Douglas Farm

NJ Honey and Bees


Italian – (Apis mellifera ligustica)
Italian honey bees were brought to the U.S. in 1859. They quickly became the favored bee stock in this country and remain so to this day. Known for their extended periods of brood rearing, Italian bees can build colony populations in the spring and maintain them for the entire summer. They are less defensive and less prone to disease than their German coun­terparts, and they are excellent honey producers. They also are very lightly colored, ranging from a light leather hue to an almost lemon yellow, a trait that is highly coveted by many bee­keepers for its aesthetic appeal.

Despite their popularity, Italian bees have some drawbacks. First, because of their prolonged brood rear­ing, they may consume surplus honey in the hive if supers (removable upper sections where honey is stored) are not removed immediately after the honey flow stops. Second, they frequently rob the honey stores of weaker or dead neigh­boring colonies. This behavior may pose problems for Italian beekeepers who work their colonies during times of nectar dearth, and it may cause the rapid spread of transmittable diseases among hives. (NCSU) Lastly, due to their popularity and wild mating, Italians in the US today are mutt cousins to their 1859 ancestors.

Color: Abdomen has brown and yellow bands. Among different strains of Italian bees there are three different colors: Leather; bright yellow (golden); and very pale yellow (Cordovan).
Size: The bodies are smaller and their overhairs shorter than those of the darker honeybee races
Tongue length: 6.3 to 6.6 mm
Mean Cubital index: 2.2 to 2.5

Most bees sold throughout the US fall under the 'Italian' name. Its genetics and appearance can vary greatly.

Our Italian's Lineage

2003 - We start 2 hives with packages

2005 - We start 2 more hives with nucs from Stiles Apiary

2006-2008 - We expand to 18 hives: 8 come from nucs is PA, 8 are splits, 2 are requeens

2008 - Looking to have better over wintering, we consider breeding a few of our own hives.

2009 - We offer for sale our first few queens raised from our NJ wintered stock.

2010 - Brian attends University of MN Queen Rearing, and returns home with 5 queen cells. 5 Queens are mated to NJ over wintered hives. They are potential queen mothers for the next season. Brian attends EAS breeding workshops, including artificial insemination and 'DNA geography testing'.

2011 - Queens will be sourced: daughters to Dr. Joe Latshaw's breeder queens, and another breeder of MN Queens. If all goes well for these queens they will be introduced into the breeding program next year.

Our Cordovan Lineage

2009 - 2011 We source queens from three Cordovan breeders. Our queen mothers are the lightest in color from these queens. AI may be used soon to enhance the light color genetics.

Cordovan Italian


Cordovan (Italian Subspecies) - (Apis mellifera ligustica)

This bee is a rare type of Italian bee that has a very eye catching light yellow color. The cordovan color variation does not constitute a different race. This color variation changes all the normally black body parts of the be to a distictive reddish brown color. All three castes are affected. The queen's abdomen is yellow through to the very tip. The workers and drones have brown bands instead of black. Worker eyes seem smaller as the hair around them changes from black to blond.

The single recessive gene that determines the cordovan color, works on the same principle that blue and brown eye operates in people. Cordovan color being a resesive gene will quickly show Africanization by reverting the lightness back to black.




Cordovan Italian     vs.     Wild-type Italian

Cordovan Genetics



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