Other common names: European Honey Bee; Western Honey Bee; Common Honey Bee
Scientific name: Apis mellifera ligustica
The Italian Honey Bee (Apis mellifera ligustica), is a subspecies of the European Honey Bee (Apis mellifera). The European Honey Bee is one of seven recognized species of honey bee, and is the most commonly domesticated species of honey bee (the other being the Asian Honey Bee (Apis cerana)). Also see listings for other types of European Honey Bee: Buckfast Bee; Carniolan Honey Bee; European Dark Bee.
The European Honey Bee is believed to have originated in eastern tropical Africa and spread from there to Northern Europe and eastwards into Asia. There are many subspecies which have adapted to local geographic and climatic environments. The most common subspecies kept in North America, South America and southern Europe is the Italian Honey Bee.
The Italian Honey Bee is considered to be very gentle, not very likely to swarm, and produce a large surplus of honey. They have few undesirable characteristics. Colonies tend to maintain larger populations through winter, so they require more winter stores (or feeding) than other temperate zone subspecies.
Appearance / health:
The Italian bee is light colored and mostly leather colored, but some strains are golden.
Behavior / temperament:
All honey bees live in colonies where the worker bees will sting intruders as a form of defense, and alarmed bees will release a pheromone that stimulates the attack response in other bees. Some beekeepers believe that the more stings a beekeeper receives, the less irritation each causes, and they consider it important for safety of the beekeeper to be stung a few times a season. Beekeepers have high levels of antibodies (mainly IgG) reacting to the major antigen of bee venom, phospholipase A2 (PLA). Antibodies correlate with the frequency of bee stings.
Beekeeping (or apiculture, from Latin apis, bee) is the maintenance of honey bee colonies, commonly in hives, by humans. A beekeeper (or apiarist) keeps bees in order to collect honey and beeswax, to pollinate crops, or to produce bees for sale to other beekeepers. A location where bees are kept is called an apiary or "bee yard". A domesticated bee colony is normally housed in a rectangular hive body, within which eight to ten parallel frames house the vertical plates of honeycomb which contain the eggs, larvae, pupae and food for the colony.
Beekeepers typically use movable frame hives. Straw skeps, bee gums, and unframed box hives are now unlawful in most US states, as the comb and brood cannot be inspected for diseases. However, straw skeps are still used for collecting swarms by hobbyists in the UK, before moving them into standard hives.
gentle bees, incredible italian honey, coherent family unit, honey producers, urban rooftop
particularly cold climate, Brood Diseases, Bee Diseases, Wintertime feedings
good floral sources, good nectar flow, locally adapted queen
"Extremely docile bees
If you see a honeybee flying about, the chances are pretty good that it’s an Italian honeybee. These are by far the most kept of the honey bee species and for good reason.
Italians are an extremely docile species of bee. I always wear a full suit when accessing my hives because I had a family member who was a beekeeper that developed an allergy to bee stings over the years, which did eventually kill him. However, as long as you smoke the hive, wearing a full suit isn’t technically necessary with this species.
Italian honeybees are an easy bee to handle. They don’t tend to be fussy about their hive being accessed or being moved around. They’ll put up with just about anything within reason.
Despite the fearsome reputation bees have with some people, you can stand right along side most Italian hives without them even taking notice. If you stand in front of their entrance way, the busy bees will bump into you but rarely do anymore than that.
I was a bit nervous about bees before I began keeping them. Now I just enjoy watching them when they land on my arm while I’m out working in the field. Bees can be dangerous animals, but they’re deserving of a healthy respect rather than fear. Once you get to know them, they’re just downright cute.
When keeping any bee you need be conscious of the area within a few miles of your hive. Some areas will have an abundance of food available for bees, in which case you have the potential for large honey harvests. Other areas are essentially a bee food desert, in which case bees require supplemental feeding.
The Italians are fairly hardworking bees, but fly at warmer temperatures and aren’t as resourceful as some other species. I switched to Carniolans because I was having problems with winter survivability of the Italian hives, whether that was because of the species in general not liking this area or the specific strain I had access to.
They may not be the hardiest or most active, but if you’re looking for a sweet, docile honeybee, Italians can’t be beat.."
From gardenfairy Sep 21 2014 6:35PM
"Anybody can do this!
We have always been interested in beekeeping, but have only taken the plunge now after around 15 years since deciding that this is something we wanted to do.
We attended two beekeeping training sessions at an urban farm and we received our first hive with the splitting of the hive during the course. We started with a small hive, but had to continually expand as the bee population just kept on multiplying. We have now added a third hive box, making the structure pretty strong.
Here in our region, there is a danger that the hive beetle can destroy the entire hive, so we have to check this every few weeks.
The bees are very active and our neighbours loves us for keeping bees and for what that does for the produce in their gardens. The bees are placed on top of a flat roof where we can easily access them. This also ensures that their flight path is not in anybody's way. It gets pretty hot here where we live, but the bees seem to thrive. We will be harvesting some honey in a few days, but leaving most of it for the bees with winter coming up.
If you're suited up and using smoke to distract the bees, you should be ok when inspecting the hive. The European honey bee is nothing like the agressive African bee. Still it is advisable To get training and information so that you know what to do when handling the bees. Being a beekeeper is fun and very rewarding. The honey is tasty and the harvest is plenty to enjoy and share with friends!."
From Christal Apr 14 2016 9:51AM
"Sweetness Forever After
I will never not keep bees again. They are such rewarding pets! At first it can be really scary and you have to be ok with getting stings but it is amazing to watch all these little ladies dancing on your flowers, constructing comb faster then you realized was possible, and finally producing their sweet honey! And with it all you know you are helping a species having a hard time in our changing world. I think everyone with a yard and a city who allows them should keep bees! For very little work, you get pollinated flowers, wax for projects, and an abundance of honey for you and your friends!."
From LabLover3 Sep 17 2016 9:51PM