Golden Italian – Apis Mellifera Ligustica
The Italian honeybee is the default bee that beekeepers use. The Italian is generally considered the best general-purpose bee, and thereby is what is most often recommended to the beginner. Italian bees are also the most common stock bee, and likely are the race to be found in packages.
• A very gentle bee and good for beginners
• Builds up comb and brood quickly in spring
• Excellent comb builders
• Only moderately prone to swarm
• Resistant to European Foul Brood
• Strong cleaning behavior
• Lower range propolis producer
• Continuous brood rearing continues after honey flow ceases
• More likely to starve during long winters as they tend to exhaust honey stores (may need to be supplemented)
• Poor flight orientation, highly prone to drifting
• Aggressive foragers and easily provoked to rob weaker neighboring colonies
Pick your breeds based on your environment and what will work for you best. What works for your neighbor may not work for you. Most people recommend Italians or MN Hygienics for new beekeepers.
Carniolan – Apis Mellifera Carnica
The Carniolan is a subspecies of Western honeybee. It originates from Slovenia, but can now be found also in Austria, part of Hungary, Romania, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia.
• Considered gentle and non-aggressive
• Less prone to rob honey than Italians
• Sense of orientation considered better than the Italians
• Very proficient in adjusting their worker bee population to the availability of nectar flow and can adjust with great speed
• Quite resistant to brood diseases
• Longer lifespan by about 12% compared to other bees
• Only need a small amount of propolis to seal unwanted open spaces or small gaps in hive
• more suitable for areas with long winters; can survive with a small number of worker bees while keeping their honey storage at its maximum
• useful in areas with strong nectar flow, foraging even on wet/cool mornings or evenings and able to quickly adapt to changes in the environment
• recommended for areas with strong spring nectar flow and early pollination
• Prone to swarm when overcrowded
• Less able to thrive during hot summer weather
• Brood nest strength depends on pollen availability
• It isn’t easy to find the queen in the hive due to the darker color
Russians – Apis Mellifera
The Russian honeybee have evolved traits of natural mite resistance due to heavy selection pressures. They have lived for more than 150 years in a region that is home to the varroa mite and the tracheal mites (Acarapis woodi).
• Low propensity for robbing
• Usually builds brood only during times of pollen availability (like Carniolans)
• Pollination skills much like the Italians
• Highly resistant to Tracheal mites
• More resistant than other breeds to Varroa mites
• Naturally grooms often (thus resistance to mites)
• Good honey producer
• While some consider this a calm bee, most feel it is a bit more aggressive than the Italians or Carniolans
• Increased tendency to swarm
• Brood rearing is highly dependent on forage availability
• Tends to produce more propolis than Italians/Carniolans
• Very limited availability makes them expensive
Buckfast – Apis Mellifera: hybrid
The Buckfast hybrid was produced by Brother Adam of the Buckfast Abbey. Brother Adam crossed many races of bees (mainly Anatolians with Italians and Carniolans) in hopes of creating a superior breed. The results are what is now known as the Buckfast Bee. While the European variety of Buckfast are considered very gentle, the American variety is far more defensive. There is a debate among beekeepers if this defensiveness is due to breeding for varroa resistance or partial hybridization with the AHB (Africanized Honey Bee) of the Buckfast line in America. The issues are further clouded in that the two leading American queen breeders are breeding for varroa resistance and are also located in AHB territory. AHB are usually considered by most experts to be more resistant to varroa than the European Honey Bee.
New Minnesota Hygenics – Apis Mellifera Ligustica Hybrid
Developed by Dr. Marla Spivak at the University of Minnesota Bee Lab. These bees show a strong tendency to be resistant to American Foulbrood and Chalkbrood.
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