The term 'race' in bees defines the geographical location (unlike animals) of their originating homeland and defines their traits. Apis Mellifera is the dominant species in most western countries including Australia and the popular races used in apiculture are Italian, Caucasian and Carniolan. Other bee species include Apis Dorsata, Apis Cerana, Apis Florea.
- Italian Bee - Apis Mellifera var. Ligustica Spinola
Originally from the Apennine Peninsula in Italy, the true Italian breed is the Ligustica. There are 3 yellow bands on the abdomen of the Ligustica and 4 or 5 bands on the Italian. These bees are usually gentle to manage, over winter well and build up quickly in spring. Their proficient breeding ability during periods of little or no honey flow often results in depletion of their honey stores and as a result they have a tendency toward swarming. Italians have the bad habit of robbing, selecting weak colonies or honey sheds but are a popular breed amongst beekeepers.
- Caucasian Bee - Apis Mellifera var. Caucasica Gorbatschev
Originating from Caucasus Mountains between the Black and Caspian Seas of Russia, these larger grey coloured bees are gentle to handle and very hard working. They are tolerant to a harsh winter environment, building up slowly during the spring and having a low inclination toward swarming. Caucasian bees are susceptible to diseases such as Nosema and produce more propolis than any other race.
- Carniolan Bee - Apis Mellifera var. Carnica Pollmann
The Carniolan bees originate from the Austrian Alps, northern Yugoslavia and Danube valley. They are grey or dark in colour, very gentle to handle, over winter well conserving their winter stores and breeding prolifically during spring. The Carniolan has a slightly smaller body than the other races of bees. It has a high tendency toward swarming.
- German Black Bee - Apis Mellifera var. Mellifera L.
This was the original bee bought by settlers to most western countries. They are large and dark coloured and over winter well. German bees are nervous on the comb and aggressive to interference. They are slow to build up numbers during the spring and less prolific than other races.