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What Kind Of Honey Bees To Buy (A Simple Answer)

Development of American Beehive

We addressed where to buy bees for a hive in another post. When trying to acquire honey bees in the United States, you'll notice that numerous races of honeybees are available. The following are the most prevalent subspecies of western honey bees:

  • Italian \Caucasian \Carniolan \Russian

The names are derived from the race's origins. Other varieties of bees are available, but these are the ones we've seen most often.

When determining the sort of bees to purchase, it's helpful to know the distinctions between them. While each colony is unique, there are certain common characteristics that you should expect to see. 

Honey Bees from Italy (Apis mellifera ligustica)

The most frequent bee race in our hemisphere is the Italian, which can adapt to a broad variety of conditions. The tint of the brown and yellow bands varies according to the strain.


  • Easily accessible
  • They have a tendency to be gentle.
  • They reproduce well and have a large population.
  • Propolis is used less, making it simpler to segregate equipment.
  • Outstanding foragers
  • Swarming is less probable.
  • Great honeycomb builders with white cappings


  • More prone to commit robbery.
  • Drifting may be caused by a lack of orienting abilities.
  • May cause an overabundance of brood, causing in food problems, especially in the winter.
  • Shorter foraging distances may restrict access to food sources, increasing the likelihood of robbing.
  • Pests and illness are a concern.

Our bees have all been Italians up to this point since that's what our local beekeeper had when we first began. They haven't shown a low swarming inclination, which is unfortunate for us.

Honey Bees from Carniola (Apis mellifera carnica)

In the northern United States, Carniolans are quite popular. They are black in hue, making it difficult to see the queen. In our region, a distributor offers two races: Carniolans and Italians, who are both in high demand.


  • Early spring brood production is quick.
  • They are gentle and do not sting, making them suitable in more crowded places.
  • To save food, keep the brood under control.
  • Overwinter successfully
  • Less prone to sickness
  • Propolis output is low.
  • On rainy days, they tend to forage sooner and later in the day than others.
  • They forage across large distances and are less likely to be robbed.


  • More prone to swarming, especially if overcrowded; may not perform well in hot summer weather; pollen supply must be plentiful.

Honeybees from the Caucasus (Apis mellifera caucasia)

Caucasian bees have brown patches and gray hairs and are dark in color.


  • Populations that are strong
  • Long tongue for sucking honey from difficult-to-reach places
  • Relatively quiet and mild
  • Reduces brood production in the autumn, allowing them to overwinter successfully.
  • Forage early in the day, when the weather is cooler.


  • Despite their large populations, they tend to grow slowly in the spring, making them unsuitable for early honey production.
  • Propolis is produced in large quantities.
  • Spring pollination is not aided by later brood raising.
  • May you rob and float.
  • It's difficult to get supplies from breeders.

Russian Honey Bees (Apis millifera) 

Russians were bred to be resistant to Varroa mite infections in the first place. Russians have a variety of hybrid lines, making their characteristics less constant than those of other races. Hygenic lines may be disease resistant in addition to being resistant to Varroa and tracheal mites.

Russians may not be as good at reproducing as others. Requeening may be required on a regular basis to guarantee a varroa-free queen.

Honey Bees That Have Been Africanized (AHB)

Because Africanized honey bees should not be purchased, they were not addressed in the introduction.

Africanized bees are the outcome of a South American cross-breeding experiment aimed at increasing honey output. Some of the bees got away, and they now live in the southern United States.

They are known as "killer bees" because they are aggressive and protective.

AHB are not killer bees in the sense that they fly about hunting for unsuspecting victims to attack. Their protective behavior is much more aggressive than that of other honey bees.

For instance, if your honey bees get aggressive, you may take a break. A few bees may follow you for a short distance before flying away. Africanized honey bees are more inclined to attack in swarms and from a greater distance.

Cross-breeding between AHBs and local honey bees might result in an increase in a colony's aggressive behavior. If you believe your hive has gotten "hot" as a consequence of AHB, you should requeen it.

What exactly are VSH bees?

Varroa Sensitive Hygiene is an acronym for Varroa Sensitive Hygiene. In honey bee colonies, the Varroa destructor mite is a major issue. Varroa mites adhere to larvae in brood cells as well as bees throughout the hive.

The mites make the bees weaker and carry diseases like the malformed wing virus. Varroa mites will decimate your colony if left uncontrolled. They are most likely the most serious danger to the survival of your colony.

VSH-bred bees will actively search for and remove infected pupae, making the hive notably Varroa-resistant. As a consequence, VSH bees are less likely to need further treatments to reduce Varroa populations.

See Varroa Mites: A Complete Treatment Guide for additional information on varroa mites and VSH bees.

What do Saskatraz bees look like?

The Saskatraz Project raised and created a hybrid race of bees known as Saskatraz bees.

The experiment began in 2004 with the help of queen breeders from Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Bees have been bred for enhanced honey output, wintering capacity, mite tolerance, and illness and viral resistance.

This year, we're receiving a bundle of Saskatraz bees. We'll keep track of how they do on our website.

So, which kind of bees should you purchase?

We believe the solution is straightforward.

The kind of bees you should purchase are those sold by a respected local beekeeper. You can easily find bees in your area, making this a simple selection. In the beginning, you already have a lot on your plate.

Check with big internet providers if you can't get bees locally, as we mention in our post on where to obtain bees.

As I previously said, the most prevalent and popular ethnic groups in our region are Italians and Carniolans. One of these will most likely be your first colony. (Because we've only worked with Italians so far, we're going to attempt some Carniolans next time.)

You may find yourself trying with other races as you learn more and extend your bee yard to determine if you have a preference. Ask local beekeepers where they acquired their bees and who they suggest if you can't locate a local beekeeper.

This post is part of a series on how to start beekeeping, which includes a step-by-step guide to help you get started.