The project aims to breed a stock of disease resistant bees that are easy to work with and suited to the challenging Welsh climate.
An apiary in spring. Image by the West Wales Bee Breeding Program:
The research team are trying to follow up as many leads as possible and would like to make an appeal to other beekeepers in Wales, to let them know about any feral colonies they know of - that have survived in the wild for at least three years.
Anita Malhotra said: "The fact that these feral colonies can survive without medication and feeding by beekeepers suggests that they may be a source of very useful genes".
Moving bees to the heather in August. Image by the West Wales Bee Breeding Program:
"We have also been told about managed bees from lines going back a long way, or which have particularly interesting characteristics".
"One of these is apparent resistance to the parasitic varroa mite, so that colonies do not need to be treated".
"Another very useful trait would be bees that are particularly good at adjusting egg laying to suit the prevailing conditions".
"This characteristic is important in the changeable weather we get in Wales, so that the bees don't starve when the weather turn bad because they need to feed a very large brood nest while they can't forage".
The end product. Image by the West Wales Bee Breeding Program:
A website has just been launched for the project - www.bees.bangor.ac.uk so please get in touch if you have any information to share or phone (01248) 383735.
The team hopes to visit promising colonies and take nucleus colonies (a common method of increasing hives) which will raise their own queens.
These 'nucs' will be left in place until the queen has mated with drones of local provenance, and then moved to a specially established apiary in Mid Wales over winter.
In 2011, the team will rigorously compare the performance of these colonies in order to choose the best to enter the breeding program.