There are several races of the honeybee. Each of these races has different advantages and disadvantages linked to their original regional background. Each region likely has a differing climate, topography, resources and predators. Because of difference in background, each race of honey bees have evolved slightly in a different manner than their cousins allowing them to better take advantage of their specific situation.
Today the Italian Honey Bee is the most commonly kept honey bee in the United States, conversely the Africanized Honey Bee is the most feared and illegal to keep in many regions. Fitting somewhere between these two extremes include many of the other races and the Feral Honey Bee, though technically not a race in its own, it may be acclimated to the area in which it has been found.
The following is a partial listing of the races of honeybee that may be available to a prospective beekeeper, along side is a brief amount of information regarding each race and some common advantages and disadvantages with each.
Apis mellifera scutellata
The Africanized honey bee, also known as the killer bee. Because of the media attention received, Africanized bees have been given a bad name. This is not to say that they can’t be more dangerous than standard honeybees, their representation has simply been blown out of proportion. There have been several more recent breeding programs that have produced a more gentle form of this race. This gentler form of bee has even become one of the more sought after honeybee races in regions of Brazil.
Pros and Cons of the Africanized honey bee
Excellent honey producer
Strongly protects hives against predators
Resistance to Varroa mites
Well suited to tropical climates
Overly defensive, occasionally dangerous
Readily swarms or absconds
Difficult to keep near to human habitations and livestock
Apis mellifera: hybrid
The Buckfast hybrid was produced by Brother Adam of the Buckfast Abbey. Brother Adam crossed a great many races of bees with the British bee in hopes of creating a superior breed. The results are what is now known as the Buckfast Bee.
Apis mellifera mellifera
The Western European Honey Bee, also known as the dark or black bee, was the first honeybee imported to the Americas. This distinctly marked bee is brown and black in color and overwinter well.