What is the Difference Between Italian and Russian honey bees?

Russian honey bees are much different then Italian honey bees.

We will take a brief look at the differences between these two bees. According to the USDA Honey Bee Research Lab in Baton Rouge, LA, the Russian honey bee is genetically more resistant to tracheal mites and Varroa. The Russian honey bee resistance goes back 150 years of exposure to varroa. In the USDA study, they found the Russian honey bee twice as resistant to varroa then other honey bees. Additionally, the Russian honey bee is more resistant to tracheal mites.

Most Russian queens are hybrid daughters due to open mating. The result is a hybrid and partially resistant to mites.
Honey production is approx.. 10% more then Italian honey bees because they will forage for nectar on overcast and cooler days, where the Italian honey bee will not leave the hive.

Russian queen can be a variety of colors ranging from brown to black and definitely darker then an Italian queen.

Russian bees will have a slower build-up in the Spring time as the queen will be looking for pollen to enter the hive to begin increasing their brood production. Italian bees begin their build-up as soon as conditions begin to increase in temperature. The result of this quick build-up in early Spring can led to colony starvation. It is important to feed the Italian colony in late Winter into Spring.

Russian colonies are known for swarming tendencies due to they have queen cells evident within the hive starting in year two. It is important to allow enough room for the colony to expand. Many times the colony will kill off the queen cells but it is also important to thoroughly inspect your hive every 10 days to cut out the queen cells to reduce swarming.

Russian bees are less likely, overall, to begin robbing from other hives. The Italian do have a high nature for robbing.

I have found Russian bees more aggressive overall vs. the Italian bees. The Russians will defend the hive better then the Italian bee.

When looking at the pollination differences between these bees, there is very little difference.