A BUZZ of excitement has swarmed over a nature reserve as a species of bee once thought to be extinct is being reintroduced to the area.

Essex and Suffolk Water, the Essex Wildlife Trust and the Bee Improvement and Bee Breeders Association (BIBBA) are working together to bring back black honey bees into Abberton Reservoir.

The black honey bee was thought to have been wiped out in the early 1900s but experts have recently discovered they still exist in parts of the UK.

As well as living in smaller colonies than non-native honey bees, they fly at lower temperatures which makes them more successful in foraging for food and mating.

Senior conservation advisor for Essex and Suffolk Water Helen Jacobs said: "We’re delighted to have the British black bee at Abberton and to be supporting the expansion of the species.

“The British black bee is well suited to our climate, so encouraging its use among local beekeepers will bring about wider benefits for local agriculture and wildlife, which relies on honey bee pollination.”

As well as introducing them to the reservoir, the team want to establish colonies in the surrounding area to develop a thriving sustainable population of native bees.

Three hives have been introduced at the reservoir which will be populated with native black queen bees obtained from a reputable source.

The mother queens will produce more native queen bees, which will in turn be provided to local beekeepers so colonies can be established in the surrounding area.

BIBBA chairman Nick Bentham-Green said: "This will show what can be achieved locally for the conservation and preservation of the dark European honey bee, thought once to be extinct in the UK.

“Honeybees face an uphill struggle for survival, most notably from the thousands of bees which are imported every year, and with them pests and diseases, so a scheme such as this, which seeks to breed and improve local bees, has to be a significant step in the right direction.

"It will also be a great educational resource in helping local beekeepers raise their own bees.”

Essex Wildlife Trust team leader Jo Wray added: "We are excited to be involved in this project and are looking forward to getting offspring from the Queen bees to introduce these into our reserve hives.

"Our nature reserve is covered in wildflowers providing ample opportunity and habitat for the black bees to forage and collect pollen.

"We very much look forward to expanding this project with all of the partners and local bee keepers in the area."