(BY E. E. ABRAM.)
Whilst the Apis mellifica—that is, the honey-gathering bee—which is now distributed in all five continents, deserves our special attention, it may be instructive to know that there are several other species of bees, such as the large wasp-shaped South Asiatic bee, (Apis dorsota), the Indian bee (Apis Indica), which is considerably smaller than our com- mon bee, and the still smaller South Indian bee. Besides these there are the Apis incliphone, and the Apis trigone, but these are separate species and of no value com- mercially. Nor are the others of much value In that respect. Apis dorsota is un- doubtedly a good honey gatherer, but It appears to be impossible to domesticate them. No matter how often attempts have been made to do so they failed. They build usually one comb only, often five to six feet square, and of considerable thickness, and they fill it with honey—if honey is obtainable. They build either underneath a branch of a high tree or under a rock.
Turning our attention to our domesticated honey bee we find a large variation as to colour and characteristics. The North Europ- ean bee is undoubtedly the original kind. It is of a brown appearance, sometimes shad- ing into dark and almost black. But there is another standard race, namely, the yellow banded Egyptian bee, which is the most marked. Between those two there are a number of varieties, namely the heather bee, which is most inclined to swarm; the Carniolian bee, also a swarming bee, but very gentle; the Italian bee, often named the Ligurian; the Cyprian bee, which is yellow marked, but rather difficult to handle, even
with much smoke.
Besides, there are various varieties, such as the Cyprian, Caurasion, Palestine, Syrian, etc. But for the best qualities combined, there is none surpassing the Italians or Ligurians. Nothing was known of this bee
outside its locality until in 1854, the Rev. Dr. Dzirzon imported a few colonies from Italy, not so much for the purpose of testing their good qualities, but as an experiment to
prove his theories then in dispute. He soon discovered that the Italian bee possessed qualities superior to the German bee in the gathering of honey, and this brought about quite a revolution in the bee industry, and brought the Italian bee to the front, so much so, that now this bee is considered by all energetic beekeepers in all lands as the best. The Italian bee shows three segments of its abdomen, from the thorax, yellow-band- ed, and if all bees have equal markings, it is considered a pure stock. The queens reared from these are fairly even- ly marked, though a slight variation in colour will occur, some inclining to be darker than others; but, though less yellow than their sisters, if they meet with a pure drone in their marriage flight, their progeny will be pure. These characteristics are:—Gentleness in handling them carefully, the best honey gatherers; almost non-swarm- ers; protectors of their home against robber bees; and defenders against the troublesome wax moth, which often plays havoc with the black bees. Is it then any wonder, therefore, that this bee has reached the high reputa-
tion it now holds?
There is one serious drawback in rearing them pure in districts where the brown bee predominates, as the latter has a habit of rearing a large number of drones; whereas the Italians rear few, and thus there is every chance of the virgin Italian queen meeting with a black drone on her marriage flight, which always takes place in the open. The prog-
eny would not be pure, but a cross-hybrid between the two; some of the bees would be like the Italians, others like the brown bee. This first cross, however, prove generally ex- cellent honey-gatherers; the only disadvantage is that they often are rather vicious, and thus difficult to handle. The drones from such mismated queens are, however, con- sidered pure, and thus an advantage is gain- ed in this respect. Should, however, a virgin queen from a mismated one again meet with a black drone, the majority of bees will be black and show the characteristics of same.
It is, therefore, not the easiest matter to breed pure stock under such circumstances, and fresh importation of pure blood is es- sential year by year, till the Italians pre- dominate. To assist in this matter there are now, fortunately, beekeepers devoting almost their whole time to rearing pure stock and supplying them at a very reason- able price to those in need of pure blood. Queen rearing is an art that can only be ac- quired by years of careful study and prac- tice, and, at the best, it is not a lucrative occupation, as there are many difficulties to contend with, such as failure of the honey flow, strong winds, etc. It is also necessary to obtain good stock to deal with those only who know their business thoroughly in the breeding of pure stocks. These do not constantly breed from their possessed strain,
but, in order to refresh the blood, they im- port occasionally new queens from Italy, which is undoubtedly the home of the far- mers' bee. Thus the purchasers reap the benefit which otherwise could not be at- tained. With bees, as all else, continuous in- breeding proves disastrous.