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.
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