THE LIGURIAN OR ITALIAN ALP-BEE.
(From the Yeoman and Australian Acclimatiser,
WE have often noticed and recommended this species of bee as likely to be of considerable value if introduced and acclimatised in Aus- tralia. By last mail Mr. E. Wilson informed the secretary of the Acclimatisation Society that he was sending some of these bees by the Alhambra. Mr. Wilson enclosed also a small publication on the Ligurian bee by H. C. Hermann, of Switzerland. Mr. Hermann seems to start some new theories respecting the economy of bees, and he does it in such a
style as to warrant the belief that whatever he
states he has proved by experiment. We make the following extract, which gives something like the history of the bee referred to:—
When the Lord created the world he placed the plants in their proper situations, and creatures to those
plants, which were to serve as their food.
But man has in course of time transplanted plants and animals, so that often the original country can no more be recognized. In the valleys and plains man
could first commence his devastations, but the heights and not easily accessible mountains resisted human cultivation longer; and it is there where we find Nature in her original majesty. Often plants and animals will cease to thrive in a country, because they are no more in their place assigned to them by the Creator.
It is different in the steep mountains, where nature is not accessible to cultivation; there we find every- where the same plants in a certain region, as larches,
pines, Alpine-roses, gentian; also animals, as chamois, wild goats, white hares, who do not thrive well in the plains. Here, then, in the mountains must we look
for the origin of animals. For, at the time of the great deluge, all animals in the plains were certainly the first to perish, and those in the mountains were, in all probability, left for posterity.
The yellow Italian Alp-bee is a mountain insect;
it is found between two mountain chains to the right and left of Lombardy and Rhatian Alps, and com-
prises the whole territory of Tessir, Veltlin, and South-Graubunden. It thrives up to the height of 4600 feet above the level of the sea, and appears to prefer the northern clime to the warmer, for in the
south of Italy it is not found.
From the mountain those bees later emigrated into the plains, but they do not thrive so well there.
Some learned men have called them Ligurian bees, but that name has neither historical nor geo- graphical claim, and not one bee-cultivator of the whole district of the Italian Alp-bee knows what kind of insects Ligurian bees are. The Alps are their native country, therefore they are called yellow Alp- bee, or tame house-bees, in antithesis to the black European bees, whom we might call common forest bees, and who, on the slightest touch, fly like light- ning into your face.
As all good and noble things in the world are more scarce than common ones, so there are more common black bees than of the noble yellow race, which latter inhabit only a very small piece of country, while the black ones are at home everywhere in Europe, and
even in America.
The Italian yellow bee differs from the common black bee in its longer, slender form, and light chrome yellow colour, with light brimstone coloured wings, and two orange-red girths, each one-sixth of an inch wide. Working-bees as well as drones have this mark. The drones are further distinguished by the girths being scolloped, like the spotted water-serpent, and obtain an astonishing size, almost half as corpu- lent again as the black drones. The queen has the same marks as the working-bees, but much more con- spicuous and lighter; she is much larger than the
black queen, and easy to be singled out of the swarm on account of her remarkable bodily size and light
These bees are almost transparent when the sun
shines on them.
This race has nothing in common with the black bees; this can be instantly seen by their ways and manner of building. The cells of the Italian bees are considerably deeper and broader than those of the
black bees. Fifteen cells of the Italians are as broad as sixteen cells of the black kind. It must be very interesting to measure them geometrically.
They are extremely tender, amiable little creatures;
and a bee-protector is not necessary with them, as, unprovoked, they never sting least of all their own master. It is a specific Swiss bee; the Alps are
their home, and there they thrive beautifully—the higher the better. The exhalation of an Italian bee- hive is pungent, and easily to be distinguished from a
The Italian bees have decidedly the preference. If a piece of honey is anywhere about, the Italians are sure to be the first to find it out. Long before the black bees fly out the Italians come, and are indus- trious until late in autumn, when the black bees have
long since ceased to work. Everywhere they scent the honey first, and are, therefore, the first to dis-
cover a weak neighbouring hive, and to rob them of
It is seldom known that an Italian hive will har-
bour German bees, for the Italians resist an attack much more courageously, and know how to keep their house clear. On the other hand, after a few weeks, Italian bees will be observed to march in and out of German hives, just as if they were quite at home; such is the case if there is only one Italian hive on the stand. The cause is easily explained. The Italians belong to the long-fingered craft, and creep into other hives, probably to look after the stores; then they begin to like the place, and they stop, joining the black people.
In Germany the commencement has been made some years since to keep those bees, but they were only obtained in a bastard condition; many stories go the round about our dear creatures, and virtues and vices are attributed to them which they do not
Some insist that they are larger, others that they are smaller, and others again that they are as large as the common black bees. Some say that they do not agree with other bees on the same stand; and some are of the obstinate opinion that the Italian bee is not pure, and has a small portion of German blood, and that it is only by their (the German bee-masters) pains, and careful crossing with their black bee, that a pure race can be produced.
It is often comical how some even make a distinction
of degrees of preference of more or less purity of race. Once a friend of bees wrote to me,—"An Italian queen that we call fine and pure has on the abdomen only a very, very little point," &c.
These good people bother themselves about half or whole, and three-quarters or full-blood, and many other subtilties, without arriving at the idea that there is no medium between pure and impure.
What is not a pure Italian is not Italian at all. If she is Italian she can only produce Italians, but a bastard never; just as a bastard can never produce an Italian. That which is not genuine, is, and remains, spurious.
Once, by the pairing of the Italian bee, brought out of course, there is no other guide but that of the yellow colouring.
All that have not on the after part a black point and a yellow abdomen, we kill at once as being spurious, is an expression of another bee-cultivator.
Such an incarnate, North-German, Stock-Italian could not be convinced that there, where the home of the Italian bee is, by far the greater number of queens are dark, almost chesnut brown, and, for all that, there is no difference in the colour of the working bees, whether they be produced by a light or a dark coloured queen. All Italian Alp-bees have the same
distinctive mark, that is, the two orange red girths, no matter whether dark or light, and a dark queen will just as well produce light ones as a light one produces dark queens; and the colour has, therefore, not the least influence on the race, but solely the
marks of distinction.
The Marquis of Spinola has called this bee the Apis ligustica, but, on the same ground, the Bavarians may call their bee Apis Bavaria, or the Berlinians theirs the Apis borussia, &c. The circumstance that these yellow bees are only to be found in the most perfect condition on the borders of Graubunden, in
the Veltlin and Tessin, and that the farther one goes from the Alps the less handsome they are found; as, for example, in Nice, until they are entirely lost in lower Italy in the black species. This circumstance speaks for itself, that the yellow Alp-bees have been, through the glaciers, insurmountably separated from
the black bees on this side of the Alps, and could pre- serve their race in original purity, while they might and could mix more, by latter gradual spreading, in lower Italy, Venice, Genoa, and Nice, with other
kinds. We must, therefore, look for the original in Switzerland, and can call them with as much right Apis Helvetica as the Genoese call them Apis ligustica. If the latter name were correct, they must have
spread from Genoa, the former Ligurian shore, into Upper Italy, and by gradual removal from their Genoese home, they could not gain in beauty of race, but must have degenerated in proportion the farther they went from their native country, &c. But this is not so. Their seat is the extreme north of Italy, that
is, the Italian Switzerland; there they have pre-
served their purity.
The proofs of an argument must not be fetched from the moon. A nationality is never found on the borders, but in the centre of a country.
Only a short time ago it was asserted in the Bee Gazette of Eichstedt, that their cell construction is not larger than that of the black bee; but that is another erroneous assertion, which only proves that the author of such a natural history either never handled a pure Italian bee, or, like a great many more ink-wasters, hatched something in the study which is nowhere to
be found in nature.
It does not require the use of spectacles to find a
The cubic contents of an Italian bee-cell is larger by 30 per cent., and the width is one fifteenth more than that of the German cell. If, therefore, Italian bees are bred through several generations in German
cells, the bees must ultimately degenerate and become
Now, as it has pleased some naturalists to name them Apis ligustica, I cannot conceive why we should not rebaptize them as soon as we have arrived at the conviction that our researches have been more in accordance with nature. Therefore, courage; and in future yellow Alp-bee, or, if necessary that it should be Latin, Apis Helvetia, or Helvetica (we are not good Latin scholars).
Mr. Hermann then, after giving some advice on the general management of bees, supplies instructions how to breed Italian queens when in possession of one or two whole Italian
"When you have one or two Italian hives, you must endeavour to put them into hives with movable parts, if they are not already in one. Then care must be taken that, by continual feeding with good honey, and filling up the hive with sufficient combs, they increase their strength, and prepare a good many drones. The trouble is much less if the Italian bees are on a stand by themselves, about 500 or 1000 yards from the others, the farther the better.
It will be well to be cautious, to leave one hive un- divided and untouched, that they continue to breed many drones, for the divided hive will not produce any more drones in the same year, therefore one hive must be kept strong and untouched, so that you do not run short in drone-breeding.
When there are sufficient drones or drone-brood on hand, take from a hive the Italian queen with the third part of her people and building, and fill up the missing two-thirds with empty and full combs. This queen is now taken to a distant stand, where the com- mon or black bee is kept, and placed in the stead of a populous hive during the absence of the most part of the bees. The black bees will at first be surprised, and refuse to enter, as these two species hate each other. Should they entirely refuse to enter, then remove, during the night the whole of the black hive standing on the front; the returning bees will then be frightened, and, not knowing where to go, will, in the end, willingly, and without disturbance, enter to the Italian mother, who by those means will soon get strong again, and in about five or seven days will have laid sufficient eggs to part them again; and so you can continue as long as you wish to Italianise. In that manner, if the queen is forthwith strengthened by German
bees, no disturbance takes place in the breeding of drones, you have only to put in a few drone-cells. But that the Italian mother does not receive black
drones as well, place before the fly-hole a drone- stopper to keep those customers out.
Let us now return to the Italian stand, where we have taken the mother from with a third of the people.
Meanwhile they have made preparations to begin queen-cells, and mostly more than one, perhaps from ten to twenty. On the eleventh, the latest on the seventeenth day, they creep out, and, not to expose them to the danger of the surplus ones being killed by the bees, they must be looked after on the eighth or ninth day, and all queen-cells but one or two must be cut out. The cut out cells are put with a honey- comb and a few handfuls of bees into a little box about four or six inches square. These boxes must have wires on two, or better, on all four sides, so that the bees get used to the smell of each other, and thus
In such a box the Italian queen-cell is put in to a hive of black bees, which the day previous has been deprived of the queen, and, if possible, in the centre or the heart of the nest. The black bees cannot now enter into the box, but become acquainted, through the wire, with the smell of the Italian bees, and by the time the queen, who will be well taken care of by the two handfuls of bees put with her, is matured, the black bees will have taken a liking to her.
About three or five days after the adding of the queen-cell, you must look whether the black bees have not formed queen-cells of their own species, if so, they must be cut out. Then, the following day, the fly-hole in the little box, which has been kept shut, is slowly opened, and the black bees will gradu- ally enter into the box and pay their homage to the
To prevent the mating of the queen with a black drone, a wire must be attached before the fly-hole of the hive, large enough for the queen and bees to fly out (for the queen only mates in the open air) but too small for drones, which are in the black hive; then the stand must be placed where the Italian mother hive is, until the queen is impregnated.
In the same manner all queen-cells are treated (all but one or two, which are left in the hive for the
purpose of forming a separate colony) until all black hives are Italianised. Should, however, a hive be impregnated where it is supposed any black drones exist; it must be put on the stand of the black bees, so as to have only pure Italian drones on the Italian breeding-stand.
In three weeks, with only little practice, about fifty hives can be Italianised. When done, and all the bees are provided with queens of Italian origin, then the work is much easier, as meanwhile the young mothers lay Italian drone-eggs and the black drones die, or the Italian drones obtain such a pre- ponderance that a genuine impregnation is in most
For breeding, always choose the finest mother, if
possible, of yellow colour, having previously con- vinced yourself that she has been impregnated genuinely—that is, by an Italian drone—and that she breeds, as a proof, handsome yellow working bees.
BREEDING OF DRONES.
To increase the Italian drones as fast as possible, deprive the Italian mother of a hive of her drone-cells, and place instead empty cells for further filling them with drone-brood, which she will do forthwith. The Italian drone-brood hang into the black hives for hatching, taking and destroying, as much as possible,
their own black broods.
Food must not be spared with brood-hives, as that will induce them to continue breeding.
So prepared, commences now the proper culture of
For that purpose small queen-breeding boxes are required, for it is troublesome to single out a queen in a large and populous hive, and otherwise not ad- vantageous to disturb a strong hive by ill-treatment.
The ground-rules for the certain pure keeping of the Italian race, consist always of this,—to destroy the black drones, and to increase the Italian ones.
Therefore, it is better to take care that the Italian bees are placed on a stand where no black drones are allowed. And if now, German people are brought to strengthen the Italian colony, then let them pass in review first, and kill the black drones.
The work can be made much easier by letting the bees run into any weak hive, and only through a narrow slit, where only working-bees can pass through, but is too narrow for drones, so that the drones can all be kept back. The next day the bees can be taken out of the hive again and used.
Not only is the object gained to put away the drones, but the bees are also discouraged, so that they can be joined with others without difficulty. Should they have run into a hive deprived of the queen, or only provided with queen-cells, they will be heartily glad that a queen is given them, and will not leave her. The bees generally become anxious and tame if the drones and drone-brood are taken away. Endeavour- ing now, on the one hand, to permit no black drones on the Italian stand, which is kept for the improve- ment of the races, and to destroy them with their drone - brood and cells, care must be taken, on the other hand, that the Italian bees breed the largest possible quantity of drones. Some assert that the Italian queens lay more drone-eggs than the Germans, but that is not right—they lay them in the same proportion as the black bees—but it can be forwarded by the placing of drone breeding-combs in the breeding nest; for the queen to fill them, it is above all things necessary that the hive be populous and the weather favour-
As soon as a drone breeding-comb is filled, it should, without delay, be placed in a hive deprived of the queen, because those hives in their queenless state seize the opportunity to bring up drones, as if
they were aware that they would be necessary for the impregnation of their future queen.
Such a hive seldom destroys drone-brood, while hives with queens, as a general rule, on the approach of bad weather tear out the drone-brood and turn the drones away.
But as soon as the queen intended for the drone-
breeding hive is again impregnated, the drones would be in danger of being turned out again, for in par- ticular, fresh impregnated queens do away with the drones very quickly, therefore the impregnated queen must be taken from the drone-hive; in that way drone-hives may be kept until late in the autumn. The queens intended for drone production, particularly in bad weather, must be stimulated with food, so that they do not relax in laying eggs.