What is the Best Breed of Bees for Beginners?

Here at J&R Pierce Family Farm, I think it’s important to connect my readers with valuable insight from other experts. Today’s post is a guest post brought to you by John Thomas, a talented freelance writer.

Backyard beekeeping is quickly becoming a popular pastime throughout the country. One of the first questions anyone interested in launching a beekeeping hobby or career is what is the best breed of bees for beginners.

While there are only of handful of different honeybee species found throughout the world, there are dozens of subspecies and thousands of different types.

That can be a lot for beginners to consider as the navigate how to set up their new colony and buy the breed that will be best for them.

But with a little time and research you should be able to identify just what is the best breed of bees for beginners. This article should be able to help.

raising honey bees

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Different Types of Honey Bees

best honey bee breed

There is pretty strong consensus throughout the beekeeping world that there are several high quality breeds of bees. All of these have different pros and cons.

Below you will find the most popular bee breeds in America, what distinguishes them, and why or why not you might want to consider starting with that particular breed.

But before we look at the different breeds, it is important to note that most breeds of bees in the U.S. are not actually pure bred.

While breeders can do their best make sure a queen bee only mates with their desired drones, because of the way bees breed, there is no way to guarantee that happens.

For that reason, all of the breeds that are in the price range of those just starting out will most likely be mix-breed bees.

The bees you end up buying could of course, and most likely will be, predominately one of the following breeds. But take all of the following with a grain of salt.

Know that just because you buy a particular breed of bee doesn’t mean they will always exhibit the traits usually ascribed to that breed.

Best Breeds of Honey Bees

raising honey bees

Italian Honey Bee (Apis mellifera ligustica)

One of the most popular honey bees in the country and a great choice for any beginner is the Italian honey bee.

What makes the Italian honey bee so popular, especially for beginners, is that they are a relatively gentle breed of bee. They aren’t given to swarming as some other breeds. This can be very helpful for those who have little experience dealing with swarming bees.

Italian honey bees are also known for consistently providing plenty of honey. The honey, too, is delicious and has a good, white look to it.

If you are going to be investing time and money into beekeeping as a hobby or as a source of extra income, the Italian honey bee is one of the best breeds to start with because of their reliability.

But no breed of bee is risk free, and the Italian honey be is no exception. Italian honey bees are known to get lost and stray from the hive. Also, when times are tough and the honey isn’t flowing, Italian honey bees can sometimes pillage the honey from rival hives.

Russian Honey Bee (a hybrid breed)

Russian honey bees are another breed many first time bee keepers will want to consider. What makes the Russian honey bee appealing is how resistant the breed is to mites and how well they can survive during winter. If you live in a colder climate, the hardy Russian honey bee might be a good place to start your bee keeping adventures.

There are, however, some significant downsides to starting with Russian honey bees.

First is that the breed is particularly prone to swarming, which can be a challenging problem for beginning bee keepers to manage.

Secondly, is that Russian honey bees tend to be defensive. They can be aggressive, so you will need better protective gear as a result. Finally, Russian honey bees don’t produce honey at the same rate as some of the other, more fruitful breeds.

Caucasian Honey Bee (Apis Mellifera Caucasca)

The Caucasian breed is another popular honey bee breed and one beginner bee keepers will definitely want to consider.

The Caucasian honey bee is known to be a very gentle bee so those new to working with bees and potentially skittish will have less to fear knowing that Caucasians will be patient with them.

On the other hand Caucasian honey bees aren’t known to be the most prolific honey producers. Italian honey bees and several of the other bee breeds on this list very well could outperform a hive of Caucasians.

While it is good to start with a calmer, gentler bee, the reason you are getting started with beekeeping is to have honey. To that end, low production could be discouraging. Weigh both of these facts carefully before deciding whether or not to start with Caucasian honey bees.

Carniolan Honey Bees (Apis Mellifera Carnica)

One of the most popular breed of bees among bee keepers is the Carniolan breed. Keepers love Carnolians because they are extremely gentle and very easy to manage. That also makes Carnolians a good choice for beginner beekeepers.

If there is a downside to Carniolan honey bees, it is that they can tend to swarm. And just like the other breeds on this list, Carniolans can’t match Italian honey bees when it comes to honey production.

Buckfast Honey Bees (another hybrid)

If you are looking for a honey bee breed (or technically a sub breed) that can compete with Italians in terms of production, then you need to look to the Buckfast honey bee.

In addition to being good producers, Buckfast honey bees aren’t as likely to swarm as some of the other breeds on this list. They are also resistant to mites.

The downside to Buckfast honey bees is that they can sometimes be a shade pricier than Italians and some of the other breeds on this list.

What Type of Honey Bee is the Best?

raising honey bees

As you make your decision on which breed of bee is best for you, you’ll need to take into consideration:

  • if you think you can handle a more aggressive bee
  • how much you value high production
  • the climate you live in.

After that, the only thing left to do is choose. Hopefully this short article will help you better understand which breed of bee is best for you.

John Thomas is a freelance writer and hobby gardener. He writes regularly at Soli Deo Gloria.

There you have it! Everything you need to know about the best honey bee breeds. Have you raised bees before? Let me know how it went for you by chiming in below!

Want to learn more about farming? Be sure to take a look at these other articles.

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Author: Rebekah PierceI'm a writer and small farm owner, and lover of everything outdoors. I'm hoping to share my passion for farming, gardening, and homesteading with you on my blogging journey.

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