restocking with
imported subspecies was believed to have rendered native strains effectively
extinct. Brother Adam and other influential beekeepers of the time promoted
this view, possibly for commercial interests. This however, was shown to be
without any scientific basis by, for example, Dr. Leslie Bailey (Honey Bee
Pathology, London 1981: Academic Press; pp. 60ff., 81ff.). More recent work
using DNA analysis has confirmed that the wipe-out of native bees was a myth.
Many observant beekeepers had protested that their native strains of bees
had survived unscathed through the “Isle of Wight”
episode, including Terence F. Theaker, one of the founder members of BIBBA.
Others had come to the same conclusion with the aid of more systematic
morphometric and behavioural studies. One such was Beowulf A. Cooper, who from
the 1950s through the 1970s was employed as an agricultural entomologist by the
then Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF). It was largely on his
initiative that BIBBA was founded and he directed BIBBA until his death in
Since Beowulf Cooper's death the whole basis of the taxonomy of honeybee
subspecies has been revolutionised by the technique of DNA analysis as well as
by more sophisticated morphometric methods, which continue to evolve and
increase in accuracy. These methods have fully confirmed the status of many of
the honey bees of Britain
and Ireland as members of Apis
mellifera mellifera, the native subspecies widely distributed in Europe
north of the Alps and Pyrenees. BIBBA is proud
to have contributed to these efforts.
History and activities of BIBBA
BIBBA was formally constituted as the Village Bee Breeders' Association
(VBBA) at Alne, Yorkshire on June 13th 1964, after an inaugural meeting held on
July 27th 1963 at the apiary of Terence Theaker of Leadenham, Lincolnshire. The name 'village bee' was
intended to refer to the small-colony nature and local adaption of the native
bees of Britain and Ireland.
At the 1972 Annual General Meeting the name of the Association was
changed to the British Isles Bee Breeders' Association (BIBBA), 'in order to
make our identity comprehensible to our continental counterparts, with whom we
shall be building up increasing relationships now that both the Irish Republic
and the UK have become part of the European Community'.
At the 1997 Annual General Meeting the name of the Association was
changed again to the Bee Improvement and Bee Breeders' Association as the Isles
involved are not all British, (retaining the same acronym of BIBBA) to reflect
the further internationalisation of the efforts to conserve and improve the
Dark European Honey bee (Apis mellifera mellifera L.), to which
subspecies the native bees of Britain and Ireland belong.
Since its inception, BIBBA has sought to pursue its aims by...
Producing and distributing publications
Encouraging the formation of local Bee Breeding Groups
Holding Conferences, Workshops and Lectures
Cooperating with similar organisations and with scientific institutions (particularly
in the British Isles and Continental Europe) in research and educational activities.