Generally speaking, the local Bulgarian honey bee Apis mellifera macedonica (= Apis mellifera rodopica) of Carnica type is the basis of bee breeding in the country. It is an element of the biological diversity of the Republic of Bulgaria. The import of foreign bee races is forbidden. The Bulgarian honey bee developed under the influence of specific environmental conditions and it has been spread throughout the country since time immemorial. Under the local conditions in the country, the Bulgarian honey bee colonies develop well and do not demonstrate a high tendency to swarm – they build new swarm cells just when there are no more empty cells left.
Until 1978 beekeeping and breed improvement activities in Bulgaria were carried out without planning, applying mainly mass selection. In parallel, some studies were carried out on the local and foreign bee races (Italian, Mountain Gray Caucasian, Carnica, etc.) and on their crossings.
In 1978 a long-term breed improvement programme on bees was approved in Bulgaria. Three reserves for the preservation of the local bee were legislatively established – Western, including some highland territories of the former Vidin, Vratsa and Mihaylovgrad (present Montana) districts; Eastern, covering the territories of the highland parts of the former Gabrovo, Veliko Tarnovo, Targovishte, Shumen, Burgas and Sliven districts, and Southern – including territories of the highland parts of the former Blagovgrad, Pazardzhik and Smolyan districts. Several microregions of specific natural and climatic conditions and suitable honey plants were determined in each reserve. In that period the beekeepers and the hives in the reserves were registered by microregions and villages. Following the Instruction and the Regulations for keeping local bees, approved by the Agricultural Academy, the work has been conducted after the scheme of “mass selection – active breeding unit (АBU) – elites of the breeding unit (EPBU) – breeding hives.
At each stage of the breeding process, queen-bees of the local race have been produced from the best selected colonies, applying instrumental insemination or establishing insemination stations. Queen-bees of the local bee have been produced from the selected colonies having the best characteristics and distributed as a source material among the beekeeping farms in the country. Meanwhile, in 1995, the Higher Agricultural Institute in Plovdiv started investigations on preserved populations of the local Bulgarian honey bee and on establishing bee lines. In the period 1980-1987, crossings of two, three and four breeds of the local bee with Iitalian, Mountain Gray Caucasian and Carnica races have been tested and introduced in the beekeeping practice in some regions of the country as Vratsa, Lovech, Sliven, Tervel. The use of queen-bees of crossings and the practical impossibility to control their distribution, led to losing the breed purity of many local populations of the Bulgarian honey bee, the reduction of the number of beehives in the country and deterioration of their biological and economic characteristics. On the other hand, the naturally originated crossed bee colonies, resulted in drones of different crossings, which made impossible any purposeful breeding work on the Bulgarian bee even in the regions of the recognized reserves. In fact, the breeding process has been interrupted, except for the activities carried out on the breeding hive in the Eastern reserve and on the breeding hives of the Experimental Beekeeping Station in Kostinbrod.
The network of the queen-bee production farms in the country has been destroyed and the farms were liquidated in the period between 1990 and 1999. Only the queen-bee production farm of Apiacta in Lovech continued its activity. A vacuum in the production of queen-bees was created. In the next decade the queen-bee production was reduced to 3-4 thousand annually.
For comparison, in 1988 the annual number of the produced queen-bees was 100-120 thousand. That created the conditions of a chaotic and uncontrolled production of queen-bees and swarms in the country. The research studies carried out after 1988 show that the process of the biological (genetic) pollution affected the microregions of the reserves with preserved pure-bred Bulgarian bees (mainly in the mountainous parts of the country), which is a catastrophic tendency threatening the conservation and the sustainable use of the genetic fund of the Bulgarian honey bee. Bulgarian honey bee is the basis of bee breeding in Bulgaria, thanks to its proved biological and productive advantages, its higher adaptability to the natural and climatic conditions and the available honey plants in the country. At present 11625 bee colonies are under breeding control in the country. According to data of the Ministry of Agriculture and Foods, in 2010 the number of the bee colonies in the country was 613262, i.e. only by 1,9% less than in 2009. It means that there is not a drastic decrease in the number of the bee colonies. The total amount of the produced bee honey is estimated to 10595 tons, i.e. an 11.2% increase compared with 2009. In 2010 the average honey yield per beehive was 19 kg. The export of bee honey in 2010 increased to 8540 tons, exceeding the export in 2009 by 39.6%. It indicates that besides various difficulties, the sector is successfully developing.
|Breed local name||Local bee|
|Classification||Apis mellifera rodopica (Apis mellifera macedonica)|
|Methods and techniques of developing||Autochthonous. Appeared under specific local environmental conditions|
|Year of recognition||None|
|Main areas||Throughout the country|
|Economic use||Honey, beeswax, royal jelly, propolis, apitoxin|
Table 2 182 General information
|Name of the breeding organization||National Beekeeping Association|
|Studbook established in||2003|
|Under breeding control
-Bee colonies, number
– Beehives, number
Table 2 183 Breeding status
|-Storage of genetic material
-artificial insemination, %
|Risk status||Not at risk|
Table 2 184 Genetic bank (Executive Agency on Selection and Reproduction in Animal Breeding)
• Breed description
Breed specific characteristics
High resistance. Resists to both high and low temperatures. Bees overwinter well. The swarming capacity is low. Natural supersedure of the queens. Honey sealing is white (dry), sometimes mixed.
Figure 43 Bulgarian honey bee
Figure 44 Bulgarian honey bee
|-chitin shell of the worker bee||Dark at the dorsal side of the abdominal segments, without large yellow spots and strips|
|-abdominal terga||White, dark spots on the face of some animals|
|-крака||Dark with small yellow spots
Table 2 185 Colour
|Proboscis length, mm||6,4-6,6|
|Fore wing length, mm||9,1|
|Fore wing width, mm||3,2|
|Discoidal shift, %||90-100|
|Life weight, mg
– fertile queen-bees
– infertile queen-bees
Table 2 186 Main exterior measurements
Table 2 187 Honey performance
|Aptitude of swarming, %||3-5|
|Fertility, number of eggs per 24 hours||2000|
Table 2 188 Reproduction and use