LET’S SAVE LIGUSTICA
BIO Cantina Orsogna, which has been committed to biodiversity conservation for many years, distributed more than 100 royal cells containing fertilized Ligustica queen bees to its beekeepers. The aim is to spread Ligustica genetics through drones from fertilized queens. Fertilized queen bees were introduced into the hives in individual cages, accompanied by some worker bees. The introduction of a queen bee into a swarm is a delicate operation; it is important that the queen be accepted by the family to then proceed with mating with the drones.
THE BEST HONEY BEE IN THE WORLD
The Apis mellifera ligustica, better known as the Ligustica Bee or Italian Bee, has been the subject of continuous exports around the world since the second half of the 20th century, and over time has been given the appellation “Golden Bee.” Its extraordinary characteristics of docility, industriousness, meekness and low tendency to swarm place it at the top of its class among all honey bees, and for this reason it has been selected and exported through very long journeys overseas. Its expansion has revolutionized beekeeping worldwide. Arriving in the late 1800s on Australia’s Kangaroo Island, it has been jealously protected by the Australian government, which has totally blocked the importation of other subspecies by declaring the island an exclusive reserve for the ligustic bee. For this reason, the island is believed to date to be the only one in the world populated by the original pure ligustica.
LET’S SAVE LIGUSTICA!
The ligustic bee managed to survive the ice age and subsequently adapted to the climate and vegetation of our peninsula. In recent decades, however, systematic hybridizations with other breeds or subspecies of honey bees, both European and non-European, have been carried out in Italy in order to increase production. The spread of hybrids poses the problem of safeguarding the native bee because hybrid queens produce drones that also go on to impregnate ligustic queens, generating new hybridizations that thus lose much of the genetic heritage that the native form has evolved over millennia. Experts believe that in Italy we have reached the guard level, the level that precedes the extinction and ultimate loss of the Ligustica.
THE SEVEN SECRETS OF THE QUEEN
THE QUEEN DOES NOT DECIDE EVERYTHING
Although with her pheromones the queen bee is able to influence some behaviors of her workers, they are able to make majority decisions without consulting the queen. For example: choosing the site to which the family will swarm is a decision in which each worker is asked to cast her vote.
LONG LIVE THE QUEEN
Bees have a very short life span (a few dozen days) while a queen bee can live from 2 to 7 years of age. Often its lifespan depends on the number of drones with which it mates during its nuptial flight. The higher the number of partners, the more welcome the queen will be in the eyes of her workers who will not try to replace her with a new one.
ITS SECRET IS IN NUTRITION
Egg laying is the main task of a queen bee, which can lay unfertilized and fertilized eggs.
– Unfertilized eggs: will only be able to give rise to drones (the males of the colony);
– Fertilized eggs: either worker bees or a new queen can be born from them.
It all depends on the nutrition that the workers provide to the larvae. In the first few days of life, in fact, all larvae are fed royal jelly; starting from the fourth day, the worker larva receives a diet of honey and pollen. Should the worker bees decide they want a new queen, it will suffice for them to feed a larva with royal jelly throughout its development.
THE QUEEN FIGHTS FOR HER KINGDOM
Bees to secure the best queen raise more than one at the same time. However, in a colony there is only room for one queen-and the queen knows it. That is why when it wanders around the hive, encountering a real cell, it can sting its rival from the outside to kill it inside the cell. If the new queen instead manages to survive to full development, the two royals will battle to the death to determine who will rule over the family.
HIS STING GIVES LIFE AND DEATH
The bee stinger is a modified ovipositor (organ necessary for egg laying). That is why only the females in the colony have them. Drones, the male bees, do not have stingers and cannot sting. While workers use their serrated stinger to attack any intruders or enemies, queens have a smooth stinger and use it for egg laying or to fight against a rival queen.
WITHOUT HIS HANDMAIDENS HE DOES NOT SURVIVE
The queen bee is constantly surrounded by a group of handmaids who take care of keeping her clean, tidy, and also feed her by digesting food for her. The queen bee has a very important role, laying eggs, and the workers to feed her provide predigested food. If she did not have her very faithful bees to serve her, she would not be able to survive a day.
QUEENS ALSO GO ON A DIET
Worker bees like to have a “chubby” queen, a sign of health, strength and abundant genetic material to be able to lay lots of eggs. However, flight is not one of the strengths of a queen bee. It does not have an aerodynamic shape nor does it have a large wing musculature. Therefore, before leaving, the handmaids put her on a forced diet until she loses a third of her own weight.