Med. Weter. 75 (11), 643-651, 2019

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Origin and protection of middle-European bees in Europe
The population of the honey bee, Apis mellifera, continues to shrink. The middle-European bee, Apis m. mellifera, is particularly at risk in Europe. The drop in the number of middle-European bees is so huge that the insect is under the threat of extinction. Today, they live on small areas covered by the protection of genetic resources. Apis m. mellifera is protected mainly in areas where this species evolved: for instance, in Switzerland, Latvia, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, France, Germany, Poland or Russia. This paper presents methods used to preserve and protect Apis m. mellifera in Europe and research on the descent and original extent of the species. It also reviews opportunities created by the implementation of various types of programs for the protection of genetic resources of Apis m. mellifera and ways of employing morphological and genetic studies for the conservative breeding of middle-European bees. The paper demonstrates that the protection of Apis m. mellifera in Europe is necessary, considering the decreasing size, and the threat of hybridization, of this population. The use of the morphometric evaluation and DNA analysis methods have made it possible to track and compare likely directions of propagation of genes in the long history of evolution of bees. Moreover, these methods have given us better insight into the ongoing processes. The current use of these methods for reliable identification of bee breeds helps to protect Apis m. mellifera more effectively. European programs for the protection of genetic resources of bees are based on the following two main paradigms: the breeding of local isolated populations on islands and establishment of protected inland areas for the conservative breeding of contained swarms. All these programs share and are successful in achieving the goal that consists in the preservation of the characteristics of Apis m. mellifera as unchanged as possible, with retention of the maximum genetic diversity of the species.
Keywords: native middle-European, bee protection program, morphological studies, genetic studies