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In this article we’ll talk about the characteristics of the Caucasian Honey Bee and what we’ve learned so far about this particular bee.
From our experience as bee breeders, we can say without a doubt that there are some exceptionally lines of Caucasian bees. We specifically used the term lines as it has become increasingly more difficult to use the term race nowadays. According to David Cushman, it is nearly impossible to find a race that is 100% pure as bees were introduced in locations where the nature would have prevented this (oceans and seas, mountains). Therefore, a purity of more than 90% is considered to be excellent.
In the case of the Caucasian bee things are becoming even more complicated do to the difficulty of obtaining quality genetic material from the natural habitat of this bee. The Caucasian export from the Abkhazia-Georgia area is forbidden by local law, so one must come up with creative solutions for obtaining them.
We were fortunate enough to meet Patrick Vienne and start a collaboration. Patrick Vienne is a world renowned bee breeder that has been working with the Caucasian bee for more than 35 years and has a vast experience in obtaining and selecting quality Caucasian queens. We were thus able to understand the real characteristic of this race and implement a solid selection program.
Characteristics of the Caucasian Bee
The exterior aspect, as well as its calm and docile behavior are very similar to the ones of the Carniolan Bee. There are lots of similarities between the two, with a slight advantage for the Caucasian bee with regards to the length of the tongue. The Caucasian bee has the longest tongue of all breeds.
We must say that the defensiveness and temperamental differences vary to a larger degree in the case of the Caucasian bee, so a selection must be carried out with great attention to this detail. Also, the Caucasian bee seems to use propolis more than the Carniolan bee.
The prolificity of the Caucasian queens is also on par with the Carniolan bee and it regulates the brood production with regards to the nectar availability. Therefore it has great productivity and great for high honey yields.
Another trait of the Caucasian bee is that is stores honey near the brood, typical for a mountain bee. It also uses a minimum number of combs for storing the honey; in other words, it doesn’t proceed to a new comb until the previous one is completely filled. The advantage is that at the end of the harvesting there won’t be half or partially filled combs, a great advantage for capping and extracting the honey. This characteristic of the Caucasian bee recommends it as a great choice for regions with a colder, rainy or constantly changing weather.
Even though some say that this stock has a greater sensibility to Nosema Apis, we didn’t find this to be the case. There were no notable differences between the Caucasian and other bees that we’ve worked with throughout the years. The beekeeper is the one in charge from preventing this disease from happening; often times the bee has to fight a huge number of Nosema Apis spores due to the negligence of the beekeeper. We’ll further discuss this aspect in a separate article as Nosema Apis and Nosema Cerata are the silent killers of thousands of bee colonies from America and Europe.
Preventing diseases like Nosema Apis is one of our main concerns; therefore, we are constantly monitoring our colonies and perform lab tests. We are also extremely rigorous with regards to hygiene, treatments and choosing the optimum location for a colony.
As it’s the case with other bee strains, the Caucasian bee has a series of important advantages and some slight drawbacks. It all comes down to the goal of using a particular bee and what are the qualities that interest the beekeeper the most. Regarding honey yields, we can confidently place the Caucasian bee at the top, alongside Buckfast and Carniolan bees.
Below you’ll find all the links to the articles from this mini-series:
- The Buckfast Honey Bee
- The Italian Honey Bee
- The Carniolan Honey Bee
- The Caucasian Honey Bee
- The Carpathian Honey Bee