The Golden Girls

May 31, 2011

When you encounter a "Golden Girl" in your backyard, there's one thing to do: grab the camera.

The "Golden Girl," in this case, is an Italian honey bee (Apis mellifera liguistica), the most common honey bee in the United States.

Make that the world.

"Package producers prefer Italian bees because they can start the rearing process early and raise lots of bees to sell," writes beekeeper-editor-author Kim Flottum in his book, The Backyard Beekeeper: An Absolute Beginner's Guide to Keeping Bees in Your Yard and Garden.

Flottum, editor of Bee Culture magazine, goes on to say that commercial beekeepers especially like this trait when it comes to their bees pollinating early-season crops like almonds.

Then, too, Italian honey bees "produce and store lots of honey when there is ample forage and good flying weather," he writes.

There's still another good reason why beekeepers prefer the Italians: "they are not markedly protective of their hive," Flottum says. "Italians are quiet on the comb when you remove and examine frames; they do not swarm excessively, and they do not produce great amounts of propolis."

As for photographers preferring the Italians, these "Golden Girls" just stand out more so than the Carniolans and Caucasians, two other popular races.