Honey bees live wild (feral bees) in cavities of various kinds, hollow trees, walls of old houses, rock cavities, etc. It is better for pollination of the environment if you help bees to find places where to live than otherwise will be possible for them in our modern environment. We can help both solitary bees and honey bees. With honey bees we will also be able to harvest some of their valuable products.
In order to help the bees the most in a sustainable way, it's good to understand how they live in their natural environment without any help from men. You can see how the bees are formed to function, survive and thrive on their own and you can design how to keep and manage them with this knowledge in mind.
In modern agriculture, so-called protective chemicals are often used to protect crops from harmful bugs. Not only the target bugs will be affected but unfortunately also beneficial bugs, such as bees, both solitary pollinating insects as well as honey bees. Beekeepers also many times have been too keen in keeping also the least vital bees alive instead of allowing a portion of their beestock to perish to strengthen the genetics. Honey bees are also highly focused at avoiding inbreeding. Also when they can decide themselves how to build their wax combs without the help of pre-defined cellsizes in wax foundation supplied by the beekeeper, they build different cell sizes, smaller in brood area and bigger where they store honey. All these changes made by man have made it more difficult for them to adapt and deal with new threats.
The most serious threat to our bees is a mite, Varroa destructor, big as a pin head, which help spreading viruses. Another big threat is agricultural chemicals. In order to fight the varroa mite, many chemicals are used. And even if such varieties are used that will not leave residues in wax and honey they lower the capacity of the bees, their immune and defense systems, to deal with the mite on their own. As a result the viruses will spread easier. Using miticides is not a sustainable longterm solution.
As African bees in South America in just 5 about years developed resistance to the varroa mite, the idea was born to get breeding material from a variety of African bees that is easy to handle and is most similar to our European bees. Not all African bees are as defensive as the variety that was brougt to South America, which was a tropical type of bee. (Today this originally very defensive bee has developed very good tempered populations, for example on Puerto Rico.) Three African varieties are more like our European bees, Monticola, from especially the high mountains of East Africa, Unicolor in Madagascar and the Cape bee on southern tip of South Africa (this bee is for other reasons not very suitable for Europe).
In March 1989 a group of four beekeepers went to high mountains in Kenya in East Africa and fetched drone semen in capillary tubes and small larvae and eggs in small pieces of newly built honey comb. From Mt Elgon on the border between Kenya and Uganda we broght this to Sweden. The climate on high altitudes there is in a way similar to that in Sweden, except that there are no long winters, even if temperature every night is low. The purpose for using this breeding material was to increase the vitality and the gentic variation of our European bees with a "high potent natural resource". The bee race was Apis mellifera monticola, a dark and hardy bee with a relatively good temper and thus easy to handle.