Bee Variety Question for Zone 5
We're beginning beekeepers, in Zone 5. Our first bees were just "run-of-the-mill" Italian or mostly Italian (I say this because the bees in one hive are slightly larger and lighter in color than the other) bees ordered via our state's Dadant store.
We are keeping our expectations modest about the viability of our hives this first year -- of course we want to keep them alive this winter, but even the veteran beekeepers we talked to this spring were telling us they were experiencing almost 50 percent mortality in some cases. And -- we won an extra beehive in a raffle that we're keeping in the garage, that we may set up next spring anyway for a total of three hives.
So in any case we may be in the market for package bees again next year. And we've also learned of another, in-state source for package bees that will sell specific varieties, either as packages or varietal queens.
We've heard lots of good things about Carniolan bees, and some mixed messages about their Russian cousins.
This question is for folks who've had some experience raising both standard Italian bees and these varieties: Which ones do you prefer, and why? Have you ever tried crossing one variety with another?