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The Writings of Beowulf A. Cooper

Beowulf Cooper has been a big influence on my beekeeping, more so since his untimely death in 1982, than in the years that we met regularly in my workshop.

Beo Cooper was a Naturalist that worked for MAFF and the founder of Village Bee Breeders' Association (VBBA), which was formed at Alne, Yorkshire on June 13th 1964, after an inaugural meeting held on July 27th 1963 at the apiary of Terry Theaker, Leadenham, Lincolnshire. The name "village bee" being intended to refer to the small-colony nature of the native bees of Britain and Ireland and was formed with the remit... For the conservation, restoration, study, selection and improvement of the native and near native bees of Britain and Ireland. VBBA was the forerunner of BIBBA and Beo remained it's Director until his death.

Beowulf wrote many notes that were gathered together by Philip Denwood after his death and published by BIBBA as "The Honeybees of the British Isles". The book is still available from BIBBA, ISBN 0-905369-06-8.

Beo was opposed to the supposition that is still held in some circles, that both native and recently imported subspecies of honeybees in the British Isles were largely wiped out between 1905 and 1919 by an infectious disease, "Isle of Wight Disease" . Brother Adam and other influential beekeepers promoted the view that there were no British bees left, which however was shown to be without any scientific basis by, for example, Dr. Leslie Bailey (Honey Bee Pathology, London 1981: Academic Press; pp. 60ff., 81ff.).

Terry Theaker had protested that his native strains of honey bee had survived in spite of Isle of Wight Disease. Systematic morphometric and behavioural studies as conducted by Beowulf and since his death the whole basis of the taxonomy of honeybee subspecies has been revolutionised by DNA analysis and more sophisticated morphometric methods. Such study has confirmed that many of the honey bees of Britain and Ireland are of the Apis mellifera mellifera subspecies.