Our use of Russian honeybees, with their innate resistance to mites and docile temperament, means we are able to produce honey in a completely natural way. Coupled with a forward-thinking and very experienced beekeeping staff, we do not need to apply miticides (a type of insecticide) to our hives. The health and treatment of our honeybees is at the forefront of our sustainable beekeeping operations. Healthy and happy bees allow us to make the best honey we can and at the end of the day, it's really that cut-and-dry.
Introduction of the Honeybee
Honeybees are perhaps one of the most beneficial of insects to humans (and the occasional brazen bear that pilfers our hives) that live in the U.S. While there are over 4,000 species of native bees in North America, honeybees are not native to this country. In the early 1600's, European settlers brought honeybees to the eastern seaboard during their transatlantic voyage.
Despite the presence of honeybees since the 1600's, most commercially managed U.S. honeybees are from a subspecies of bees called Apis mellifera ligustica, or the Italian Honeybee, that were brought to the U.S. in 1859. Upon introduction, the Italian honeybees were quickly favored amongst beekeepers for their docile nature, strong honey production and fairly good resistance to disease.
Introduction of the Mites
Italian Honeybees have become susceptible to 2 kinds of mites which were accidentally introduced into the US in the 1980s. One of these mites, aptly named "Varroa destructor", has had such a devastating effect on the US bee population that the USDA began searching for a honeybee that could resist mite infestation. While this mite is a natural parasite of the Asian honeybee (Apis cerana) and causes it relatively minor harm, its impact on the Italian honeybee has unfortunately been far greater.
The USDA's search led them to discover that a breed of honeybees from the Primorsky Territory of Russia’s Pacific coast have developed a resistance to both kinds of mites infesting US hives. One of the primary reasons for this resistance appears to be the elevated hygienic behaviors displayed by the Russian honeybees.
Introduction of Russian Bees
USDA researchers brought one hundred Russian honeybee queens to the Honey Bee Breeding, Genetics, and Physiology Research Laboratory of the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. After a three year quarantine period on Grande Terre Island, Louisiana, the queens were moved to apiaries at the ARS laboratory in Baton Rouge. The whole project had very positive results and in 1997 the USDA began promoting the use of Russian bee genetics into US apiaries.
Why We Only Use Russians
Most beekeepers with Italian honeybees currently manage mite infestation by the direct application of miticides into the hives. Although this can be effective for the short term management of the mites there is a high risk that the honey and the wax in the hive will be contaminated with the miticides and that the mites will become resistant to the pesticide over time.
Thus, our goal of producing the highest quality honey is made possible by an experienced beekeeping staff, the close monitoring of our hives and the very special Russian honeybee.