There are various races of bees populating the hives of France. Each one has its particularities. Some were born thousands of years ago, others are the result of studies and crossbreeding to create the perfect bee for hobbyists and professionals in beekeeping. Resistant to diseases, non-aggressive, generous producer of honey…
Each species has its own particularities, its assets but also its defects. Would you like to know more about these tireless workers, these incredible producers of the sweet nectar called honey? Discover the essential to know about the main races of bees in Europe.
The black bee (Apis Mellifera Mellifera)
Named after its very dark black or brown color, it is one of the very old bee breeds. Present in Europe for thousands of years, this breed is today among the most popular in France.
The biogeography of apis mellifera mellifera is distributed over the whole French territory and more precisely over an area from the Pyrenees to Poland. Its incredible resistance has also allowed it to settle as far as the Arctic Circle in Scandinavia and Russia.
Of rather large size, a little stocky, the apis mellifera presents a broad and voluminous abdomen. Its numerous long hairs facilitate the transport of pollen despite the bad weather. It also has powerful wings and thoracic muscles capable of braving windy weather. Capricious weather conditions do not scare him!
The advantages of the black bee
- Its rusticity. It is able to cope with the harshest of winters. It is therefore perfectly suited to mountain and forest areas.
- Its resistance to diseases
- Its performance on late honeys
- It does not loot
- It is not very swarming
- She takes care of the brood in preparation for wintering
- Queens reduce their egg laying in case of insufficient resources
- It is the only breed capable of spontaneously starting a royal breeding as soon as the queen produces less pheromones (anecdotal). It is thus a very stable species in time.
The black bee also has its faults
- At the end of winter, the colony takes some time to develop unlike other breeds.
- It is sometimes aggressive. To manage hives and beekeeping, it is advisable to be well equipped with protective equipment and to systematically light the smoker.
The Caucasian bee (Apis Mellifera caucasia)
The Caucasian can be recognized by its gray color. It is native to Georgia, a mountainous area from the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea.
The Caucasian bee is endowed with an abundant pilosity and a very long tongue which can easily reach 7.2 mm. This particularly developed tongue enables it to gather flowers with deep corollas like acacia and alfalfa.
The life span of Caucasian bee workers exceeds that of most other species, allowing them to collect nectar and pollen longer. These hardy breeds of bees spend the winter in the mountains without any problem and consume very little honey. They are therefore particularly economical.
The advantages of the Caucasian
- Its softness
- Its longevity is far superior to that of other breeds
- It is one of the hardest working species, excellent producers of honey and wax.
- It is a great producer of propolis (mixture of wax and resin) which allows it to maintain its hive perfectly
- It is extremely resistant to disease because of its ability to propagate
- It does not plunder the other colonies even if there is a shortage of reserves
- Queens are known to be very fertile
- The high production of propolis of the Caucasian is very appreciated by the producers of this resinous material with antiseptic virtues, recognized for its benefits against colds and viruses of the respiratory tract.
The Caucasian also has its faults
- It propolizes every corner of the hive. This is the defect of one of its qualities.
The carnica bee (Apis Mellifera carnica)
Also sometimes called “Carniole”, the Carnica is one of the most common bee breeds. Native to the Austrian Alps and the Balkans, this hardy species is resistant to the cold and very gentle. It has a grey-black coat mixed with bronze. Its proboscis of about 6.5 mm allows it to stop almost all the flowers except those with very deep corollas. The queen is a tireless layer. This line is more and more crossed with the Italian one, which is genetically close.
The advantages of the Carnica
- Its great softness which would almost make the beekeeper’s protective gear unnecessary. It rarely stings which also facilitates its breeding in urban areas.
- Its rusticity. It resists well to extreme cold
- His pragmatism. It adapts to all situations, consuming little in winter for example.
- Its resistance to brood diseases such as European foulbrood.
- Its earliness in spring. She is known as the specialist of “successful spring honeymoons”.
- It performs well on honeydew production such as fir.
The Carnica also has its faults
- It is very swarmy and can produce more brood than its reserves can support. Faced with this excessive breeding, the colony is in danger of starving to death.
- It builds its hive rather badly which can alter the quality of the colony
- It plunders a lot, especially in times of famine
- It is not very resistant to diseases such as acariosis and nosema.
The Italian bee (Apis Mellifera Lingustica)
The Italian bee owes its name to the country from which it originates, Italy. Recognizable by its yellow-orange color, this species is present everywhere in the world. It has allowed many hybridizations particularly sought after by beekeepers because of its enormous egg-laying potential.
Its long tongue (6.6 mm) facilitates the extraction of pollen in many flowers. The world of beekeeping has reserved a place of choice for it because of its many qualities.
The advantages of the Italian apis Mellifera
- Very prolific, it excels in the production of broods
- It is incredibly soft
- It forms very large colonies
- It is not very swarming
- The queen is very prolific
- It does not propolate
- It is perfectly adapted to breeding and intensive beekeeping
The Italian also has its faults
- It is very fragile and does not overwinter well in cold regions
- A colony can starve to death due to too much brood production. These bees don’t care about the state of their supply.
The Buckfast bee or Brother Adam
Among the bee breeds that are highly sought after by beekeepers, the Buckfast®, a hybrid breed and registered trademark, also known as “Brother Adam”, occupies a special place in the beekeeping world. Resulting from the crossing of several races of bees, it was born from a study conducted by Brother Adam of Buckfast Abbey in southern England. From a selection of bee breeds with specific characteristics, the clergyman made it possible to renew a bee farm that had been decimated by an epidemic of acariosis. This hybrid is notably the product of a cross of honeybees using Italian apis mellifera females and black bee males. The choice of Italian females is explained by the resistance of this species, the only one to have survived a devastating epidemic of acariosis in 1915.
The color of the Brother Adam varies. This is due to its hybrid character. The queens are generally striped and the workers rather gray with some yellow stripes.
Brother Adam has the reputation of being very gentle and prolific. The queens produce large colonies. Their remarkable work capacity results in beautiful honey harvests.
The performance of this hybrid continues to improve with qualities that, while not perfect, are mostly what beekeepers are looking for today.
The advantages of the Buckfast bee
- The queens are very prolific
- Its very great behavioral softness whatever the circumstances (or almost)
- They areexcellent foragers even on flowers with deep corollas
- Very hardworking, they produce large quantities of honey
- They know perfectly how to preserve honey and keep it away from the brood so as not to disturb the egg laying
- They are very resistant to cold and diseases
- They are not very successful.
- The workers are remarkably clean. The hive is always cleaned.
The Buckfast bee also has its faults
- It has the same defect as the Italian, namely the lack of monitoring of its reserves necessary to winter. However this defect The beekeeper must regularly ensure to supply it especially when the winters are long and cold.
Which bee breed should I choose?
It can be difficult for a beekeeper to give preference to one line over another. When choosing a species to build up their stock, professionals study the characteristics of the different races of bees. The Buckfast bee, born from a selection of bee races chosen for their respective assets, is intended to get closer to the “perfect bee”, the one that all experts of the beekeeping world dream of, it remains today the most used bee in France.