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Сordovan vs italian bees

Сordovan vs italian bees (Apis mellifera ligustica)

In this article we will look at the similarities and differences of Cordovan vs Italian bee. These are very popular bee breeds. Especially Italian bee. Their comparison will help to draw conclusions for those who are planning to get into beekeeping or to select a bee species.


Cordovan bees are believed to have been bred in America. The original genetic material was Italian bee (Apis mellifera ligustica) and Carniolan bee.

Italian bee has inhabited the Italian regions of Liguria, Piedmont, Lombardy, Italian Switzerland since the last glacial period.


Cordovan reddish-orange with brick-like coloration. Characteristic reddish-orange crescent after the spine.

The color of Italian bees varies from bright yellow to pale yellow.


Italian bee is very popular with beekeepers all over the world. It has been popularized since the middle of the 19th century. The beekeeper J. Dzierżon was especially active in its popularization. The Cordovan as a derivative of the Italian bee is less popular, as it was bred later, which does not make it worse.

Brood production

Italian bee is slightly delayed in development in the spring. But in the middle and at the end of the season it gains full strength. The special feature of the Cordovan is that it maintains a consistently strong colony from spring until the end of the season.


Both species of bees are not prone to swarming. The main thing is that there should be free space for the queen to lay eggs. If there is at least a little nectar in nature, they quickly come out of swarming and start honey harvesting.


Both Italian and Cordovan bees are very kind and not aggressive. If you disturb them, they will get up and immediately enter the hive. Therefore, there is no need to fear unnecessary stings.


Both breeds are very productive during the honey harvest. Because of their efficiency, they need a large amount of nectar to collect, as they are able to produce a lot of honey. For example, Italian bee can produce up to 100 kilograms of honey per season. They prefer to put honey in the upper supers, leaving the nest for brood. Therefore, it is preferable to keep these bees in vertical hives.

They also produce a lot of wax and are excellent honeycomb builders. Seal the honey frames with a dry, white, flat cap. Do not produce much propolis in the hive.

Very effective in the production of royal jelly.

Keep the hive clean.


They’re southern bees. Therefore, they are not well adapted to long and cold winters. They are ideally suited to short and warm winters. Although there is a specially bred Italian bee for Finland, but it is a distinct line. Italian bees and Cordovan go into winter very strong and if the winter is long, it will result in the need for a lot of forage reserves.


Both breeds are prone to stealing honey from other families, especially if they are weak. Keep this in mind and keep strong colonies in the apiary.

Similarities and differences

Comparing the two breeds of bees Italiana and Cordovan, we can conclude that in many ways they are very similar, but there are also differences.

In common:

This is high honey production, tendency to steal, strong colonies, good builders of honeycomb, produce little propolis, and a lot of royal jelly, not very well tolerate long and cold winters, not prone to swarming and aggression.


– They differ in their origin. If the Italian bee is a process of evolution of nature on the territory of Italy, the Cordovan is a product of selection.

– Different color. The Italian Bee has a color ranging from bright yellow to pale yellow. And Cordovan is reddish-orange with a brick tint.

– Colony strength. Cordovan has a consistently strong colony in the spring, summer and before winter. Italian bee is a little slower to develop in the spring. But in the middle and end of the season it gains strength just as much as the Cordovan.

– Popularity, of course, is on the side of Italian Bee. It is the one that has been popularized since the middle of the 19th century.


In general, we can say that these breeds have proven themselves in apiaries and are worthy of all sorts of good reviews. When choosing, you should be guided by your climate, the availability of nectar in nature, the duration of winter, and your beekeeping practice (amateur or commercial).

In my opinion, both species are suitable for young climates with abundant and constant availability of nectar and good weather, with short and warm winters. In these conditions these bees will perform at their best. If you are a commercial pollinator,  Cordovan is preferable as it has stronger families in spring ready to pollinate large areas.

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