Italian Bees

From the commercial and breeding point of view the value of the Italian 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.

The Italian 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