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Finding Your Perfect Bee Breed: A Guide for New Beekeepers

Ask a group of 10 beekeepers a question and get 23 different answers. Selecting a bee breed is a big question that we see in many social media and forum posts across the internet, especially from new beekeepers. What's the right bee for me? It's hard to say, especially depending on your goals, location, the changing climate, local laws and so much more. However, selecting the right breed of European honey bees can be a crucial first step in your beekeeping journey. At the Waterford Bee Company we've had success with several breeds of honey bees. We have found temperament, brood production, hygiene, honey production and survivability as important factors in the types of bees we have selected. It's a tough question with a lot of answers. Here's a guide to help you make an informed decision based on some of our experiences with bees the last few years. We hope this short guide will help you understand the benefits of certain bee breeds, and ensure a smooth start with your new buzzing companions.

Understanding Bee Breeds

European honey bees (Apis mellifera) are popular among beekeepers for their productivity and adaptability. However, different breeds offer unique characteristics:

  1. Italian Bees (A. m. ligustica): Known for their gentle nature and prolific honey production, Italian bees are a great choice for beginners. They are less prone to swarming and adapt well to various climates, making them suitable for the diverse weather conditions in Wisconsin and surrounding states.

  2. Carniolan Bees (A. m. carnica): These bees are known for their hardiness in cold climates, making them an excellent option for northern states. They have a rapid spring buildup, which means they can take advantage of early blooms.

  3. Russian Bees: Russian bees tend to be more hygienic then many breeds offering better mite-resistant and can survive long winters. They require more hands-on management, making them a good choice for those willing to invest extra time in beekeeping.

  4. Something to keep in mind... bee hives depending on conditions will raise new queens, which will breed with multiple drones, quickly changing the genetics of a hive or swarm. Even wild caught swarms can't be specific to a type of breed... they're just honey bees! You can better ensure the same breed of bee if you are going to requeen a hive every season... but that is an entirely different conversation!

Tips for Purchasing Bees

  1. Find a Reputable Dealer: Look for a well-established bee dealer with positive reviews and a commitment to healthy beekeeping practices. We can point you towards some great bee suppliers in SE Wisconsin.

  2. Choose the Right Breed: Consider your local climate, forage availability, and your beekeeping goals when selecting a breed.

  3. Start with a Nucleus Colony: For beginners, a nucleus colony, or "nuc," is often easier to manage than package bees. We'll post soon about selecting a nuc or a package.

  4. Inspect the Bees: Ensure the bees are healthy, the queen is present, and there are no signs of disease or pests. Yet another post in the works!

By choosing the bee breed that is right for you and following these tips, you'll be well on your way to a rewarding beekeeping experience. Remember, beekeeping is a journey of learning and growth, and each hive brings its unique joys and challenges. Welcome to the world of beekeeping!

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