The native black bees of Scotland (Apis mellifera mellifera) migrated into west and north Europe after the last ice age, so they are the traditional honeybees of Scotland.
The bees of this sub-specie are typically small and stocky bees varying in colour from jet back to dark brown. No yellow should exist on native Apis mellifera mellifera bees but as much hybridization has occurred through the importation of bees from outside the UK and from England since the 19th century, crossbreeding with other sub-species (mostly Italian, Carniolan and Caucasian) bees has led to a great scarcity in purebred native Scottish black bees stock. Neither the pure Scottish black bees nor most other purebred sub-species are considered to be aggressive however the hybrids of any two sub-species are often aggressive by nature causing beekeepers to spend much time and effort in developing non-aggressive gene pools.
The Scottish black bees are dark, the ‘stripes’ on their abdomens look creamy or grey and they are especially black. The queen has a fine long abdomen and longer legs than the worker bees. The bees have longer hairs on their bodies than other honey bees (all the better for keeping warm in our cold weather). Less easy to see without a microscope is the highly distinction wing vein pattern of these bees. This pattern is sufficiently unusual to enable to check the genetic purity of the bees by studying their wing (using wing morphometry techniques).
Apis mellifera mellifera bees are frugal in their consumption of stores so better able to survive tough Winters. They fly at lower temperatures than other bees so can forage for nectar and pollen when other bees would be huddled inside keeping warm. Because of the above two characteristics, these bees are better able to create honey stores for their colony, even in poor summers.
The bees seal the honey cells with wax that look so pale it is almost white. The reason it looks so pale is partly that, uniquely, the