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Cornish bee experts have been awarded a Lottery grant to help save the county’s very own honey bee. And Paignton Zoo is playing its part.

B4 - Bringing Back Black Bees - is a Cornwall-based conservation organisation working to promote the qualities of the native black honey bee Apis mellifera mellifera.

Their project, ‘Strengthening the Heritage of the Cornish Black Bee’, has been given a Heritage Lottery Fund Sharing Heritage grant of nearly £10,000 to help communicate the benefits of the Cornish strain of honey bee and to encourage bee enthusiasts to keep it.

Dr Andrew Brown of the B4 Project said: “Black honey bees are the original bees of the British Isles, but their gene pool has been diluted over the past century by breeding with non-native sub-species. They are worth saving because they are uniquely adapted to living in our fluctuating climate. They are thrifty, long-lived and able to fly at lower temperatures, in light rain and drizzle and in higher winds than introduced sub-species.”

Paignton Zoo already has two hives of Cornish black bees, among the first outside Cornwall. Now, bee experts are installing an additional observation hive at the Zoo to allow close, safe access to the bees, as well as viewing points and interpretation to explain the importance of the Cornish black bee and its local significance.

Philip Knowling, spokesperson for the Zoo, said: “The aim is to reach people who don’t keep bees. Bees are fascinating and amazing and vital to the way we live, so we all need to know a bit about bees. This particular bee is small, dark, tough and hairy and has survived in parts of Cornwall – it’s a real Celtic bee. It carries the colours of the flag of St Piran!”

Nerys Watts, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in the South West said: “The Sharing Heritage programme is a wonderful opportunity for communities to delve into their local heritage and we are delighted to be able to offer this grant so that the B4 Project can help people embark on a real journey of discovery about natural heritage. Heritage means such different things to different people, and HLF’s funding offers a wealth of opportunities for groups to explore and celebrate what’s important to them in their area.”

Paignton Zoo is opening a new exhibit devoted to invertebrates - animals with no backbone, which includes insects such as bees. The official opening of Investigate is on Wednesday 28th May at 1.00pm.
 

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