While not all bees make honey, many species do. Throughout history, humans have always kept honey-making bees as a source of beeswax, sweetener, and even medicine! Therefore, it is easy to think of common honeybees and assume that there are only one species to choose from.
The Apis Mellifera is the most widely distributed and domesticated bee species in the world. With its name literally meaning “honey-barring bee,” it is the bee who hands down makes the most honey. Known for its yellow and striped abdomen and large colony sizes, it is the best honeybee species for any enclosed communal living space.
As a beekeeper, you have more options than you may know. It would greatly benefit you to take a look at some of the different species of domesticated bees and their individual traits!
7 Types Of Honey Bees Perfect For Any Backyard Beekeeper
Western/European Honey bee (Apis Mellifera)
The Apis Mellifera is ideal for beginner beekeepers who are looking into domesticated bee species. These bees are famous for their yellow-striped abdomens.
They also tend to build large colonies, not only in the wild but in captivity as well. As a result, they are the most well-known honey-making bee species, and they have been popular for centuries.
This popularity leads to evolution, fitting the needs of raising domesticated bees. For example, the Apis Mellifera is not nearly as aggressive as other types of honey bees, and they can produce excessive amounts of honey regularly. On top of that, the Apis Mellifera has also developed a great resiliency against human environments.
Italian Honey Bee (Apis Mellifera Ligustica)
The Apis Mellifera Ligustica is a variety of the Apis Mellifera and is the most popular honey bee species in North America. Beginner beekeepers and residents love the Apis Mellifera Ligustica for its gentle nature and high honey production. These good qualities combined make them one of the best choices for beekeeping.
These beautiful species of bees have a very beautiful aesthetic as well! They are characterized by their bright gold body covered in deep black stripes. Unfortunately, however, these bees tend to stray from their hives. As a result, beekeepers would have to keep an eye on them and make sure they do not get lost.
Despite these bees’ tendency to wander off, they dislike traveling long distances for food, so beekeepers would have to surround the bees with all kinds of nectar-filled flowers.
The Gray/Carniolan Honey Bee (Apis Mellifera Cernica)
The Apis Mellifers Carnica is a good option for worried beginner beekeepers. These types of bees are mild-natured and are easy to work with. Multiple beekeepers who have the Apis Mellifers Carnica have reported that they can often extract honey without using their smoker.
On top of them being extremely calm-natured, they can also survive the harshest part of winter without downsizing in colony size. Some beekeepers are even able to harvest a few jars of honey over the colder months.
The only issue that is prone to happen is that they are prone to swarming. This is because their colony size drastically increases at the beginning of spring.
Himalayan Honey Bee (Apis Cerana)
The Apis Cerana is the dominating bee species in various parts of Asia. These honey bees are common in countries such as Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, and Malaysia. What makes these bees so unique is their resilience to various diseases and fast-changing weather circumstances.
Since the Apis Cerana is smaller than most other bee species, many companies choose to import European honey bees into Asia to boost honey production. This, however, led to an influx of diseases. However, instead of dying out, the Apis Cerana adapted by becoming more hygienic.
These little stingers are one of the only types of honey bees that frequently renew wax brood combs. Plus, they are far less susceptible to life-threatening diseases induced by weather changes! They can easily survive the coldest winters and blazing hot summers.
German Honey Bee (Apis Mellifera Mellifera)
The Apis Mellifera Mellifera is one of the younger types of honey bees in Europe. Their existence only dates back to the Ice Age, which is approximately 2.4 million years ago. This actually makes this type of bee very young, as research states that the ancestors of modern honey bees can be traced back to more than a hundred million years.
For these reasons, not a lot of research has been done about this bee, and therefore, it is best for beekeeping experts or enthusiasts who want to learn more about this type of bee. Plus, beekeepers would be surprised to discover that the pure Apis Mellifera Mellifera bees have a hint of yellow. This is because their bodies are naturally colored in either black or dark brown!
Apart from the Apis Mellifera Mellifera producing large amounts of honey, they are quite rare to find. And if you manage to find a swarm of these bees, be careful, as they are difficult to control and are quite aggressive.
Gibraltar Honey Bee (Apis Mellifera Ibriensis)
This bee is perfect for beekeeping experts because they could be tricky ones! What makes the Apis Mellifera Iberiensis so cool is that they have managed to keep their bloodline pure and clean for millions of years. They simply refuse to mate with any queen that doesn’t have the same genes as them!
That’s not all, as the Apis Mellifera Iberienses are notorious for their unique defense technique. When their territory is intruded on, they send out a troop of guard bees to patrol and attack the area, along with anything and everything that can be seen as a threat!
This is a great thing to keep n mind if you plan to catch them in the wild. However, it would be best if you always were prepared and wear the correct equipment. Otherwise, you will end up with your body being full of stings and blisters rather than a full hive of bees!
Caucasian Honey Bee (Apis Mellifera Caucasica)
The Apis Mellifera Caucasica is a large group of bee species characterized by gray hair covering their entire bodies. You will also notice that this type of honey bee tends to have a more sticky beehive. This is the result of excess propolis production!
The Apis Mellifera Caucasica is never recommended for beginner beekeepers. It would be best to take on a hive or two when you are experienced, and there are various reasons for this.
Firstly, these types of bees are prone to infections, and you would have to check up on them at least once a month to make sure that they aren’t showing signs and symptoms of any disease.
Secondly, they are also quite aggressive and easily aggravated. Even if you use your bee smoker, it will take a few minutes for these bees to settle, especially if they got riled up and felt threatened.
Lastly, the Apis Mellifera Caucasica is slower than the rest of the bee family when building their colony. Therefore, only an experienced beekeeper would be able to stimulate procreation and honey production!
What Type Of Bee Is Right For You?
If you decided to keep bees and have gone through the correct process, you are ready to choose your first type of bee! You have the interest, space, the permission, and maybe you already have the brood boxes and the protective bee suit! All that’s missing is your working colony of bees.
There are several types of honeybees and native bees, each with specific characteristics that might satisfy your beekeeping needs. Here is a quick rundown of what to know and look for when you are thinking of choosing your first type of honeybee!
For the beginner: The Golden Italian
There is a good reason why this is the most popular bee in North America! They are not only beautiful but they are especially noted for their productivity and gentle behavior. But, unfortunately, while they are hard-working honey producers, they have a tendency to stray from their hives and rob the honey of other hives they wander into!
The pros of the golden Italian honey bee are that they are prolific and gentle, have minimal chances of swarming tendencies, and are tidy housekeepers! The only cons are that they will wander off sometimes and don’t go very far to forage for their food, so you will need to assist them with resources.
These cute bees are right for you if you are looking for a good, gentle, all-purpose bee. They are also common and readily available!
For the cool climate ruralist: The Carnolian
Darker in color than their Italian cousins, the Carnalians are also gentle and are resistant to pests. They build their colonies fast and regulate the size of their hive depending on the amount of food in their area. So, if you place your hives in an area with unpredictable forage resources, this might be the bee for you!
The pros of this particular bee are that they are gentle and better at long-distance foraging than other races! The only con is that they may swarm easily and have a difficult time with hot weather. However, this special bee is right for you if you want a gentle bee that can travel a good distance to feed, even in the colder, wet weather!
For the four-season expert: The Caucasian
Silver-gray to dark brown, this bee tends to make a lot of propolis. They build a strong summer population and are extremely productive. However, they can also be excitable, so beekeeping experience will definitely be needed. They get riled quite easily and take a while to calm down, even when using a bee smoker.
The pros of this bee are that they survive winters much better than other bees and have a somewhat longer tongue than other bees. The only cons are that they tend to be less docile and unruly when provoked, and they are more susceptible to infection than other races.
The bottom line is, these beautiful bees are the right bees for you if you have some experience in keeping bees and have access to wild or semi-wild areas.
When it comes to knowing which honey bee makes the most honey and how easily the different bees can be handled, it will boost your honey production and your productivity as a successful beekeeper. As beekeepers, we know that our passion is rewarding, and with the correct knowledge, it could be even more fun!