I am a beekeeper in the south of England. The climate here is typified by cool, sometimes wet, summers and mild winters with little or no snow. Rarely does the weather stay the same for any length of time. If you live in a different climate and are reading this blog for tips on your own beekeeping, you will need to adjust what you read to reflect your local conditions.
The bee colonies that I keep are all mongrels. They originate either as swarms or as splits from local stock. To my mind, there is nothing better than a swarm from a feral bee colony. Not only have they shown that they can cope with the local climate, they are already well on the way to developing natural resistance to pests such as the varroa mite. I know one local beekeeper who has scores of colonies that are naturally varroa resistant. Many of them originated from feral swarms.
Of course, the honeybee that is truly local to England is the British black bee. This is a northern European subspecies of honeybee and goes by the scientific name of Apis mellifera mellifera. If I lived in the glens of Scotland, isolated from any other honeybees, I would be strongly tempted to obtain some British blacks. But here in the south, we are surrounded by bees of several different subspecies – all of which have been imported by beekeepers. Honeybee queens mate on the wing, and with many different drones from surrounding hives. So, living where I do, whatever bee you start with, within a generation or two, you end up with mongrels. So, I take the view that I might as well start with mongrels.
When I look around me at the surrounding countryside I am struck by how local the natural vegetation seems to be. I drive a few miles down the road and the plants in the hedgerows are consistently in flower maybe a week or more ahead of the same plants where I live. A few miles more and I am out of the country and into the town, with completely different bee forage from the countryside. Beyond the town I am back in the country, but here the plants seem to flower at the same time as the ones immediately around me. Honeybees living in these different localities will adjust to the differences in timing and flora in their own ways, changing their annual rhythm of growth and reproduction to suite their location.
I have noticed that when bees are moved from one location to another it takes time for them to adjust to their new locality. Once they are adapted, they often behave very differently from when they first arrive. I like to avoid such disruption whenever possible.