As World Bee Day (Friday 20 May) approaches, there’s a buzz in the air at Abberton Reservoir. A species of bee once thought to be extinct continues to thrive on the site, thanks to an environmental project set out to save them.

Around 1 million native honeybees, also known as the British Black Bee, are now occupying a total of 18 colonies at Essex & Suffolk Water’s reservoir, with Essex beekeepers helping to protect and sustain the area’s population.


It’s all thanks to a partnership project, launched in 2017, between Essex & Suffolk Water, the Essex Wildlife Trust, and the Bee Improvement and Bee Breeders Association (BIBBA).

Over the last five years, with support from the water company’s environmental fund ‘Branch Out’, the team of volunteers have trained a core group of 20 beekeepers who help to maintain and look after the hives.

They have also reached out to 15 other local beekeeping groups, working with around 500 people from the groups. The aim is to encourage and educate them on how to breed their queen bees, in a bid to aid recovery of the species in the area.

Essex & Suffolk Water’s Conservation Advisor, Helen Jacobs, said: “We’re celebrating World Bee Day to highlight the crucial role bees play in ecosystems around the world, and we’re delighted that our Branch Out funding has really helped this project to have a significant effect on increasing the local native honeybee population.

“It’s also great that we’ve had such a positive response from so many local beekeepers, who will now use these black bees in their hives.”

Kevin Thorn, representative of BIBBA, said: “The native black honeybee can still be found in Cornwall, Wales, Scotland and Ireland but this is the first attempt to reintroduce them into an area they previously thrived in. We are now focused on creating a wider population of native bees so that there is a sustainable population.”

Essex Wildlife Trust’s, Jo Wray, said: “It is down to the pure dedication of Kevin Thorn and local beekeepers that this project is doing so well. We hope that this project continues to blossom and that the black bees continue to thrive.”