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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
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    Brasher Falls, NY, USA
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    Default German Black Bees

    I have seen references to these bees in a hand full of Threads lately. Is it really likely that this strain of bee has been able to remain intact in the environment? It seems unlikely to me, what w/ all of the other bees that we have had since we stopped importing German bees, when?, back in the early 19teens or when?

    I thought that I encountered these bees back in Ohio in 1984, but I only assumed so and didn't know much about bees and beekeeping at the time. I'm sure that I mentioned them to Dr. Tew, my professor, but I don't recall his reaction. And I'm sure that I didn't verify it in any way.

    How would you verify that what one thinks is a German bee actually is? Do they still exist in Germany? Do German beekeepers keep them?
    Mark Berninghausen "Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board." Zora Neale Hurston

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
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    St. Albans, Vermont
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    5,122

    Default Re: German Black Bees

    Calling the "German Black Bees" isn't really correct. They are Apis mellifera mellifera. Of course they are still being kept in some locations. The UK for example. Also the Provence area of France. Did you get to see Jamie Strange's talk on the local bees of France...in the Lavender region? Quite fascinating.

    Buster told me that the swampy areas near his apiaries in the Loris area of SC had mellifera bees and gave him headaches when trying to raise queens in the area. Mean, mean, mean! You go to that area in the winter, don't you?

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Bonn, Germany
    Posts
    93

    Default Re: German Black Bees

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Palmer View Post
    Calling the "German Black Bees" isn't really correct.

    They are Apis mellifera mellifera. Of course they are still being kept in some locations. .....
    You can probably find the needed information with the help of this paper:

    http://www.apidologie.org/index.php?...006068&lang=de

    Sincerely,
    Johann

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Location
    Fair Grove,MO,USA
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    1,617

    Default Re: German Black Bees

    In 1965 they were native to St.Clair Co.Mo.( around the Big Sac river). I don't know how they got there but i got introduced to them the hard way,when i took my Midnight bees there to work the river bottoms and they mated with the german black bee drones. I remember two hives that were so mean that my uncle and i waited till dark and burned them, you couldn't walk near them, and working them was a nightmare. I still have bees up there but over the years with some beekeepers bringing in 75 to two hundered hives (Italian bees) to work the sumac, the wild bees i see now look like a small dark banded italian bee, but not near as mean. I don't miss them. Jack

  5. #5
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    Dec 2005
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    Brasher Falls, NY, USA
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    Default Re: German Black Bees

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Palmer View Post
    Mean, mean, mean! You go to that area in the winter, don't you?
    Yes, but I thought that "Engelhardt's yellowjackets" came from splitting and letting them raise their own queens year after year because they couldn't afford to buy queens. I haven't noticed that my open mated queens raised in the south produce mean bees.
    Mark Berninghausen "Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board." Zora Neale Hurston

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
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    St. Albans, Vermont
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    5,122

    Default Re: German Black Bees

    Quote Originally Posted by sqkcrk View Post
    Yes, but I thought that "Engelhardt's yellowjackets" came from splitting and letting them raise their own queens year after year
    Now you have two questions for Buster.

  7. #7

    Default Re: German Black Bees

    I have 10 boxes of mellifera mellifera and one that is most... pure... teh rest are clearly hybrids to some degree and are workable... but the one full breed is entirely unworkable, 5 boxes tall, and brood out the wazoo. Good bees by a brood nest standpoint. Low mite counts, no beetles, big honey, until big bees eat it... But even with smoke in perfect daylight they act africanized after opened, boiling over and following for 40 yards, relentless. Need I mention their ability to sting through gloves and suit where other bees have had much less work... needless to say I have isolated them. I am tempted to requeen, but the biologist in me wants to leave them untreated and stationary, and see where they go... given they were off a stationary box that wasnt treated for 7 years, I expect these are some serious genes... maybe if I can cross out the trait using drone mothers and excluders I can try to extrapolate the useful genetics... but thats alot of time and work...

  8. #8

    Default Re: German Black Bees

    I remember when i was a kid here in Ga(1980). that we had a big oak in the front yard and about half of it broke off one day. my grandfather and dad knew they where there but they never brothered us because they where up high in the tree. We called a local beekeeper and he said he would be glad to come and get them. When he arrived we showed him where they where and he got a ladder and went up and looked at them. He came back down and said that they where the little black bees and they would probably be mean but he could get them because all the comb was open. He got his stuff ready and him and another guy went up. they started getting after us so we backed way off. He came back down and said that them where the nastest bees he had seen in 50 years of beekeeping. He finally give up and they stayed in that tree until winter but they had died out by spring. I have only seen one hive of them since i started beekeeping and a man in Chatsworth Ga close to Cohutta WMA had them but he said that they where not to bad compared to what he had had in the past.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
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    Brasher Falls, NY, USA
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    Default Re: German Black Bees

    Buster says that "Engelhardt's Hornets" were so nasty that you had to wear full protection. Nothing like today working bees in short sleeves. He says they were that way from inbreeding and from what was out in those swamps. South Carolina Swamp Bees.
    Mark Berninghausen "Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board." Zora Neale Hurston

  10. #10
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    Dec 2006
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    St. Albans, Vermont
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    Default Re: German Black Bees

    Quote Originally Posted by sqkcrk View Post
    South Carolina Swamp Bees.
    Exactly. And I believe they were mellifera mellifera.

  11. #11
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    Dec 2005
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    Brasher Falls, NY, USA
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    Default Re: German Black Bees

    Could bee. Makes sense.
    Mark Berninghausen "Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board." Zora Neale Hurston

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Conroe, Texas, USA
    Posts
    192

    Default Re: German Black Bees

    These Bees are what got me started in Bee Keeping. I cut a oak tree down to get them in march. Yeah I know to early for a cut out . LOL !!!
    Anyway, like you all said they were some of the meanest honey bees I ever work with. Mowing and weedeating was out of the question if you were not in full protection gear.

    They thought a dog Killed their mama, and would sting till gone out of sight...
    Yelping...

    I wish I still had them , Man they were mean !!! Pulling the top off meant getting stung a half dozen time, every time..
    Mike

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Location
    Fair Grove,MO,USA
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    1,617

    Default Re: German Black Bees

    In 1965 all i had to work bees with was a straw hat with a mosquito net (from the army surplus) flannel shirt, overalls and a pair of brown cotton (jersy gloves) a smoker and a screwdriver. You learn quick what they mean by High tailing It. . If AHB are meaner than they were i hope they don't make it this far north (SW Mo.) Jack

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Issaquah,WA,USA
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    2,252

    Default Re: German Black Bees

    Quote Originally Posted by Texas Bee View Post
    I wish I still had them , Man they were mean !!! Pulling the top off meant getting stung a half dozen time, every time..

    This comment makes no sense to me? Are you serious. 12 stings each time I open the box. No way I am a gluten for punishment but, everyone has to have their limits and that would be mine for sure.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Location
    Huntington, West Virginia, USA
    Posts
    438

    Angry Re: German Black Bees

    It's been over twenty years since I had a hive of German black bees. I got stung through bee suit & gloves so many time my wife stopped counting when she reached 100.
    I do not miss them...

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    dallas, tx, usa
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    543

    Default Re: German Black Bees

    I worked on a cotton farm in a very isolated area in the desert around 95. Mainly went to work there because the old coot that ran it was born in the house, and said I could have the bees in the barn, which had been there as long as he could remember. They were black and strange looking to my young eyes. There were no other beekeepers within 200 miles. The rotting brown barn was punctured with a hundred entrances. They seemed a little testy, but nothing too bad. When I went inside to look for the hives I found entire horse stalls 10ft high spilling out. The hive looked like it was made in outer space -- like 30 or so jellyfish plopped on top of one another and cast in wax. A few weeks later I took a shovel to it...and then decided to leave them there. Always wanted to go back and check on them, but I cannot remember which twisting dirt roads would lead me back there.

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
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    dallas, tx, usa
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    543

    Default Re: German Black Bees

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Palmer View Post
    The UK for example. Also the Provence area of France. Did you get to see Jamie Strange's talk on the local bees of France...in the Lavender region? Quite fascinating.
    Where was this talk? Is it available somewhere online?

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    Auckland,Auckland,New Zealand
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    5,430

    Default Re: German Black Bees

    These bees were the first bees brought to my country (New Zealand) by the first European settlers. Later, Italians were introduced which immediately became popular because of their gentle temperament. When I first started beekeeping there were still plenty of "black" ones around, it was hard to keep Italians pure, they would always seem to regress over a few generations & get blacker and blacker.

    I can remember arriving at a yard of black ones, and while opening the gate which was a good 500 yards from the bees, being stung and buzzed by angry bees & the hives were not even in sight yet!

    It used to be that the measure of bees temperament was color, the blacker, the worse. But for some reason, and I don't think anyone really knows why, over the last 20 years or so these bees have pretty much dissapeared. During the same period, carniolans have been introduced, and it is now quite strange, ( to an old beek like me anyway), to see quite dark bees in a hive, but open it & they are gentle.

    The old black bees were hardy, go through winter on the smell of an oily rag, less disease prone, and if you could just stop them swarming they would give a considerably better honey crop than Italians. But the two main downsides were, EXTREMELY bad tempered, and swarm prone.

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    St. Albans, Vermont
    Posts
    5,122

    Default Re: German Black Bees

    Quote Originally Posted by mythomane View Post
    Where was this talk? Is it available somewhere online?
    I tried to find it once. No luck.

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Hattiesburg, MS
    Posts
    47

    Default Re: German Black Bees

    I started beekeeping with 4 hives in 2005 which were gentle Italians. A "buddy" of mine did an cut-out of honeybees that ended up being the apis mellifera mellifera (little black honey bee). This "buddy" of mine was able to remove the bees with comb and brood by throwing all of this with bees, queen and all into a deep box with bottom and lid (then running like he!! out of the area).

    He told me that they were mean and if I wanted them then I could have them equipment and all. Of course, I had need for a 5th hive! I thought why not, How bad can they really bee? Listen, those bees attacked me from 75 yards away before I ever even walked up to the hive the first time. It was an ordeal getting them back to my vehicle for the short journey to my apiary (this was early June 2005).

    They wouldn't tolerate you being in the apiary with them (sending scads of bees after you). To make a very long story short, I never was able to work them (go into the brood chamber or anything like that...). The queen must have been killed during the cut out as they calmed down considerably after about two months, but that only meant you could walk near them being fully suited up (forget trying to open the hive up).

    This hive crossed with some Italian drones and two of my other hives crossed with the german black bee drones. At the end of 2005, I had two gentle hives, two mostly pissed off hives and one plain nasty hive (much less testy from extremely nasty original cut-out hive). I fed all four of my "original" hives to make it through the winter, but I didn't feed this "german" hive because it was still to nasty to work. My logic was that if it made it through winter then I would try to suck it up and work them in the spring as they "deserved it".

    They absconded during early Spring 2006. I wished that I had more sense to try and keep them in a managed hive instead of wild in the area where my bees are...

    My observations:

    I have noticed that the colonies which have more of a darker bee (German hybrid) produce considerable more honey and don't have the hive beetle or mite problems. I have been selecting the more aggressive colonies and making splits from these bees since 2006.

    I have never treated my hives with chemicals for varroa, tracheal mites or for hive beetles. They are thriving. The one regret that I have is that I didn't know better as a first year beekeeper and didn't try to preserve the genetics.

    They were mean as hades!

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