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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    cincinnati, ohio
    Posts
    81

    Default Temperament of Russian bees

    I have six hives in my backyard and I want to make a split and start a seventh. One of the members of our bee club has an extra Russian queen. I have heard they are more aggressive and defensive and may not be good for a backyard. I have my veggie garden out there and my Italians have never been a problem for me. Has anyone had experience with Russians - good or bad. Thanks, Jim

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    Hudsonville, MI
    Posts
    22

    Default Re: Temperament of Russian bees

    We've had Russian hybrids from Walter T. Kelley for the past 5 years or so and they do tend to be more aggressive than the Italians, but not too bad. They tend to build up slower in the Spring as well, but do produce honey once they get going.

    You can always try the Russian queen out and replace her later if the colony is to hot for your situation. Another option is to let your split raise its own queen.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Location
    paradise,Texas,USA
    Posts
    116

    Default Re: Temperament of Russian bees

    Russians are alot more aggressive!!! The bigger they get the more aggressive they get..been my experience.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Concord, CA
    Posts
    4,163

    Default Re: Temperament of Russian bees

    I had yellow russians from the glenn apiaries breeder stock, they where gentle as kittens. Purchased through Noble Apiaries.
    The one queen made it through 3 winters, she was just superseded in the last month.
    Dan

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Akron, Ohio
    Posts
    31

    Default Re: Temperament of Russian bees

    I started with two packages (now hives) of Russians last spring. They both overwintered although I did not harvest any honey from them last year. One swarmed early last fall and is trying to swarm this spring. I don't know what it is like to have anything else, but my neighbor keeps Italians and they seem to be a bit more gentle. I had two stings last year and only because I was being unintelligent. We walk close to the hives without a problem and my husband mows without issue. Hope this helps.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Location
    S Hadley, Massachusetts USA
    Posts
    690

    Default Re: Temperament of Russian bees

    Have Italian, Russian, carniolan, cardovan, and open mated mutts. I find that individual queens and hive conditions have more to do with defensiveness than race.

    Russian hybrids tend to be a crap shoot. Some can be more defensive than others. Pure Russian lines tend to be more gentle.

    Hybrid Russians are more defensive during the first round of brood rearing and should not be evaluated for defensiveness during that time.

    You won't know until you try. I feel the swarm tendancy is more of an issue than defense. Need stay on ahead of them. My Russian colonies don't build up as fast in the spring until the first flow of the season, then look out. They will fill two deeps in days. I run 3 deep hives with Russians.
    Pearl City Apiary Michael and Loucil Bach

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Location
    Jackson, MO
    Posts
    1,858

    Default Re: Temperament of Russian bees

    I tried Russians, but I'm not sure if they were diluted by open mating or what. It was a long time ago and they were not my favorite. They were runny and flighty, low production and fairly defensive.

    But I've heard just the opposite from others who liked them. There seems to be a variant in most races of bees.

    I have some really hot hives, great producers, and they tested to be mostly Italian. It seems every hive has it's own personality and won't necessarily fit the mold of expectations. I also think certain queen breeders have stock that will fit your needs.

    Grant
    Jackson, MO
    Beekeeping With Twenty-five Hives: https://www.createspace.com/4152725

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    Bend, Oregon
    Posts
    120

    Default Re: Temperament of Russian bees

    I had 2 russian/carniolan hybrids and one hive was really agressive (we called it angry hive) and one hive was really docile (we called it happy hive). Both of those hives absolutely hated plastic foundation and avoided it at all costs... yet they built out the wax foundation extremely well. I just thought I would note that if you are thinking about Russians.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Nashville, TN
    Posts
    320

    Default Re: Temperament of Russian bees

    I ended up with a Russian queen last August when my hive absconded. She was all that was available, a friend had just purchased 20 of them from NY state to requeen his hives. My intention after reading that they were agressive, swarmy, and runny was to requeen them this Spring. By the time queens were available, I had fallen in love with them. They are gentle, overwintered well, built up quickly, fly at 45 degrees, didn't swarm (I checkerboarded) and are doing very well in my small cell. The hive is 6 feet from my front door (pointed away). I've had an occasional curious young bee check me out as I sit on the front porch, and one stung me on the back of the neck one day as I entered the house. They got a bit defensive for a few days when the carpenter bees pestered them, but a couple of swats with my flyswatter solved that problem, and they gentled right back down. I'm very happy with them!

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Gainesboro, Tennessee, USA.
    Posts
    398

    Default Re: Temperament of Russian bees

    I have had USDA Russians for 3 years now. I worked them without a T-shirt last week. No stings. I have had some devil of Italians russians, and other bees. There lies the advantage of raising your own stock. We get rid of hot hives.

    Keep em off the ground from skunks, smoke 'em right, pick a nice busy day and enjoy. I love them!

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    Charlotte, NC
    Posts
    191

    Default Re: Temperament of Russian bees

    I've had both good and bad experiences, and started with USDA Russians in 2011. I requeened my original hive that following August with another new "pure bred" Russian queen in the split. They were gentle as they built up in the fall and a joy to work. My experience is that they have amazing abilities to build up super fast, when they want to. They tend to start later during the nectar flow but once they do, look out. Once she starts laying it's super fast. Last spring I made several splits. But during the height of the nectar flow when all should be happy and gentle they were quite defensive. I thought it was me, and kept blaming myself. They were defensive all year long. I've found that they really charge you when you remove the top, but if you remove the top box from the bottom box, both tend to settle down immediately. I remove the top cover only when I'm ready to work that box. This year they're even more defensive, I'd say "aggressive", and both queens seem to be failing (drone brood intermixed with worker brood). I'm disappointed, for sure, given their age. The splits I made off of them last spring, letting them mate with the local girls, have been gentle as lambs, and I've seen those Russian/local hybrids grooming each other for mites, too. I won't be buying any more Russian queens, but am devoted now to local bees. In my opinion, they are not as gentle as Italian or the local bees. The feral bees I have are my most gentle and productive. The Russians, though, did survive a heavy mite load and overwintered, but then again so did my local hybrids. One Russian hive is going gangbusters, but it was the most defensive this weekend. The other is coming along, but far less productive. Neither Russian hive made a lot of honey last year. I'd rather be greeted with happy local mutts that make more honey that I can share.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Nov 2012
    Location
    LaGrange; Oldham County; Kentucky
    Posts
    158

    Default Re: Temperament of Russian bees

    My russians were nicer than my Italians ! Could have worked them with no protection!

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Jacksonville, Florida
    Posts
    1,695

    Default Re: Temperament of Russian bees

    I have heard that pure Russian bees are not too aggressive. But, once they supersede or swarm the second generation can be pretty hot. They also over winter in smaller clusters but, build up very fast and can swarm at the drop of a hat in the spring. So unless you keep requeening with queens from one of the certified Russian breeders you will end up with some sort of hybrid pretty fast. That's my understanding any way. You guys feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    Litchfield county, CT USA
    Posts
    27

    Default Re: Temperament of Russian bees

    I had 3 Russian hives lost one this winter. They are gentle and easy to work. I have friends with Italians and I find them much more aggressive. The hive I lost got stuck in a corner away from honey stores in a cold snap. Aside from that they tolerate mites very well, winter on a small cluster and do not need much for stores. I have let them make their own queens when they split so I guess two are Russian feral cross. However, most of the bees are dark in color so I think they still have much of the Russian blood in them. My daughter works the bees with me and she has never been stung, I don't wear gloves and unless I am going to be digging down into the lower boxes I only wear a net. I think I was only stung maybe 6 times last year and it was always on my hands. I like them, but as others have said, they do like to swarm if you don't watch them and make splits and don't produce as much honey as some.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    Slidell, LA, USA
    Posts
    259

    Default Re: Temperament of Russian bees

    Russians are becoming the bee of choice down here. They build up rapidly when they get started in the spring, winter in a very small cluster and produce well. People ask if they produce more honey. The answer is yes, simply because they tend to survive mites better then other bees. More hives survive so you harvest more honey. The individual hive harvest "may" be a bit lower but the apiary production tends to be higher.

    Split them often to prevent swarming. Interrupting the brood cycle also helps slows down the mites.

    Since few yards are pure Russians and you can't guarantee that your new virgin Russian Queen will mate with Russian Drones the clubs are recommending re-queening with true Russian Queens every 12-18 months or so. With Russian it is important to maintain as pure a stock as possible.

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