Italian honey bee on a white lilies flowers

Are Italian Bees Aggressive? An In-Depth Look at the Species

Many beginner beekeepers ask the question: Are Italian bees aggressive? 

The answer is no. Italian bees are far from being aggressive. Contrary to that, they’re gentle and calm. This makes them easy to handle, even for first-time beekeepers. 

However, this bee species has pros and cons that every beekeeper should be aware of!

In this post, we’ll guide you through all the information you need to know about the Italian bee’s temperament.

We’ll also provide you with all the advantages and disadvantages of this bee species. 

What Is the Temperament of the Italian Bees? 

Italian bees are gentle and calm, exhibiting an easy-to-handle temperament. 

They’re significantly less aggressive than other species like Africanized and Russian bees. This makes them an excellent choice for new beekeepers.

Because of their laid-back nature, you only need to use a small amount of smoke when working with them. 

In addition, regular hive inspections will be much less stressful and quicker compared to any other species.

What Are the Physical Traits of Italian Bees?

Italian honey bees have the classic bee look with yellow stripes and a brown or black body. They’re relatively smaller than other darker breeds.

Italian drones are larger than workers and tend to be more stout. They also have bigger eyes. 

Further, the Italian queen has gold legs and a glossy black thorax. She also has a long abdomen.

That said, to differentiate an unmatted queen from other bees, you can look at her wings. They’re considerably shorter than the rest of her body. 

Italian honey bee on a purple flower

What Are the Advantages of Italian Bees?

Besides their gentle nature, Italian bees have multiple advantages that make them popular honey bees among beekeepers in North America. 

Here are these positive traits:

Excellent Honey Producers

As a beekeeper, your priority is achieving high honey production. Italian bees are your best choice to reach this goal.

They’re well-known for being one of the most prolific honey producers.

These bees build giant hives that yield abundant honey during each harvest season. 

In addition, their colonies grow much faster than most other species. This helps in increasing overall production significantly. 

Quick Requeening Process

Because of their calm temperament, requeening Italian beehives are faster and less aggressive than other bee species. 

They accept their new queen with minimal confrontation or fighting. As a result, the queen will start laying eggs quickly, resulting in overall greater hive growth.

Efficient Hive Cleaners

Italian bees do a great job of keeping their hives clean and healthy. 

They can protect their colonies from European foulbrood and prevent this disease year-round.

Expert Foragers

Due to their small size, Italian bees have a unique ability to forage from a wide variety of nectar sources.

This bee species’ small body and long tongue enable them to reach nectar the other bees can’t access.

What Are the Disadvantages of Italian Bees?

Italian bees also possess multiple negative traits. Before considering keeping Italian bees, it’s crucial to be aware of these drawbacks. Here are they:

Unable to Handle Mites

Italian bees have difficulty protecting their hives from varroa mites. They lack the ability to fend off such parasites and keep them away. 

Italian honey bee on a white flowers

As a beekeeper, you need to continuously inspect the hives for these parasites. If you find any, you should treat this disease promptly to minimize mites levels as much as possible. 

This ensures these pests won’t take over honey production and spread throughout the hives. 

Unfortunately, if mites dominate a colony, there’s a high chance that the entire hive will perish.

Tend to Swarm 

Italian bees tend to swarm during spring as a result of the rapid expansion of the colony. 

If you don’t handle this situation, you’ll end up losing a significant number of bees and a considerable amount of honey production.

To evade this scenario, you need to conduct regular hive inspections during spring. Check how well the space fits the number of bees.

You need to increase the hive size once you notice it’s running out of space. 

To do this, add supers and brood boxes to provide extra space and decrease the chances of swarming. 

Susceptible to Drifting

Italian bees are more susceptible to drifting compared to other breeds. This is because they aren’t good at assessing directions. 

Consequently, some bees will return to hives other than their own. 

As more bees drift, this can increase the chances of spreading diseases between hives, such as foulbrood and mites.

Drifting also increases the chances of Italian beehives being robbed by other bees.

This is because the guards of Italian colonies aren’t adept at defending the hive and keeping strangers away.

Consume a Lot of Pollen and Honey

One of the main advantages of Italian bees is their high ability to survive in cold winters, unlike many other species.

However, to accomplish this, they consume large quantities of stored pollen and honey.

This is because Italian bees form loose clusters in the winter that don’t provide them with sufficient warmth. 

That way, they rely on consuming their production of honey and pollen to keep themselves warm during the low temperatures of winter. 

That said, you can reduce your bees’ honey and pollen consumption. To do this, provide them with sugar water and pollen patties as an alternative food source.

Wrapping Up

Are Italian bees aggressive? No. Italian bees aren’t aggressive. On the contrary, they’re laid-back and gentle bee species.

They’re also prolific honey producers and excellent hive keepers. Because of their calm nature, the requeening process of Italian beehives takes much less time than other breeds.

Nonetheless, Italian bees have multiple drawbacks you should be aware of. Italian bees can’t handle mites, making them prone to perishing from this pest.

They also tend to swarm during spring. So, you need to provide them with extra space at that time to prevent this from happening. 

In addition, they consume large quantities of honey and pollen during winter to keep themselves warm. 

Finally, they’re prone to drifting as they aren’t good at identifying directions.