Italian: Italians are the most widely distributed race of honeybees. These are the
honeybees that I have in my hive as of right now. They are yellow and brown in color with distinct dark bands, like the name implies these bees hail from the Appenine Peninsula in Italy. They are great comb producers.
Pros: Very gentle, their productivity is high, usually rather disease tolerant (when queens are bred correctly), low swarming tendencies
Cons: Not too much of a con but they keep a large winter colony and they require a lot of food going into the winter
Carniolan: Dark, broad band colored bees, they come from the mountains of Austria and Yugoslavia. These honeybees are the second most prolific race in the world second only to the Italian bees. They are very quick to change brood laying
rate, meaning they can stop laying more eggs if the pollen or honey flow stops and are able to start up again just as quickly.
Pros: Gentle, very reactive brood laying rate, can be kept in populated areas, resistant to brood diseases
Cons: Color tends to make queen hard to find, more prone to swarming if over crowded, low ability to survive in hot summer weather
Caucasian: The Caucasian honeybees hail from the Caucasian mountains near the Black Sea. They are mostly gray in color. They are EXTREMELY adaptable to harsh
weather conditions. That means they also use a lot of propolis to make sure there
are no cracks or holes of any kind in their hive. This could prove to be a challengefor the new beekeeper seeing as they will use it liberally in their new hive whether or not they need it.
Pros: Usually calm and gentle, they usually raise strong colonies
Cons: Tend to drift and rob, colony’s not fully built up until mid-Summer, over wintering in cold climates not good due to susceptibility to nosema
Buckfast: Is a so-called “man made” bee breed, because a Benedictine monk at Buckfast Abby in the United Kingdom, Brother Adam, worked his whole life
breeding all of the good qualities of the worlds most desirable races. The result is arace that is super gentle, high honey producers, and disease resistant.
Pros: “Super bee” that produces lots of honey, gentle, disease resistant, winters very well
Cons: Tends to rob other hives, and sometimes abscond.
Russian: The Russian honeybees look like a dark Carniolan strain. The Russian honeybee refers to a very hardy bee that was actually sought out in the 90’s by the USDA in an effort to find a honeybee that was resistant to the horrible varroa and
tracheal mites. What they found was that the Russian honeybees were indeed more resistant to the mite due to the fact that previous being brought to North America they have lived in an area with the mites for 150 years.
Pros: Very gentle, high over-wintering capability, usually less propolis used then Italian bees, less tendency towards stinging, high nectar haul per bee
Cons: More apt to building queen cells throughout the brood season making them have a higher tendency to swarm
View Locations of the Five Major Honeybee Races in a larger map
Photo from Wikipedia
Photo of “Caucasian Honeybee on a flower” from here
Photo of “Single Buckfast Bee” from here
Photo of “Russian bees serving their Queen!” from here