The largest part of the territory of Russia is located in a zone with a temperate climate. It is characterized by negative air temperatures and snow cover during winter and part of the off-season. Therefore, one has to thoughtfully choose a breed of bees that is suitable for keeping under such conditions, and knows how to endure a long wintering staunchly. This description corresponds to the Central Russian breed.
Characteristics and appearance
Bees settled in the north of Europe 8 millennia ago. Gradually, the most hardy of them spread to the northeast to the Ural Mountains, were brought to Siberia. They still live in Russia.
Instead of the irrelevant name “European dark” for the breed, a new one was introduced – “Central Russian bee”. “Double Mellifera” is also about her: in Latin, the name sounds like “Apis mellifera mellifera”, which literally means “Honey bee”.
Representatives of the Central Russian breed are outwardly very different from southern insects. A small description of the characteristics by which they can be recognized:
- a massive body (the length of the working individual is 12 mm, the uterus is 15 mm, the weight is, respectively, 100-110 mg and 190-210 mg) of dark brown or black color with grayish lines, a lot of hairs;
- short extended proboscis (on average 6,15 mm);
- the volume of empty honey goiter increased by 1,5 times (20 cubic mm);
- long strong wings (9,6-9,7 mm).
Such external features allow bees to collect a much larger amount of pollen and nectar in a short period of flowering of honey plants, to stock up on honey for a long winter.
Individuals of the Central Russian breed are resistant to many diseases, are adapted to survive at low air temperatures (up to + 4 ° C, they even fly outside the hive), do not need to transfer houses for the winter indoors.
Even 3 centuries ago, bees of this species were widespread in southeastern Europe, throughout central Russia to Transbaikalia. But due to some peculiarities, many beekeepers opt for other breeds, mixing with swarms imported from the southern regions occurs.
Currently, families belonging to the Central Russian breed of bees live in the European part of Russia, in the south of the Urals and Siberia. This is the northernmost latitude in which they are engaged in the breeding of honey insects; along it are the cities of Kazan, Ufa, Chelyabinsk, Omsk, Novosibirsk.
Subspecies of the Central Russian bee
In the XX century, several populations were bred in different regions of Russia, which slightly differ in size and quality. Main subspecies:
- Vladimirskaya, Oryol, Polesskaya, Priokskaya (Central Federal District);
- Vologda (North-Western Federal District);
- Bashkir, Tatar, Mordovian, Kirov, Perm (Volga Federal District);
- Chelyabinsk (Ural Federal District);
- Novosibirsk, Krasnoyarsk, Altai, mountain taiga (Siberian FD).
The Central Russian bees of the Altai population, as well as the Orlov, Bashkir, Tatar, are considered purebred.
Breeding activity is aimed at gradually getting rid of the shortcomings of the breed representatives while maintaining positive qualities. It was found that the second generation is often weaker than the first, especially with arbitrary mixing. Bee packages should be purchased from well-known nurseries, pay attention to the main signs so as not to collide with a cross.
Features of the Central Russian bee
Most of the breed’s characteristics have been acquired as a result of adaptation to the harsh living conditions in the temperate climates of the northern regions of Russia and allow families to withstand long cold winters. Central Russian bees can tolerate temperatures as low as -40 ° C if their homes are outdoors, well insulated with snow and various materials. They are not activated when the temperature rises during thaws, they stay in the dwelling longer, saving food and energy.
After wintering, Central Russian bees “wake up” later, but the breeding processes are more intensive, even without stimulation with feeding. Brood insects with large body sizes require an increased volume of honeycomb cells (5,6 mm). This should be taken into account when preparing frames with foundation. The detachment of the honeycomb is always intensive, due to the developed wax glands.
The insect organism is adapted for long wintering (up to 7 months of rest – from the beginning of October to the end of April). Thanks to this, bees are protected from many pests that cannot live long enough to start multiplying in spring. In addition, the representatives of the breed have a dense intestinal membrane that protects against the effects of parasites and toxic substances.
Place the hives in the shade to avoid overheating from sunlight.
The bees of the Central Russian breed are distinguished by their high efficiency during the bribe-collecting season, making many flights for prey. They are in a hurry to stock up on as much food as possible for the period from autumn to spring, using the days of flowering honey plants. Work is suspended only in rainy and windy weather, but this measure is aimed at preserving the life of the largest number of individuals.
Insects tend to collect nectar and pollen mainly from 1-2 species of melliferous plants, especially during the main summer flow. It is difficult for them to readjust to search for other sources of production, to work with them. The most preferred flowers are buckwheat, linden, heather, fireweed are also suitable.
At the beginning of the season, a small number of worker bees leave for a bribe. The main part is busy with brood grooming in order to have time to expand the swarm for active honey collection. When flowering is in full swing, all forces are directed to flights for a bribe, even the uterus lays fewer eggs. Because of this, drones are driven out later than other breeds in order to maintain the correct temperature in the nest while the worker bees collect nectar.
Laying of eggs in autumn stops early enough so that strong, not depleted individuals leave for the winter.
Central Russian bees are considered very aggressive. In fact, their purebred representatives are not inclined to protect the nest from people for no reason, reacting sharply only to extraneous insects. Experienced beekeepers claim that attacks are rare with the right approach.
The Central Russian breed is, indeed, more intolerant and restless than others with the intervention of beekeepers, but more often insects tend to hide than to attack. They are not overly protective of stocks, since they themselves are not prone to stealing. They are more concerned with protecting the queen and brood.
It is recommended to keep such bees in apiaries away from residential buildings, in hives located at a sufficient distance from each other. It is good if the design of the dwellings minimizes the need for inspections and manipulations.
The actions of the beekeeper are also important: if he works calmly, in warm calm weather, does not bring pungent odors on his clothes, it is unlikely that insects will rush to sting him.
Central Russian bee honey
Workers first fill the combs of the upper part of the hive with honey, providing good warming up by the sun, making it easier for themselves to access food during the winter. The bee bread is stored in the nesting compartment.
Central Russian bees process the stored nectar with enzymes, add a little poison. Then each cell is sealed in a special way – the lid is formed just above the level of the product, leaving a small empty space. This is a dry signet.
The honey is obtained of high quality, transparent, with a rich taste and aroma.
It is called monoflorous, because it is obtained mainly from 1 type of honey plant. Such honey is more liquid, not prone to crystallization.
Queen of the Central Russian breed of bees
Breeding female begins to lay eggs in spring relatively late, in May. However, it is distinguished by increased fertility and quickly catches up with southern breeds. The uterus of Central Russian bees is capable of making a clutch of 2-3 thousand eggs per day.
A small initial volume of nectar production does not cause a decrease in egg production. All food is directed to brood feeding: by the time the main feed comes, many young worker bees are needed. But in the summer, during the period of the main honey gathering, the female lays fewer eggs.
It is noted that the uterus of the Central Russian breed rarely allows drones of other species to mate. Also, she will not get along with the second queen, and the swarm will protect the old “queen”, not agreeing to a replacement. Therefore, the young queen is expelled from the hive.
For a beekeeper who is not familiar with this feature of the Central Russian breed bees, an increased tendency to split the family and leave the hive will be an unpleasant surprise. During the period of active honey collection, swarming does not occur, but with small prey, you need to be careful. If the bees began to prepare for a group flight, it is difficult to stop them, to set them up for further work.
Swarming more often occurs with a 2-3-year-old uterus, in which fertility decreases. Usually 1-2 large swarms fly out, and if this process is not prevented, the beekeeper will lose part of the working families for honey collection.
It is necessary to replace the old uterus with a young one on time (every 2 years). As in the beekeeping of the southern regions, methods of beekeeping with Central Russian bees against swarming include: placement in spacious hives with superstructures installed in a shaded place, adding frames with foundation, removing rebuilt queen cells, and forming layering.
Breed advantages and disadvantages
The prevailing opinion about the aggressiveness of the Central Russian bees, their tendency to swarming, the difficulty in changing honey plants makes many beekeepers abandon the idea of breeding this breed. Meanwhile, with skillful handling, the minuses can be smoothed out and not be a hassle.
The Central Russian breed has many positive qualities that make it the best choice for an apiary located in central Russia:
- A high level of tolerance to winter cold, a long dormant period, when only rare control and a minimum of feed are required.
- Exceptional hard work during honey collection.
- Production of a large number of useful products: honey, bee bread, propolis, wax.
- Immunity to many diseases, low probability of their spread.
- Fertility of young queens.
These properties of the breed are so valuable that when breeding Central Russian bees and breeding work, they try to preserve them in subsequent generations.
The breed can be said to be suitable for experienced beekeepers and areas where its benefits will be fully revealed. Representatives of the Central Russian breed with a long history require calmness, confidence and respect for them when keeping them. Once approached, the beekeeper will be rewarded with lots of tasty and flavorful, high quality honey.