Italian Honey Bee
MGS - Mediterranean Gold Star (Italian) - minimum order 5 queens
Italian bee selected in Malta. In spring it develops very quickly forming strong and populous colonies and is perfect for early flowerings like asphodel, pollination, production of new colonies or packaged bees. Productive with strong nectariferous flows (like Orange) can also take advantage of small blooms. It bears hot, dry summers and rainy, windy winters well.
CGS - Continental Gold Star (Italian) - minimum order 5 queens
Italian bee selected in north of Italy crossed with Atlantic Buckfast. In spring it develops very quickly forming strong and populous colonies and is perfect for early flowerings such as rapeseed, pollination, production of new colonies or packaged bees. Productive with strong nectariferous flows (like Acacia) can also take advantage of small blooms. It bears good hot summers and cold winters well.
AGS - Atlantic Gold Star (Italian) - minimum order 5 queens
Italian Bee selected in Finland crossed with Atlantic Buckfast. In spring it develops very fastly, and is perfect for early flowerings such as rapeseed, pollination, production of new colonies or packaged bees. Productive with strong nectariferous flows (like Acacia)can also take advantage of small blooms. Bears good wet and rainy winters.
BGS - Boreal Gold Star (Italian) - minimum order 5 queens
Italian bee selected in Finland for over thirty years. Extremely sweet. In spring it develops according to the rhythm of the season, and arrives ready for harvest without impulse to swarm. It bears very well long, cold winters. Excellent for queens breeding and royal jelly production. Due to its docility and low propensity to swarming, it's very good for urban beekeeping.
Black Maltese (Ruttneri)
Black Maltese (Ruttneri) bee selected in Gozo Island. In spring it develops very fastly. To reduce natural swarming impulse, nervousness and sensitivity to Nosema of Maltese bees, queens are mated with buckfast drones. Very productive on important nectariferous flows. Bears hot and dry summer well. Very good for pollination.
Apis mellifera ligustica is the Italian bee which is a subspecies of the western honey bee (Apis mellifera). Is the most common subspecies of bees, through its adaptability to different climates. Introduced in the United States (1859), Australia (1862), Finland (1866), New Zealand (1880). In China, specially selected, is used for the intensive production of royal jelly (its productivity is higher than 1600% of not selected bees).
Italian bees, having been conditioned to the warmer climate of the central Mediterranean, are less able to cope with the "hard" winters and cool, wet springs of more northern latitudes. They do not form such tight winter clusters. More food has to be consumed to compensate for the greater heat loss from the loose cluster. The tendency to raise broods late in autumn also increases food consumption. The noted beekeeper, Thomas White Woodbury, first introduced the Italian bee to Britain in 1859 and regarded it as vastly superior to the English Black.
- Color: Abdomen has brown and yellow bands. Among different strains of Italian bees, there are three different colors: Leather; bright yellow (golden); and very pale yellow (Cordovan).
- Size: Their bodies are smaller and their overhairs shorter than those of the darker honeybee races
- Tongue length: 6.3 to 6.6 mm
- Mean cubital index: 2.2 to 2.5
Brother Adam, a bee breeder and developer of the Buckfast bee, characterized the Italian bee in his book Breeding the Honeybee:
From the commercial and breeding point of view the value of the Ligustica lies in a happy synthesis of a great number of good characteristics. Among these we must mention industry, gentleness, fertility, reluctance to swarm, zeal for building comb, white honey-cappings, a willingness to enter supers, cleanliness, resistance to disease, and the tendency to collect flower honey rather than honey dew. The last-named trait is of value only in countries where the colour of the honey determines the price. The Ligustica has shown that she is able to produce good crops from the red clover. In one other characteristic has the Ligustica proved exceptional and that is in her resistance to Acarine. This is especially true of the dark, leather-coloured variety, whereas the golden strains are highly susceptible to Acarine.
—Brother Adam, "Breeding the Honeybee" (Northern Bee Books: Mytholmroyd, 1987), pp. 96-98.
While the Italian bee has many strong points, among the A.m. ligustica it has a large number of weak points:
The Ligustica has her drawbacks, and these are serious. She lacks vitality and is inclined to excessive brood rearing. These two faults are the root cause of her other disadvantages. She has too a tendency to drift which is caused by a poor sense of orientation and this can prove a drawback where colonies are set out in rows facing in one direction as is the common practice in apiaries almost world-wide....
Curiously enough, all the above mentioned faults of the Ligustica appear in greatly emphasised form in the very light coloured strains, with an additional one, an unusually high consumption of stores. In European countries such strains have proved highly unsatisfactory as they tend to turn every drop of honey into brood. These light coloured varieties are likewise as already stated unusually susceptible to Acarine. The reason for this is not known in spite of all the work spent on trying to find it. It is all the more surprising when we consider that the dark, leather-coloured Ligustica has over a period of more than 60 years proved to be one of the most resistant to Acarine.
The almost exclusive concentration of these light-coloured Italian strains in North America seems to be due to the fact that in sub-tropical Southern and Western States the large queen-rearing centres are concerned mainly with the sale of bees, where honey production plays a secondary role. Hence they need a bee which is given to brood rearing to an extreme degree, something which in entirely different climatic conditions constitutes a serious drawback.
—Brother Adam, "Breeding the Honeybee" (Northern Bee Books: Mytholmroyd, 1987), pp. 97-98.
- shows strong disposition to breeding and very prolific
- cleanliness/excellent housekeeper (which some scientists think might be a factor in disease resistance)
- uses little propilis
- excellent foragers
- superb comb builder (writing in Switzerland in 1862, H. C. Hermann stated the comb of an Italian bee-cell occupied only 15 cells for every 16 of the common black bee, and the cubic content was larger by 30%)
- covers the honey with brilliant white cappings
- shows lower swarming tendency than other Western honey bee races
- for areas with continuous nectar flow and favorable weather throughout the summer
- a willingness to enter supers
- tendency to collect flower honey rather than honey dew (of value only in countries where the colour of the honey determines the price)
- lacks vitality
- inclined to excessive brood rearing
- susceptibility to disease
- high consumption of stores
- more prone to drifting and robbing than the other principal races of Europe.
- the strong brood rearing disposition often results in large food consumption in late winter or early spring that causes spring dwindling and hence slow or tardy spring development
- brood rearing starts late and lasts long into late summer or autumn, irrespective of nectar flow
- tends to forage over shorter distances than either carnica or mellifera, and may therefore be less effective in poorer nectar flows
- apparently, it lacks the ability to ripen heather honey before sealing
- for cool maritime regions
- for areas with strong spring flow
- for areas with periods of dearth of nectar in the summer
- Gentleness or excitability
- Resistance to various diseases including tracheal mite and Varroa mite
- Early spring buildup in population
- Wintering ability
- Tendency to limited swarming
- Ability to ripen honey rapidly
- Honeycomb cappings are white
- Minimal use of propolis
- Availability and queen cost