The Belgian black bee belongs to the black bee subspecies (Apis mellifera mellifera). Though descended from the European honey bee, it is more resistant to various environmental factors because it has adapted to Belgium’s climate and flora. The bee’s body is dark, in some cases with tiny lighter dots on the abdomen and very thin streaks of white.
Compared to other non-indigenous subspecies of Apis mellifera, the Belgian black bee is able to gather pollen from a much wider variety of flowering plants.
In the 19th century, it was still distributed across the entire country, but from the middle of the century a number of beekeepers began to rear bees originally from other areas. In many places uncontrolled crossbreeding wiped out the purebred bees, in part because hybrid bees are often very aggressive. Alongside the general increase in bee mortality, this competition is one of the most serious threats to the survival of Belgium’s indigenous subspecies.
In Belgium, it is traditional for multi-flower honey to be harvested twice a year, in the spring (when it comes from dandelions, fruit tree flowers and other wild plant species) and in the summer (when it comes from linden, clover, chestnut, blackberry bushes and other plants). Honey made from honeydew, the sugary secretions of certain insects that feed on plant sap, is also produced in the summer.
The honey is separated by centrifugation, filtered and then left to rest for a few days to settle. The purified honey is then stirred slowly for a few days to obtain the right texture. At the end of the process it is decanted into jars and stored or put on the market. Belgian black bees produce around 10 tons of honey a year.