Different Types Of Honey Bees

Different Types Of Honey Bees


Before I get into the different types of bees, let me say that there are so many advantages for you raising your own queens. You can save money and shipping can be stressful to the queen. She may be exposed to cold weather or hot weather. A queen shipped to you will cost $78 including overnight shipping. Why not invest in my ONLINE QUEEN REARING COURSE. I'll provide videos of my proven methods of raising queens. I've raised and sold queens for years. You might even want to consider selling queens for extra income. You can take my ONLINE class from the comfort of your home, on your schedule. Start and finish anytime you desire. No travel. Watch my videos from your smartphone, tablet or computer. Click here for more information for my ONLINE Classes.

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Honey bees are not the same as bumble bees, wasps or yellow jackets. The scientific name for the honey bee that we have in America is Apis mellifera. Apis mellifera is actually one of eight species of honey bees. Apis mellifera actually means "honey carrying bee." This is slightly incorrect in that a honey bee carries nectar not honey, but the name still stands. Apis mellifera is a species of honey bee but within that species there are races. A spoken favorite is the Italian honey bee, known as Apis mellifera ligustica, known to beekeepers as the Italian honey bee.  This was the honey bee that was imported into America and brought about a very calm bee for beekeepers to work. That was a long time ago and sense then many other types of honey bees have been brought in. All have mixed together and now it is very difficult to impossible to actually have a pure bred bee of any kind. However, let me go ahead and tell you of the different kinds of bees. But before I do, remember that it is next to impossible to get and to keep a pure bred. Our effort today is to lean toward a diversity of genetics and to raise queens from strong and healthy hives which means we are no longer too concerned about whether a queen is an Italian, a Russian or Carniolian.


Apis mellifera carnica known as a carniolan honey bee. Another popular honey bee is Apis mellifera caucasca, known as the caucasian honey bee. These different races are unique because they were introduced into America from specific geographical regions from other parts of the world which gives them each unique characteristics. Another species of honey bee that makes the press is Apis mellifera scutellata, the Africanized bee, imported into America from Brazil in the 1950s. Now that we know about the Italian, Carniolan and Caucasian honey bee, let's look at other honey bees. Some have crossed these races of bees or have selected certain traits and have produced hybrid honey bees from within a species. This has given us Cordovans, Buckfast, Russian, Starline, Minnesota Hygienic and many other honey bees that have been bred for specific traits.

Which Honey Bee Is Best?  Let me give you some commonly accepted traits of each type or at least their traits prior to being mixed together here in America with other types.  Before I do, let me say that these claims of trait specific races and hybrids are claims. Certainly selected breeding has produced unique characteristics and I'm sure someone scientifically measured the results, but results can vary. Russian bees, known for their resistance to mites, can still  die of mite infestations. Italians, that are known for not swarming as much, can still swarm alot. Carniolans, that are known for their rapid spring build up, can fail and not build up fast in the spring. But again, let me give you what is commonly credited to the difference honey bees.

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Italian- Apis mellifera ligustica GOOD TRAITS: Very gentle, good brood pattern, isn't so prone to swarm as much, great honey producer, light on excess propolis and makes nice looking white comb honey. A great bee for someone new to beekeeping. POOR TRAITS: Can drift between hives and not find their home. Are prone to rob other hives during a dearth. A dearth is a lull in nectar flow.

Caucasian- Apis mellifera caucasca GOOD TRAITS: They have a long proboscis or tongue. So they can work certain flowers other honey bees cannot. Very gentle. POOR TRAITS: They don't build up very fast in the spring and are very heavy on propolis, making the hive very sticky to work. Can rob more.

Carniolan- Apis mellifera carnica GOOD TRAITS: Explosive spring build up, are not so prone to rob, are very, very gentle, and good comb producers. POOR TRAITS: Explosive build up means more swarms. Honey production is less than the Italian bee.

Russian- Hybrid A product of the U.S. Dept. Of Agriculture's Honey Bee Breeding Genetics, and Physiology Lab of Baton Rouge, Louisiana by importing this bee from the Primorski region of the Sea of Japan because it had survived mites for 150 years. It is not a species but a hybrid.GOOD TRAITS: Bred to be more resistant to mites and more winter Hardy. POOR TRAITS: Produces lots of propolis, always seems to have swarm cells in the hive, and moderate honey producer.

Buckfast- Hybrid

A product of Brother Adam (1898-1996). He spent his entire life perfecting the Buckfast honey bee hybrid. He claimed to have eaten a teaspoon of honey a day and in case you don't want to do the math, he lived to be 98!

GOOD TRAITS: Strong resistance to tracheal mites and good hygienic behavior.
POOR TRAITS: Can be defensive.

Minnesota Hygienic- Hybrid A result of the work of Dr. Marla Spivak of the University of Minnesota. A few months ago, my wife and I traveled to a queen rearing conference in Ohio where Gary Reuter was one of the main speakers. Gary is a Research Technician at the University of Minnesota working with Dr. Marla Spivak. Dr. Spivak and her team were able to produce a trait within breeder queens, a trait where the bees are able to reduce disease by being exceptionally hygienic.GOOD TRAITS: Good honey producers and more able to resist American foulbrood disease. POOR TRAITS: Those mostly common to the Italian bee since this is an Italian bee. Many other beekeepers and breeders have their special line of queens that they are breeding, making claims, that to them, are very true and founded. But to be honest, there is always the flip side. To gain a positive characteristic may mean you gain two negative characteristics. It is very difficult to hold a pure line or race of honey bees. The more important factor is that they are produced from a colony that has satisfactory or higher traits.

No matter which type of bee you go with, you'll need our winter-bee-kind to help your bees survive the winter. Watch us place some on our hives: