Posts Tagged: Italian bee
I slipped into the back yard today to see how many honey bees were nectaring the lavender, one of the few plants still blooming.
A few here. A few there.
That's when I saw her.
A bee the color of pure gold. And she was carrying a load of pollen that was equally pure gold.
The bee? An Italian. A very blond Italian.
Folks at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis like to tease bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, Laidlaw manager, about her "dislike" of the Italians (Apis mellifera ligustica). They know she doesn't "dislike" any bees--she just prefers the Carniolan bees (Apis mellifera carnica), a darker bee with a more sunny disposition. ("Sue's bees are polite," a member of the California State Apiary Board once said.)
Italians (originating from Italy) and Carniolans (from Slovenia) are common subspecies of the European or Western honey bee, Apis mellifera, which arrived here in America in the 1600s with the European colonists.
No matter the color, every honey bee is to agriculture what security is to Fort Knox.
A bee is a bee is a bee?
Poet Gertrude Stein ("a rose is a rose is a rose") could have said that.
True, there's only one species of honey bee in the United States--Apis mellifera, the Western or European honey bee--but there are several races.
The "gold standard" is Apis mellifera ligustica, also known as the Italian honey bee, the most common bee in America. It's basically your yellow or golden bee.
But among the other popular races is Apis mellifera carnica, aka the Carniolans or "Carnies," a darker bee. It is primarily darkish gray.
We spotted both of them last weekend sharing a lavender--the blond Italian bee on one side and the darker Carniolan bee on the other.
Author Richard E. Bonney writes in his book, Beekeeping: A Practical Guide: "For the most part, they (the races) are the result of evolution in geographic isolation (Italians on the Italian peninsula, for instance) where the specific climate and vegetation influenced their development over the ages. Each race has specific traits that relate to the geographic origin of that race."
At UC Davis, bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, manager of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, focuses her research on identifying, selecting and enhancing honey bee stocks that show increasing levels of resistance to pests and diseases. In the early 1980s, Cobey developed her New World Carniolans stock by back-crossing stocks collected from throughout the United States to create a more pure strain.
“Over time, it has proven very productive, winter hardy, well-tempered and more resistant to pests and disease,” says Cobey, who teaches advanced courses on queen bee rearing and queen bee insemination, drawing students from throughout the world.
Genetic diversity, the raw tools for selection, is critical “in maintaining colony fitness and resisting pests and diseases,” she notes.
No matter the races, the honey bees still race for the lavender.
And the other bee friendly plants...
The Italian and the Carniolan