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Swiss Black Bee - Slow Food Presidia

Swiss Black Bee


The Swiss black bee (Apis mellifera mellifera), present in the country since the last Ice Age, has adapted perfectly to the climate and flora of the Alps and their foothills.
Until a few generations ago, it was the only species found in central Europe, but it suffered a crisis in the 19th century when other bee populations were introduced to Switzerland, including the Carniolan bee (Apis mellifera carnica Pollman) from Austria and the Balkans and the Italian bee (Apis mellifera ligustica) from the Mediterranean. Their introduction immediately proved a mistake, because the species and their resulting hybrids showed a strange aggressiveness and adapted poorly to the area. The importation of other types of bee gradually fell, and today the problem does not come from the Italian bee, which is no longer raised by Swiss beekeepers, but from the Carniolan and the Buckfast (from Northern Europe), which are still present and whose morphological differences are not so evident.
The distinctive feature of the black bee is the dark color on the back of the body, which helps the insect soak up warmth from the sun, even when its rays are weak. Unlike other types, the bee flies in cooler periods, even close to winter. It is tolerant of low temperatures and has a wide flying range, visiting a great variety of flowers from early morning until late evening. When pure-bred, the bee has a very placid nature.
Feeding on nectar and pollen from a much larger number of flowers than normal, the black bee produces a honey rich in complexity, with an intense aroma and an especially balanced flavor.
The honey is traditionally extracted in the spring to get the floral essences, and in the summer for the forest essences. Honey production does not continue beyond July; the beekeepers leave the rest of the harvest to the bees so they can build up their winter stocks.

After decades of decline, many beekeepers are now rediscovering this ancient and hardy bee, and are working to maintain its purity. Some years ago, the beekeepers, together with Pro Specie Rara (a non-profit organization dedicated to dedicated to the preservation of endangered domestic species) launched a project to revive the bee. In the 1990s, they joined together in the Black Bee Association, which now has over 300 members around Switzerland. Anyone who owns black bees can join the association, irrespective of the bees' level of purity.
The Presidium involves 12 beekeepers who have signed a production protocol and who have at least 75 percent genetically proven pure-bred black bees. These small-scale producers, who generally have between 6 and 30 families, sell their honey under a single label. The objective of the Presidium and the association is to safeguard the bee, creating protected zones for its pure-bred reproduction. This has already been done in the canton of Glarus, and protected regions will also be created in Sargans and the Val Müstair in the future.

Production Area
Central Switzerland

Presidium supported by
Coop Switzerland
Renata Bott
7532 Tschierv
tel. +41 818585296

Emil Feurer
9470 Buchs
tel. +41 817565209

Balser Fried
9478 Azmoos
tel. +41 817831351

Ernst Hämmerli
3234 Vinelz
tel. +41 323381923

Werner Hardegger
9473 Gams
tel. +41 817711063

Hanspeter Küng
7324 Vilters
tel. +41 817233300

Hans Roth
6144 Zell
tel. +41 9881274

Karl Sochor
8049 Zürich
tel. +41 443084080

Werner Walker
9472 Grabs
tel. +41 817713915

Emil Breitenmoser
9050 Appenzel
tel. +41 717875653
Producers’ Coordinator
Balser Fried
tel. +41 817831351

Slow Food Coordinator
Rainer Riedi
tel. +41 812522959


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