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  1. #1
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    Jul 2011
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    Redding, CA
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    Default Pictorial Honeybee Identification Guide?

    I am a new beekeeper that is looking for a pictorial honeybee guide. I was unable to find any side-by-side pictures of the various honeybee races. Please let me know of a good resource (printed or online) that could help me identify the most common honeybee races.

    Thank you,

    LCL

  2. #2
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    Aug 2010
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    Allegany County, MD
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    125

    Default Re: Pictorial Honeybee Identification Guide?

    Buckfast


    Russian


    Italian


    Carniolan

  3. #3
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    Aug 2010
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    Allegany County, MD
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    Default Re: Pictorial Honeybee Identification Guide?

    German

  4. #4
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    Jan 2010
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    Gilmer,TX USA
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    1,830

    Default Re: Pictorial Honeybee Identification Guide?

    There is no way to tell the difference! There is way to much emphasis today about breeds of bees....its all $$$ hype!
    Mike
    Please check out the new kingfisherapiaries.com!
    Like us on Facebook

  5. #5
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    Oct 2008
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    Wilmington, Illinois, USA
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    875

    Default Re: Pictorial Honeybee Identification Guide?

    The 3rd picture looks like Cordovan 2 me. Their queens are orange-yellow.
    Honey is the best thing ever discovered ! www.greenanything.net/honey-bees.php

  6. #6
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    Feb 2009
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    dallas, tx, usa
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    Default Re: Pictorial Honeybee Identification Guide?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kingfisher Apiaries View Post
    There is no way to tell the difference! There is way to much emphasis today about breeds of bees....its all $$$ hype!
    Mike
    There are many different bee breeds. Even a beginner can tell the difference between a Russian and Carniolan easily.

  7. #7
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    Feb 2005
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    Tucson, Arizona, USA
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    5,300

    Default Re: Pictorial Honeybee Identification Guide?

    Honeybee color, does not necessarily, indicate much about its heritage, other than what color its most recent parents contributed. Most, if not all honeybees in the USA today, are wide mixtures of genetics from many different subspecies of honeybee, even some that are hardly even thought much about, such as Apis mellifera ssp. lamarckii. Curiously enough, genes from that Egyptian subspecies exist in many of our modern bees, yet I've never heard anybody call their bees, Egyptian instead of Italian, Caucasian, or Carniolan. Today, in the USA, most descriptors of honeybee type, such as if I were calling my bees, "Cordovan Italian", would simply mean that my bees (or at least my queens) are the lighter golden tan color that the Cordovan genes impart to lighter colored bees, such as share the coloration brought to the mix from Apis mellifera ssp. ligustica. Calling them, "Cordovan Italian" might also imply that they also exhibit some of the other behavioral characteristics traditionally associated with the Italian subspecies. And though the Cordovan trait, which is only a recessive color trait (like blond hair in humans), can be bred into any variety of honeybee capable of breeding with Apis mellifera, I've rarely seen it offered in any other than bees carrying the lighter Italian colored exoskeleton.
    48 years - 50 hives - TF
    Joseph Clemens -- Website Under Constructioni

  8. #8
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    Sep 2007
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    JACKSON OHIO
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    485

    Default Re: Pictorial Honeybee Identification Guide?

    I like the mutt line the best,they will survive the winter and they will make surplus honey

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
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    Manassas, Virginia, USA
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    801

    Default Re: Pictorial Honeybee Identification Guide?

    Mythomane, here's hoping that's correct. As a newbie, a colony just looked like a mass of bees to me, but once a few features of workers, queens, and drones were pointed out I could spot them easily. Ferinstance, drones, having only one thing on their minds, are blockheads, an easily spotted feature. So ... what distinguishing features are you looking for when identifying bees, 'cause at this point, looking at the above, I'm siding with Kingfisher!

    My contribution below I believe is a native bee from West Virginia. She's a looker, vaguely similar to honeybees but readily seen as different from those above. I've got other pics from a couple of hives run by PWRBA, some with very much darker abdomens than others.

    NativeWVBees 017Crop.jpg
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by Phoebee; 01-28-2014 at 10:26 PM. Reason: Better pic

  10. #10
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    May 2013
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    Lafayette, LA - USA
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    Default Re: Pictorial Honeybee Identification Guide?

    I think that was just different pictures of the same bee.

  11. #11
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    Jan 2014
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    Manassas, Virginia, USA
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    801

    Default Re: Pictorial Honeybee Identification Guide?

    I tried to delete the first picture ... thought I succeeded but the Attached Thumbnails version is hiding in there somewhere like some %$#@ hive beetle.

  12. #12
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    Feb 2009
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    dallas, tx, usa
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    515

    Default Re: Pictorial Honeybee Identification Guide?

    As a new beek I know things can be confusing. A large part of getting the right answers rely on asking the right questions. The info given by Joseph Clements is dead on when he says that most bees in the US are a mix of genetics and that color does not denote much, although it can be a good indicator of what kind of bee it is or what its traits are. There are places where bees are more genetically true to a breed (Like Primorsky Krai for instance), and you wont find Carniolans doing well in the desert. There are in fact tens of thousands of different kinds of bees. Most of them do not produce honey, however. These roads of inquiry will lead you to the investigation of many interesting aspects of entomology. If the study of insects is your thing then have at it. Lets change the thrust here a little bit and ask: What kind of Bee do I Want? Do I want bees resistant to mites? Where am I located and what bees would do well there? Do I want a hive that produces a lot of honey, but then eats as much in the winter? As far as their condition or history: Do you want bees that have been medicated with everything under the sun and trucked around the country and exposed to 100s of pesticides? The identification of bees for the practical beekeeper is less about entomology then about what traits define them. This is not "hype"...

  13. #13
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    Jan 2014
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    Manassas, Virginia, USA
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    Default Re: Pictorial Honeybee Identification Guide?

    Mythomane--

    Yeah, but exactly what features are you looking at? OK, color is not reliable. What are you using? Do Russian bees do a Kamarinskaya dance when they return from foraging? Do German bees wear lederhosen? It is quite clear to me, upon reading The Queen Must Die, that Italian bees practice Machiavellian politics, but I couldn't spot that in a photograph.

    C'mon, what's your trick?

    I'm not saying this can't be done ... I can usually distinguish a Korean from a Vietnamese, or a Somali from a Kenyan or Ethiopian. But I had to learn the characteristics to look for. They're subtle ... the great lesson in getting along, of course, is that we're all human, and a lot more alike than different. Same with honeybees, and we're seeking your insights.

    As for what kind of bees my wife and I want, the answer is happy, healthy, successful bees. But then again, ours will be pets ... we are strictly in this as a hobby. One reason we're convinced to do it is the isolation of our intended apiary ... way up the holler, away from pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, or dense populations of bees that commute to the California almond groves. Plenty of poplar, black locust, and wildflowers.
    Last edited by Phoebee; 01-29-2014 at 09:26 AM.

  14. #14
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    dallas, tx, usa
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    Default Re: Pictorial Honeybee Identification Guide?

    There is no "trick"

    http://www.bushfarms.com/beesraces.htm


    http://www.glenn-apiaries.com

    I believe you are anthropomorphizing bees. I know of no general race of "happy" bees. Speaking broadly: Dont buy bees off the almonds. Try to get them from a treatment-free source. Buy a full hive not a nuc. You need to look at the traits you want and buy bees accordingly. Buy and read The Practical Beekeeper, or just go to the website. It will serve you better than "The Queen Must Die"

  15. #15
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    Jan 2014
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    Manassas, Virginia, USA
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    801

    Default Re: Pictorial Honeybee Identification Guide?

    Believe it or not, I've seen that beeraces.htm link. It is a shame it has no comparative photographs. I see breeds listed in the Glen-apiaries.com link, but didn't notice an identification guide. That's the whole point of this topic ... the original poster, and a lot of other people, would like to be able to identify subspecies by examining photos. I'm seeing no concensus that this is possible, nor am I finding any identification guide that appears reliable, with photos or diagrams. I find these for native bees (although they're sketchy at best, only hitting a few of what I gather may be tens of thousands of species). The bee photo I posted may be a variety of native squash bee, but even that identification is highly tentative, and did not match perfectly with the guides I had available.

    Of course I'm anthropomorphizing. Our bees will be pets, and anybody with an ounce of honesty will admit they attribute human traits to their pets.
    All tongue in cheek, of course, attempting to draw you out how you looked at a bunch of bee photographs and declared that you thought you could identify a couple of subspecies. As a biologist, my suspicion is that nothing less than genotyping or gene sequencing can actually be relied upon, although the traits we desire, attributed to particular bee subspecies, can be measured in particular colonies.

    Our bibliography doesn't yet have The Practical Beekeeper, but we're using The Beekeeper's Handbook, The Beekeeper's Bible, and Backyard Beekeeper among other titles. The Queen Must Die is more for entertainment, but does a good job on bee politics.

  16. #16
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    Jun 2013
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    rensselaer, ny, USA
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    432

    Default Re: Pictorial Honeybee Identification Guide?

    My hives are all swarm mutts.

    And since this was my first year they all just looked like small, hostile-minded, bugs to me at first. (And why not, I'd arranged to have them turfed out of their chosen homes in my barns' walls.)

    But as we got to know each other, I found the bees from the three different colonies were pretty easy to tell apart. My biggest hive's bees are much smaller compared to the bees I see in the apiary at my local bee-supply company. Another hive has much more yellow bees, of a normal size.

    And the third one (which is the only one to retain its swarm queen after the cut-out) mostly has bees that have long, sleek, black/dark, unstriped, pointy-ended abdomens. They all look queen-shaped to me, not worker-shaped. (A fact that caused me much consternation before I realized that it actually wasn't the queen I saw carrying water back to hive on a hot day - it was just one of her look-alike workers. Newbeek cluelessness in full display.). And this hive, in contrast to the others, has almost no varroa for some reason.

    Mine are just pet bugs, too.

    enj.

    Thanks to all for pictures. I have been hoping for pictures like this.

    Enj.

  17. #17
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    Jun 2013
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    Jefferson Co, TX
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    546

    Default Re: Pictorial Honeybee Identification Guide?

    Quote Originally Posted by enjambres View Post
    My hives are all swarm mutts.

    And the third one mostly has bees that have long, sleek, black/dark, unstriped, pointy-ended abdomens. They all look queen-shaped to me, not worker-shaped. And this hive, in contrast to the others, has almost no varroa for some reason.
    Enj.
    Have seen similar bees to that around here. They were not in my hives when I collected the originals, but have arrived in hives after new queens were produced by crossing with local drones. Hope mine show the similar no Varroa trend.

    Seems it would be tough to say you have "X" race of bees if there is any natural queen replacement going on in a hive. Because that queen could mate with a drone from each of the available commercial races and the hive be a mix of everything.
    Started 9/13, building slowly, now @ 7 Lang hives + 3 nucs, and treatment style not decided yet

  18. #18
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    Mar 2011
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    Otero County, New Mexico, USA
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    1,374

    Default Re: Pictorial Honeybee Identification Guide?

    About the best way to tell what kind of bee they are appears to be looking at the queen, and even this is suspect in many cases. I will say that in my area most of the feral bees I see are pretty dark - black drones and dark queens seem to be the norm. Every so often you see lighter ones that look like the standard Italianish bee. We have a lot of strange genetics floating around here.

    A few years back I pulled some bees out of an abandoned hive that were really odd looking. The queen was jet black with red speckling on her abdomen. Very, very aggressive bees - but also quite interesting to look at. Your guess is as good as mine as to what they originally were? The drones were quite odd looking too. It is a shame I could not keep them.
    NM desert/mountain beekeeper - Black Mesa Honeybees.

  19. #19
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    May 2013
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    Chattanooga, TN USA
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    685

    Default Re: Pictorial Honeybee Identification Guide?

    IMO, in the end it doesn't really matter unless you go to extreme lengths to ensure your queen is pure. Even if you buy purebreeds, they are going to requeen themselves sooner or later with whatever drones they can find in the area, which could be anything. Unless you are sitting on top of every hive constantly keeping an eye out for requeening and/or going through every inspection looking for your marked queen and re-ordering a new one whenever you see an unmarked one, you're going to end up with hybrid mutt bees eventually anyway.
    Beekeeper since 2013. Read my bee blog at:
    http://harrisonbayhoney.blogspot.com

  20. #20
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    Jan 2014
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    Manassas, Virginia, USA
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    Default Re: Pictorial Honeybee Identification Guide?

    Precisely, and that's probably a good thing.

    My bee supply house owner is doubtful that local bee populations adapt over any useful timeframe. He thinks evolution works too slowly.

    Yes, say I, but Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium can work in a generation. If, instead of a pure strain (there really are none in nature), you have a mix of genes in the population, then "survival of the fittest" will happen fast, not by selecting mutations but by the best genes for the local circumstances becoming more prevalent in the overall mix. The usual example is a species of lizards in which both brown and green individuals may be present. In dry years, the greenies have trouble hiding, and are eaten, so their numbers drop. In green years, the greenies may have the edge and may outnumber the browns. Give this a hundred thousand years and you may have a new species, but H-W equilibrium can work fast. So the notion of "locally-adapted Southern Rocky Mountain bees" Paul cites is not out of the question. Being certain of subspecies is likely not possible without genetic testing. Being certain, by careful recordkeeping and comparisons, that a particular population of bees in a given region is more successful than, say, package bees from some remote area, is a matter of good scientific approaches.

    I joined the Prince William Regional Beekeepers Association because they've participated in studies that proved an advantage to using local nucs in a published study. That's the sort of thing that interests the scientist in me.

    We're not Germany, Italy, Russia, Egypt, the Caucasus, etc. here. The US is a melting pot, devoid of native honeybees, and what will work here needs to adapt. The more genes they have to draw on, the better. Yeah, mutts. God bless 'em.

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