The Nordic bee (Apis mellifera mellifera), also called the Black or Brown bee, is a subspecies of honeybees that has been documented in the Northern European region for more than 8000 years. Hardy and resistant to cold weathers, it is thus adapted to these regions. During the 20th century, though, they have been slowly replaced by Southern European or subspecies, said to be more suited for commercial production.
In Denmark the last colonies of pure Nordic brown bees are endemic to the Læsø Island. The bees on the Island have been studied in detail in order to determine their origin and whether they constituted a pure population of A. m. mellifera.
It has been determined that there are approximately 200 colonies of pure Nordic brown bee, and on the island pure mating is ensured by physical distance to other subspecies.
However, other colonies have been introgressed by other species, but during the 90’s a conservation process has been implemented, making the island into a protection area, in order to ensure that the pure colonies would not be crossed anymore by the other breeds imported on the island. The bees are maintained by a few beekeepers, and one can also find them on some other islands like Bornholm Island, Christiansø, Endelave, Skarø, Agger Tange and at Flakkebjerg, a research station from the Aarhus University.
Still, its conservation is facing serious problems, due to the reduced number of the population and their isolation, that leads to possible inbreeding and genetic drift, which is why major attention must be paid to the Læsø brown Bee in order to preserve it.
Image: Archivio Slow Food