Choosing Your Honeybee Breed



Before I started keeping honeybees, I had no idea there were different genetic strains or types of bees. In my mind, honeybees were honeybees. After a little research, I now understand that just as cattle farmers choose their breed of cattle for a specific purpose, honeybees can also be chosen for particular characteristics.

For example, Angus cattle are bred specifically for beef production. Jerseys are geared for milk production. So it is with bees. Some breeds are more docile, others more likely to produce quantities of honey, and yet another tend to make more wax.

Most Popular Honeybee Breeds

Beginning beekeepers can start with any breed of bees, but it can be helpful to have a basic understanding of the traits, good and bad. This knowledge will help you make a decision about how to meet your goals. Below is an overview of traits in the most popular breeds.

Italian. The most popular breed of honeybees in the U.S. are the Italians. These bees are relatively docile and build brood for a long time through the season. They excel at honey production which is part of their popularity. On the downside is the propensity of this breed to rob weaker hives and potentially spread disease. These traits can be managed and if you are in the market for a mild mannered bee who makes a lot of honey, Italians are a good choice.

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