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Thread: Cordovan Bees

  1. #1
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    Sep 2010
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    Default Cordovan Bees

    Hi all: Looking for information on Cordovan Italian bees. Things such as: how do they compare with "regular" Italian bees, are they as hardy as the regulars, how do they compare with honey production and overwintering? Thinking of getting a spring nuc of Cordovans to start our 2nd hive. Any thoughts or info will be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks,
    Chris

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Cordovan Bees

    It's just a color, and can be bred into just about any strain.

    Because it's attractive to look at some breeders are selling cordovans, and some of them are a nice bee, but there are probably as many variations as among italians generally.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Cordovan Bees

    Cordovan is a recessive gene. Offspring will be light if there is no dominant gene and dark if there is. Italian Cordovans are light, Africanized Cordovans are dark. The name comes from the dark dominant characteristic. They are the gentlest bees I have ever worked. I used them exclusively the first year for the teaching hives and new beekeepers. This year we offered Buckfast. Buckfast through Canada are as gentle as Cordovan and great hygeinic. Cordovan and Buckfast made plenty of honey here. The advantage of Cordovan for me was gentleness and quick identification of Africanized genetics. If the bees are light there is no Africanization.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Cordovan Bees

    America's Beek --

    I am interested in the source of your information about Africanized Cordovans tending towards a darker color. Is this based on your experience?

    The guys at Texas A & M insist that the only definite way to ascertain Africanization is through a microscopic examination. I have seen both light and dark africanized bees, as well as large and smaller sizes. The only reliable indicators I have seen are behavioral, and even that is sometimes a challenge. We still have many colonies of the so called "German Black Bees" in this area, not all of them africanized. And they can be cranky.

    My beloved 97 year old mentor remembers when AHB first came to this part of south Texas, and says while they are "hot", in his experience, the German Black Bees were as hot, or hotter.

    I had some Cordovan queens this year from Tecumseh, formerly on this forum, and they were a delight. Calm, hygienic, and REALLY easy to spot on frames, even without a color coded year dot.

    Thanks for your input.
    Summer

  5. #5
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    Philadelphia, MS, USA
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    Default Re: Cordovan Bees

    The ones I have had are very gentle, build up extreamly fast in spring, but can eat up all their extra honey in summer raising brood. Not very disease resistant, at least ones I had.

    Great for beginners and package bee producers. Not so much if your wanting lots of surplus honey and winter survivability.

    Just my opinion,

    Johnny
    "Suppose you were an idiot and suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself." - Mark Twain

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Cordovan Bees

    In my experience, every trait the Italians have, they have in spades... like brooding all the time, robbing all the time etc. Great if you want to make early packages of bees as you'll have a lot of bees early. But they are often too early for a Northern climate.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Cordovan Bees

    As has been stated, in theory Cordovan bees are just a color. In practice, I have found them to act Italian in the extreme. They are not very frugal, they keep a good sized broodnest, they build up early in the year, they build comb well, they store lots of pollen and they like to rob each other quite a lot. They are not too bad about swarming, and they are very nice bees to work.

    For my purposes, they have worked really well. I have cold winters, but not nearly as cold or as long as folks further North. If my hives don't have a big population in the early spring, I miss out on an early nectar flow and lose some honey production. The bottom line for me is that I have decided I get better production out of hives that act extremely Italian, which the Cordovans do.

    As some people have mentioned, you can tell pretty quickly when there is a change in the queen, because the bees get darker.

    I do need to make sure these hives have plenty of stores for winter. I also tend to keep entrance reducers on my hive if there is no nectar flow to slow down robbing. However, if you get a decent Cordovan Italian queen and get them ready for winter, they build up great by March, build a humongous brood area, make a whole bunch of workers and you can get as good a honey crop as the forage allows.

    I don't think they sell nucs or packages, but Pendell's Apiary in California provides excellent queens. I think a large part of my satisfaction with Cordovans is that Pendells does a good job of turning out quality queens. For example, they don't bank queens and they let them start laying well before they ship.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Cordovan Bees

    I get my Cordovan genetic information from experience and
    Roger Pearce, Defense Behavior of Honeybees and Wasps, raroland@holly.colostate.edu
    DeGrandi-Hoffman G, Collins A, Martin J. H, Schmidt J. O, Spangler H. G. 1998. Nest Defense Behavior in Colonies from crosses between Africanized and European Honey bees (Apis mellifera L.) (Hymenoptera) Journal of Insect Behavior Vol. 11 1:37-47
    light bees are Italian with no dominant gene
    dark bees are AHB with the AHB dominant gene
    "Gloria DeGrandi-Hoffman, Anita Collins, and others have performed a mating experiment between Africanized and European honeybees to determine if the lineage of the honeybee is related to the defensive behavior it exhibits by determining the proportion of Africanized honeybees and European honeybees participating in colony defense in hives headed by either Africanized or European honeybee queens with both African and European subfamilies present. (DeGrandi-Hoffman et al. 1997) Their experiment involves the use of the Cordovan gene, which is a gene for body color. The homozygous recessive alleles produce a distinctive yellow-brown cuticle colors in bees. The bees which exhibited this feature were the European bees used in this experiment. The African and Cordovan recessive European honeybees were crossed and workers were determined by these genes."

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Cordovan Bees

    But I think AHB bees would also be light, if they were homozygous cordovan, and dark if they were heterozygous cordovan.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Cordovan Bees

    From Tom Glenn:

    In these times of Africanized bee awareness, known parentage of your bees is more important than in the past. Unlike the ordinary yellow and black bees, cordovan color is controlled by a single recessive gene which will breed true only through controlled breeding, either artificial (instrumental) insemination or isolated mating areas.A quick look at the bees at the entrance will let you know if your cordovan queen has been replaced by swarming or supersedure. If the color of your bees reverts back to the ordinary color, you know the queen has been replaced. Another interesting effect is that you can recognize your bees working in the field, always a satisfying sight.

  11. #11
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    Medford, New Jersey, USA
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    Default Re: Cordovan Bees

    Thanks everyone for all your input. As far as them using up their stores and such, I guess it's pretty much a foregone conclusion I'll be feeding them anyway--we're in an area where fall feeding is usually necessary because of dearth. Since we're in New Jersey, I guess at this point in time, I don't have to worry about them becoming Africanized. I thought they'd be a nice 'experiment' to see the differences between them and 'regular' Italians. Also, it might be nice to see them foraging and know for sure they're one of ours! (And on a completely ditzy note--I'm a blonde and thought it might be nice to have a whole hive of blonde 'sisters'!)
    Thanks again for all the info. It's been an exciting experience so far (first year beeks) and we're learning all the time.
    Chris

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Cordovan Bees

    Had two hives that had marked cordovan queens last year that did not make it through the winter. Had other Italian hives that did make it . The color did not have anything to do with the hives dying. It was the genetics that caused the the bees to not be able to winter.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Cordovan Bees

    scdw43: Ok, now I'm confused. What are you referring to when you say "genetics"? Genetics also cause the color--recessive and dominant genes, etc. Can you elaborate on that a little?
    Thanks,
    Chris

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Cordovan Bees

    Thanks for your data, America's beek! I appreciate the citation. Sometimes when I talk to the A & M guys, I am not sure who is quoting from their personal knowledge, and when they are being professors and quoting published papers. Evaluating sources can be tricky when dealing with AHB. Everyone has heard about them, but it is nothing like living with them, LOL.

    When folks around here ask me about whether or no you can guess if they are AHB by their behavior, I remind them of their mamas. Did you ever ask as a teenager, "Mama, how do I know if it's REALLY love?"

    And she probably answered with something like, "If it's REALLY love, you won't have to ask me that."

    AHB can sometimes be like that. If I start walking up from 1/4 of a mile away, suited up, and suddenly a few bees and ALL their friends and relations start arriving en masse to tell me to vacate the premises, they probably have questionable genetics. I don't have to ask.

    It's actually fascinating behavior to observe -- fully suited with a smoker. They are different from their Euro sisters. But color and size don't seem to be too terribly reliable as makers of AHB.

    Summer

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Cordovan Bees

    You are right color is controlled by genetics. The dead bees on the bottom board were Cordovan in color, including the marked queen. As far as the color went they were great bees, but come spring, they were dead bees. Dead bees don't make money, no matter how pretty they are.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Cordovan Bees

    Thank you Summer1052. I have been asked to teach two blocks of Africanized Honey Bees at the Florida Bee College in March. The topic is so sensitive that Jerry Hayes, Florida Chief Bee Inspector, and Dr. Jamie Ellis, University of Florida Entomologist, are reviewing my lessons before I can present.
    The simple answer is, as they said, always respond "you cannot tell AHB by looking or behavior". For the media and new beekeepers that is the best answer. When I get calls from radio and TV stations that is what they get from me and they hate it!
    For experienced beekeepers, the recessive/dominant marker can be used if there are no other dominant alleles present. The subject of capturing swarms and feral colonies will probably come up in questioning too. Discouraged does not mean illegal, but I probably have to say that offline in March.

  17. #17
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    Oct 2009
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    Default Re: Cordovan Bees

    Cordovan bees are great all around bees. We raise them to make our splits and nucs and packages from. They build up very fast in the spring and are very gentle. We put our hybrid Italian queens with our cordovan nucs,packages and splits,they except queens very good.They do like to eat. We are also treatment free and have no problem with anything.
    Before man took over bees there was nature,it did a better job.

  18. #18
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    May 2009
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    Indian River, Florida
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    Default Re: Cordovan Bees

    Quote Originally Posted by NeilV View Post
    As has been stated, in theory Cordovan bees are just a color. In practice, I have found them to act Italian in the extreme. They are not very frugal, they keep a good sized broodnest, they build up early in the year, they build comb well, they store lots of pollen and they like to rob each other quite a lot. They are not too bad about swarming, and they are very nice bees to work.

    For my purposes, they have worked really well. I have cold winters, but not nearly as cold or as long as folks further North. If my hives don't have a big population in the early spring, I miss out on an early nectar flow and lose some honey production. The bottom line for me is that I have decided I get better production out of hives that act extremely Italian, which the Cordovans do.

    As some people have mentioned, you can tell pretty quickly when there is a change in the queen, because the bees get darker.

    I do need to make sure these hives have plenty of stores for winter. I also tend to keep entrance reducers on my hive if there is no nectar flow to slow down robbing. However, if you get a decent Cordovan Italian queen and get them ready for winter, they build up great by March, build a humongous brood area, make a whole bunch of workers and you can get as good a honey crop as the forage allows.

    I don't think they sell nucs or packages, but Pendell's Apiary in California provides excellent queens. I think a large part of my satisfaction with Cordovans is that Pendells does a good job of turning out quality queens. For example, they don't bank queens and they let them start laying well before they ship.
    Well stated, the Cordovan is best know by Lawrence Connor, it was developed in Labelle, Florida during his tenure with Dadant and the genetics research team. They are Italian in extreme, best of the best!!! Fill the frame like no other, but must be replaced more frequently than others.

  19. #19
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    Sep 2010
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    Medford, New Jersey, USA
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    Default Re: Cordovan Bees

    Thanks everyone for your input. Sounds like they might be a good strain to try--if for no other reason than to see the differences in the hives. The hive we have now is regular, Jersey hybrid, unmarked, superceded Italian. They have been very productive and seem to tolerate less than ideal conditions (see previous posts re: we inherited this neglected for about 2 years hive). It'll be interesting to see how the 'blondes' do.
    Chris

  20. #20
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    Aug 2009
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    Brady, washington
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    Default Re: Cordovan Bees

    I had Cordoven bees that are very gentle, great at build up poor honey production, well not as good as other breeds. New world Carnie's are better in my climate then the bleach blond cordovens I had still love the little girls but I love my NWC better that seem to winter better in the rainy Pacific North West better.
    99.99% of questions can be answered by Just reading books.

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