About Russian Honey Bees
We have been working with Pure-Bred Russian Honey Bees, and they have proven to have several superior qualities in comparison to the more commonly available Italian Honey Bees. This makes them a good choice for our Texas environment.
1. Varroa Mites
Pure-Bred Russian Honey Bees keep Varroa Mite populations in check using multiple biological mechanisms. The methods listed below are some of the major mechanisms that we see and which have been well documented by independent research.
- Varroa Sensitive Grooming (VSG), also known as “mite biting” - Russian worker bees have been observed damaging the mites by biting them.
- Varroa Sensitive Hygiene (VSH) - Russian worker bees detect brood cells that contain reproducing female mites, they uncap a high percentage of these cells and eliminate most of these exposed mites.
- Pure-Bred Russian Honey Bees control mites by sharply cutting back on brood rearing during the summer nectar/pollen dearth. This bee colony administered brood break slows down the reproductive rate of the Varroa mite population and exposes more of the mites to “mite biting” by the worker bees.
Like Italian Honey Bees, we find Pure-Bred Russian colonies to be docile and quiet on the comb.
3. Honey Production
Prue-Bred Russian Honey Bees generally match or exceed Italian Honey Bees in honey production.
4. Honey Consumption
Pure-Bred Russian Honey Bees tend to be able to maintain the bee colony on fewer honey stores than Italian Honey Bees. They sharply reduce the bee population in their hive when foraging resources are scarce and then rapidly expand the beehive population when there is nectar and pollen to be gathered.
Management of Russian Honey Bees
Owing to their Varroa Mite resistance, successful management of Pure-Bred Russian Honey Bees differs significantly from the more common Italian Honey Bee.
Pure-Bred Russian Honey Bees generally over-winter with smaller clusters and tend to stay smaller until foraging bees begin to gather abundant pollen and nectar in the spring. Beekeepers often witness a dramatic population buildup at this point and need to be prepared to add more comb space or split the colony lest it kick into swarm mode.
During the summer dearth, the broodnest of a Pure-Bred Russian Honey Bee hive will often undergo a dramatic reduction and look spotty, as if it, the queen is failing.
Pure-Bred Russian Honey Bees commonly maintain developing queen cells in the hive even though they may not swarm.
Although we have achieved excellent honey production and sustainable bee populations with Pure-Bred Russian Honeybees, it is important to understand that the appearance and performance of Pure-Bred Russian Honey Bee colonies often differ from what beekeepers with Italian Honey Bees associate with a healthy beehive. Please contact us for additional information.