Menu Close

Italian bee

Italian bee

Italian bee is one of the most popular bees for breeding in the world. Its qualities as a honey bee have been appreciated by both amateur and professional beekeepers. In this article we will look at its positive qualities and point out its peculiarities and disadvantages. 


Italian bees or Apis mellifera ligustica have long been present within Italy (Liguria, Piedmont, Lombardy, Italian Switzerland), where it survived the last glacial period. We exclude Sicily, as the subspecies Apis mellifera siciliana is present there. Some researchers consider the scientific name of the species “Ligustica” inappropriate, as Liguria represents only a narrow strip of land along the Gulf of Liguria. While the Italian Bee occupies a more extensive region bounded by the Alps to the east and the Apennines to the south.

Global expansion

In European countries and, of course, in the world beekeeping community, Italian bee became known thanks to the activities of J. Dzierżon, who brought Italian bees from Mira (Liguria) to Poland (Karlowice) in 1853. He organised a bee breeding apiary with an isolation radius of 3.5 km and strictly monitored the purity of breeding queens and drones. Already in 1859, he reported that he had sent more than 300 mothers and colonies of bees of Italian species to Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, Russia, Austria, Brazil, Czechoslovakia, USA and other countries. During the period of the bee breeding farm’s activity he exported 5730 mothers! This was a huge success at that time.

External appearance

There are three types of Italian bees: golden, grey Italian and three-striped. Italian three-striped bees are the most valuable in terms of breeding. For this reason, they are bred by beekeepers all over the world.

Among the different Italian bees, there are three different colours: bright yellow (golden) suede and very pale yellow, which depends on where they live. There are several stripes on the abdomen, either brown or yellow. The body is smaller than other breeds, but the proboscis for collecting pollen and nectar is quite long (from 6.3 to 6.8 mm). Thanks to this, Italian bees are able to penetrate into the most inaccessible places, collecting honey, for example, from clover flowers.

The weight of an adult worker bee ready to collect honey is more than 110 g.

Italian queen bee

The queen weighs on average about 210 g. The body hairs are shorter and the body is flattened (compared to the same Russian species). The queen is famous for its productivity. In a day she can produce up to 3000 eggs, which allows you to create a strong bee family of 6-8 kg in record time. The queen carefully lays larvae over the whole frame area and does not reduce egg-laying in bad, rainy weather like Ukrainian, Carpathian, Russian bees, which save resources.


Amicable character – bees do not show aggression when trying to inspect the honeycomb, there is no need to use water or smoke to calm them down. They are more peaceful than Carpathian, Cordovan bees.


Italian bees are not prone to swarming. In unfavourable conditions, the figure can reach 30% of the apiary. But with the onset of the honey-gathering period, the insects quickly get out of this state. Provided that there is plenty of space in the nest for colony development, the insects do without swarming.

Resistance to diseases

They do not tolerate wax moths and are more resistant than other breeds to European rot and Acarapaedosis. This is primarily due to the highly developed ability of bees to clean their hives.

A tendency to rob

A special feature of Italian bees is the tendency to rob. Once a strong colony is formed, it starts to rob weak nests that are close to each other in the neighbourhood. At the same time, they protect their colonies well from outsiders.


Italian bees are famous for their high level of productivity, as well as their ability to switch instantly to a new honey crop. They start working from the very morning and finish later than everyone else.

They collect flower honey and hardly ever collect honey dew.

Bees are not adapted to early harvesting and are highly productive, especially in the middle and end of the season. Under conditions of not very strong honey collection, they can bring up to 30 kg of honey per colony. But if there is a lot of nectar and a honey plants, here they will show themselves in full force and can produce more than 100 kilogrammes of honey.

But remember that when it is cold, raining or other unfavourable conditions outside, bees refuse to work and wait until the weather improves.

After collecting the honey, the bees put it in the upper super. When it is full, they seal it with a white dry caps.

They are very good builders. During the working process, the insects secrete a lot of wax, thanks to which they have no problem building up the honeycomb, which looks neat and beautiful.

Very few cover the hive with propolis.

Keep the hive clean.

How they tolerate the winter

One of the disadvantages of the Italian breed is its low cold resistance and difficulty in enduring a long winter. This is due to the place of origin (southern country), so during this difficult period the beekeeper must insulate the insects’ dwelling as much as possible and stock up on enough provisions to feed them.

The strength of a colony

The Italian bee is very fertile and builds up strong colonies in a short time. During the period when there is no nectar in nature, this colony growth comes from honey reserves. These bees need a lot of nectar to develop their full potential. They also build up colony strength before winter, which affects excessive honey consumption. With such strong colonies, spacious hives are needed for brood rearing.

Advantages of Italian bees

– Show a strong tendency to breed and are very fertile;

– Keeps the hive clean, which some believe may be a factor in disease resistance;

– Uses little propolis;

– Harvests a lot of honey;

– Excellent at building new honeycombs;

– Low tendency to swarm;

– Not an aggressive, kind bee;

– Collects flower honey, not honey dew.

Downsides of Italian bees

– Excessively grows new brood when there is no nectar in the wild;

– Tendency to plunder;

– Late start to increase colony strength and continue to increase when it is already cold and nectar is running out. As a consequence of a very large colony and greater consumption of honey;

– Flies a shorter distance for nectar than Carnica.


Italian bees are popular all over the world for a reason. They are hard-working, energetic bees. They make good use of any period for nectar collection. For them to develop to their full potential they need a good honey-bearing base and preferably migratory. More suited to warm countries with a long season and short, warm winters. Although there are Italian bee lines for Finland.

Very reluctant to swarm if there is space for a queen. Easily removed from swarming state by expanding the nest and nectar availability in nature.

The peculiarity is that the queen does not reduce egg-laying even during cold weather, rain. The important thing is that there were stocks of honey, with which they feed the brood. In cold countries where winter comes early, it is necessary to stop increasing brood, but this is not for the Italian bee. It doesn’t have much faith in winter. The result is poor overwintering.

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *