Italian Week – The Italian Bee

It’s been three days since I hived my Italian bees and I’m thinking about checking in on them today.

It’s perfect hive inspection weather – 71 degrees Farenheit with no wind. The bees have been very busy, and I want to make sure they have enough sugar syrup.

Back in January I posted about the Italian bee. For Italian Week, here is a reprise:

Italian honey bees were brought to the U.S. in 1859. They quickly became the favored bee stock in this country and remain so to this day. Known for their extended periods of brood rearing, Italian bees can build colony populations in the spring and maintain them for the entire summer.

They are excellent honey producers. They also are very lightly colored, ranging from a light leather hue to an almost lemon yellow, a trait that is highly coveted by many beekeepers for its aesthetic appeal.

The Italian Bee

Despite their popularity, Italian bees have some drawbacks. First, because of their prolonged brood rearing, they may consume surplus honey in the hive if supers (removable upper sections where honey is stored) are not removed immediately after the honey flow stops. Second, they are notorious kleptoparasites and frequently rob the honey stores of weaker or dead neighboring colonies.

One of my beekeeping friends calls them the “racy Italian sports car” of bees.

14 thoughts on “Italian Week – The Italian Bee

  1. A Nature Mom says:

    I’m learning so much about bees through your blog. Thanks!

  2. What pretty bees! The Italian colonies at our apiary are always admired for the golden colours and gentle nature, but it’s true about the robbing โ€“ we have to shoo away Italian intruders from our hives at the end of summer and they even try to drink our bees autumn syrup! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • I have their hive far away from my Buckies! But it’s nice that they are so gentle.
      What type of bee do you have?

      • Mongrel bees! All the bees in London are mongrels because there are so many hives in the city and there is no way to control who the queens mate with at drone congregation areas. New Zealand bees are often imported as beekeepers like to work with gentle bees, but if the bees re-queen themselves (which they often do) then the queen’s daughters will mate with local drones. Some beekeepers like to re-queen each year to make sure their colonies keep the traits of New Zealand bees, but others feel it is better to work with the mongrel bees, allowing the bees to re-queen themselves and become used to the environment over time. That way we are breeding a well-adapted local bee.

        There have been reports recently that the ‘native’ British black bee has been found, but they’ve been saying that for years…

        Emily and me like our mongrel bees. They seem to have inherited the best qualities of all bees โ€“ gentle, hardworking and pretty, and have so far survived the cold winters better than the Italian bees at the apiary.

        I’m looking to reading comparisons about your Italian and Buckfast bees ๐Ÿ™‚

      • I’ve heard that mongrel bees are better because they’ve already survived the local pests!! It’s hard to find real local bees around here unless you catch a swarm.
        I will post some comparisons between my Italians and my Buckies. Already I’ve noticed that the Italians seem more delicate when they fly, and they fly like crazy!! It will be interesting to open the hive for the first time…

      • We noticed at the apiary last year that the Italian bees were flying like crazy out of the hive in late October and through November, because it was such a mild autumn. The warm weather made the bees think they could still go out and forage, or rob, for more honey. However, there would not have been much forage for the bees to find in late autumn and the other hives were well-protected. So the Italians were using up their winter honey stores to have energy to fly out and not finding much to bring back and replace it. I’m not sure what could have been done to prevent this, but having your hives at a distance is a good idea, making sure that the Italians are building up their own stores from midsummer for over-winter, and checking throughout autumn that they have enough syrup in the roof might help. That’s what I love about beekeeping though โ€“ it really makes you observe not only what the bees do but take notice of what is happening in nature around you ๐Ÿ™‚

      • It was a little scary at first, with all these little yellow bees flying around me but not paying attention to me at all.
        Yes, I’ve heard they’ll just eat and breed until it gets really cold. I’m going to have to watch them carefully. They seem a little crazy!!
        My Buckies are so stolid and sensible…

      • They are lovely to watch flying though, so graceful, and often land on beekeepers for a rest or just to be nosy ๐Ÿ˜‰

      • I’m going to try to inspect them without smoke. I’ll let you know how it goes!!

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