Successful Beekeeping: What Bee Species?

Selecting Bee Species: Factors to Consider for Successful Beekeeping

Beekeeping is a fascinating and rewarding hobby, but choosing the right bee species is essential for success. Once you have your hive, it is time to think about what bee species is best.

Different bee species have varying levels of disease resistance, as well as unique behaviors and needs. These differences can be attributed to genetics, which can affect things like temperament, disease resistance, productivity, and color.

Experienced beekeepers have long recognized the advantages and disadvantages of working with different genetic stocks, whether it be for pollination, honey production, bee reproduction, or overall resiliency. Understanding these differences is important when choosing what bee species is best for you.

What is your Goal?

Ask yourself what is the purpose of beekeeping? It is to produce honey, to help with pollination, or just as a hobby? Different bee species have distinct behavioral patterns, productivity, and efficiency. This makes certain breeds more suitable for particular goals.

Geographic location and Climate Conditions

Bees are cold-blooded insects, making them sensitive to changes in temperatures. While honey bees can generally adapt to some climates, certain breeds may be better suited for colder temperatures or drier climates. Consider which bee species are best suited for the climatic conditions in your region.

Bee Species Temperament and Behavior

The species´ temperament is another important factor when selecting a species. Different species of bees have distinct behavioral patterns. Bee species with aggressive and defensive behavior are more prone to sting , while other species are more docile and calm. Generally speaking, docile colonies with less defensive attitudes are easier to manage and preferable among many beekeepers.

Honey Productivity

Photo by Pim Lemmers

The Italian honey bee, Carniolan honey bee, and Russian honey bee are all popular for beekeeping around the world due to their resilience and productivity. Some species produce more honey, wax or propolis than others, so it is wise to carefully select the right type of bees depending on your goals as a beekeeper.

Disease Resistance

Some bee species are naturally more resistant to prevalent bee diseases and pests than others. Consider the health history of your preferred bee species and inquire about their resistance to various bee diseases and pests.

Availability and Cost

Check which honeybee species is available in your region by contacting local bee breeders, stores, and beekeeping associations.

Best Honey Bee Species for Beekeeping Beginners

For those new to beekeeping, it is important to choose a species of honey bee that is easy to manage. While there are many different types of honey bees, some are better suited for beginners than others. It’s important to do your research and choose a species that fits your needs and experience level. For a complete guide on different honey bee species, click here.

It is important for beginners to choose a hive with a calm and non-defensive species of honey bee. While all honey bees have the potential to sting when they feel threatened, some breeds are known to be more docile than others. So, for a smoother and safer beekeeping experience, it is recommended to opt for a species that is less likely to become aggressive.

Many large package suppliers breed bees for their calmness, knowing that these bees will be popular among new beekeepers. One species that is often included in these genetic mixes is the Italian bee, known for their gentle nature and productivity.

What is Bee Stock?

Beekeeping involves different honey bee species classified into races by geographic origin, population, breeding line, or species. These groups are called “stock,” defined by traits typical of the group. Similar to how the pedigree of dog breeds is tracked and followed, beekeepers also keep track of the heredity of their bee stock. In some cases, bee stocks can be traced back hundreds of years.

However, it is important to note that the purity of bee species is challenging to manage due to honey bee reproduction and queen mating.

Where do I get Bee Stock?

There are various ways to get bees for your beehive:

Package Bees

come in a screened box containing a queen and a certain number of worker bees. They can be bought from reputable bee breeders, local beekeeping associations, bee supply stores, or online beekeeping suppliers.

Purchasing package bees can be a cost-effective and convenient way for new or experienced beekeepers to start a new hive or replenish an existing one. They are readily available and easy to transport. However, establishing a new colony with package bees can be challenging. It requires supplemental feeding until the bees find a stable food source. Furthermore, there is no guarantee of the quality of bees. They may not contain reliable worker bees or have a poor queen. It is essential to research and be prepared to reduce potential risks like colony rejection or colony loss.

A Nucleus Colony (Nucs)

from bee supply stores, bee breeders, or local beekeeping associations is a more expensive, but convenient way to start a new hive or replenish an existing one. Nucs come with an established colony of approximately 5 frames. They contain worker bees, nurse bees, a queen, and brood that have a genetic diversity. This means they have a lower risk of pests and diseases. However, the transport is more difficult and availability is often limited. In addition, there is an increased risk of swarming, and they require a hive body (a box that houses the frames and bees) to move. These are important factors to consider when weighing the pros vs. cons of buying a nucleus colony.

Catching a wild swarm

of wild bees that have left their original colony to find a new home is another option. This can be done by setting up a bait hive in a suitable location and waiting for bees to move in. Although catching a wild swarm is a cost-free way to start a bee colony with genetic diversity and an established hive, finding a swarm can be challenging. It is only advisable for established beekeepers with extensive knowledge of catching and managing swarms. Other points to consider is that the hive’s health and the bees´ temperament is unpredictable, which can lead to difficulties. Bees caught in the wild can also carry diseases and require maintenance and management.

Splitting an Existing Colony

Another way to get bees is by splitting an existing colony. This involves dividing a larger colony into two or more smaller colonies by creating a new queen. This can be done by purchasing a queen or allowing the colony to raise one on its own.

Finally, get the bees from a reliable source to ensure that they are healthy and disease-free. It’s also essential to get bees that are well-suited to your region’s climate and be prepared to handle them appropriately. Wear protective clothing and consult with experienced beekeepers if unsure about a particular aspect of your beekeeping operation.



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