Breeding Between European and Asian Honeybees Concerns Australian Beekeeping Industry
December 17, 2013
Did you know there are more than one type of honey bee? Did you know that NONE are native to north america?
There are many types or subspecies of honey bee, here is a run down of the types and a few of the individual benefits of each subspecies:
Italian honey bees, usually the most calm, docile and best honey producing bees (most commonly used.)
Then there are the Russian honey bees, which tend to deal with cold weather better are much hardier against disease and other infections such as the varroa mite (These two species evolved alongside one another in the same area, hence the natural resistance in the Russian bees.) The Russian honey bee tends to be more aggressive, stinging more often and with less provacation, one reason beekeepers tend to stay away from them unless needed (great for northern beekeepers.)
The second most commonly used honey bee in commercial honey production is the Carniolan bee, or carnies as they are affectionately known. They are both resistant to many diseases, and deal with cold weather better than the Italian bees, but also they have less of a tendency to swarm and make an abundance of comb. What really differentiates them from Italian is the fact that they are much better at controlling population, by either laying more eggs or less, inside the hive during times of duress, or the cold winter, and times of plenty, or spring/summertime when the nectar is flowing. These carnies are native to parts of Europe such as the Swiss alps, Romania, Bulgaria etc.
There are even Asian honey bees (recent studies have shown that the so called “Africanized bees” or “killer bees” actually derive from an Asian honey bee and not from Africa as was originally thought.) These tend to be much smaller, and there is some issues involving the inter breeding of other species with Asian bees causing infertility.
These distinctions while seemingly minor can have major impacts on the health of a hive especially when interbreeding happens. Some beekeepers will use a mix between Russian and Italian bees to try to get the best of both worlds, there are many breeds which have come to be known as more resistant to certain infections, such as the Minnesota hygienic’s, these bees are a subspecies of Italian bees, but are known to clean more, deal with fowl brood better and to swarm less, which is ideal for making honey as you will not have to lose part of your hive to swarming.
Check out the link posted below for a story of the interbreeding of honey bees and how this can effect the health of a queen and a hive overall and what they are doing to combat this issue in Australia where this problem is most commonly found with both species being present.