Russell Apiaries

Quality Bee Keeping Tools and Resources

These are the specific "breeds" or identifiable selection stocks that we have developed and maintain.

SunKist (not Cordovan color)

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SunKist are the line that my father (JN Russell) has spent his entire life perfecting. They are of Italian origin, and have been selectively bred since 1951 for heavy laying, low swarming, honey production, distance of foraging, mite and disease resistance, gentleness, comb building, and early build up. They were created for his use as cell builders and for package production. They have been exclusively available to the commercial and university market up until last august, when I began releasing them to sideliners and hobbyists to help replenish their losses to shb. They produce a much higher than average number of bees per hive.... with swarm levels around 100-120k. The SunKist Cordovan was created in 1996 as a way to more easily locate the queen in a hive with so many bees. SunKist queens produce bees of 3 bands, 5 bands, black, grey, and amber.... The SunKist Cordovans produce bees of Black, Grey, 3 bands, 5 bands, and higher percentages of amber coloration...


SunKist Cordovans (SKC)


Beautiful, Calm, and Easy to locate... These very heavy laying queens produce extra large colonies of gentle, hard working bees with light "Amber/Peach" coloration and the minimal banding of the Cordovan genetics.

Used primarily by commercial operations for their climatic adaptability and very heavy laying, but also a favorite for hobbiests, and universities for their gentle nature, interesting color, and sturdy colonies.



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A special hybrid that we developed for northern commercial apiaries. These eager girls tend to be the first out of the hive in the morning and the last to return (usually in the twilight, hence the name). They build up fairly early in the spring compared to Carniolans and much earlier than Russians. They winter in nice clusters without overloading the brood chambers with honey, and they have a very low swarm rate. Although we do sell these queens from time to time, we do not usually offer them as stock... Breeder and drone mother developement requires several generations of instrumental insemination, thus they are quite expensive to produce. We continue to research their awesome traits and sell the year old breeders in a "when available" style to customers on a waiting list.


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Tigers are a hybrid line that has been specially selected for their defense against Small Hive Beetles. Tigers are less deterred by the slime created by SHB larvae, thus they clean out the larvae and slime as soon as larvae begin to hatch. They are the first line of queens offering a resistance to SHB. Although NO colony can be "beetle-proof", the Tigers are our first step in using genetics to combat the pests as they spread across our nation.


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Our "Pollinator" strain is made up of genetics from queens that came from a program that we have ran with many of our pollinator customers over the years. Each year the best queen from the pollinator's operation was selected and returned to us in exchange for a discount on queen orders... These queens are placed in isolated yards and the selection process is intensified... these queens have been selected out of the best performers from pollination operations whos bees must endure extreme migrations, extra early, and extra heavy build up.


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Although all of our strains resist VD quite well, the VSH line has the highest level of resistance other than the Primorsky (Russian). We select for gentleness and productivity in this line and of course, they have not needed treatment of any kind. These queens are developed from stock that has survived and thrived without any form of treatment since 1996. Several lineages of other VSH survivor lines have been added over the years to ensure healthy diversity and quick adaptation to multiple climates.

English Buckfast

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Our English Buckfast earn praises all over the U.S. They strive to be resistant to mites and disease and they are very productive with early buildup and a gentle nature.

J.N. Russells


These bees were a project that JN Russell was working on in the last year of his life. They were a cross of Sunkist, Banded Italian, and Dark Italian and are extremely gentle and productive. They build combs with haste and are the least effected by inspections. This was a special reuirement that JN Russell looked for in his selection process as he was hindered by an oxygen tank and mask and control of one arm was very limited. His love for bees was endless and his body had worn out well before his desire to be able to work his bees. This bee was to be specially intended for him to be able to able to stay in each hive longer, fumble frames from time to time, and still be able to watch the queen lay while he held the frame. He seemed refreshed and even youthful after working these bees and it became part of a daily exercise that he would do with his son Robert every day before heading to town to enjoy a B.L.T. at the diner in Raymond, MS. He selected the hives that he felt were his favorite from his operation and he and Robert marked them and moved them to one location for breeding. The results are an excellent bee that encompasses the pride and history that JN Russell dedicated to our industry during his amazing life. "When I open one of these hives, I just can't help but feel like he is there. I even catch myself holding frames in the air towards the nearest shade tree at times expecting to hear him say Oh Boy, That's my girls!" quote from: Robert Russell

Cordovan Italian

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This is our Russell Italians with the Cordovan color trait added for easy identification and of course for the beauty. They possess all of the excellent traits of our Russell Italians and the beauty of our SunKist Cordovans.

Russell Italians


Sturdy, gentle, and very productive... The 3 banded Italian has been the most used commercial bee across the world... We have selctively bred our Italian stock since the 1800s choosing only the very best.

Russell Carniolans

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Our Carniolans are selected from the very best stocks that we have ran after heavy testing. The result of blending this stock is an extremely adaptive, winter hearty bee, that is gentle and builds up heavily in spring. Resistance traits have been promoted heavily in this stock and it performs extremely well without treatment.

A.M.M. (Apis Mellifera Mellifera)

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Also known as German or English Black Bees and Swamp Bees, the Apis Meliferra Meliferra is probably the most adaptive bee that we know of... They develop resistances to disease and pests quickly, build wax and propilis very well, have a very large forage distance, and adapt to any climate. This is the bee that makes up the majority of the truely feral colonies in the US today... The spread of mites and now beetles have destroyed all the native bees except for those that have adapted to defend themselves. AMM was usually looked at as a "mean" strain and a common rule was "the darker the bee, the meaner the bee", but through many years of selectively breeding them for gentleness, we have developed a stock that is gentle enough to work daily, and we have used this stock to add resistance to other strains.

Italian / Carniolan Hybrid

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A cross of the two most commonly utilized breeds. Earlier build up than Carniolans and use less stores during winter than Italians. A very good "all-around" strain. We crossed our best stock from each breed, so the results are simply great bees.


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Our Caucasians are a blend of Northern Caucasian, Gray Mountain Georgian, and Valley bees, found in the Caucasus. They are well known to forage when the temperature is relatively low. Very nice bees for northern and high altitude climates.

Italian / Russian Hybrid (6th Gen)

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These hybrids were developed to add the high level of resistance of the Primorsky (Russian) bees to the Italian stock that has already under gone hundreds of years of selective breeding for production and gentleness. "Pure" russians are not well suited for the US climate. Their fridged origin causes undesirable traits such as storing honey all the way around the cluster (which is excessively small) and building up much later than the majority of our crops come into bloom. However, they have had over 120 years of exposure to the VD mites in the Primorsky region, and thus have a very high level of hygenic behavior. The combination of the two breeds creates a very hot bee and takes a few generations to develop into a highly resistant yet highly productive dark Italian with an early build up and later shut down. The hybrids that we offer are all 6th generation.

Minnesota Hygienic

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This line was developed by Dr. Marla Spivak and Gary Reuter at the University of Minnesota by selecting for Hygienic behavior to resist brood diseases and possibly even varroa. Although they are not as resistant to varroa as other strains, they are quite resistant to brood diseases.


A cross of Buckfast selected for production and Canadian dark bees selected for survival. They are excellent over wintering bees and produce beautiful comb. These bees are the results of the extensive knowledge and hard work of Keld Brandstrup (Denmark), Bill Ferguson (Ontario), and the continued selections of Robert Russell (United States).

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A cross from survivor bees in Saskatchewan, wild bees found in Alaska, and the Moonbeams. These bees are very hearty and notibly perform better on screened bottom boards than other strains. They have also shown to be more apt to build downward when given the space to do so, which is very helpful for those that are drawing foundationless combs, regressing bees, or running top-bar hives.



The Carpathians keep a very clean hive and build more slowly during the early pollen flow of spring. This makes them easier to manage when stores are questionable in years such as 2012 when the winter was mild enough to produce heavy pollen flows early on, but nectar was scarce. They are quite gentle and respond to smoke very well. Honey production is good and they build comb at a steady yet paced rate. This bee is a vital part of the genetics that make up the Buckfast and the Sunkist and is used primarily for breeding selection purposes.

Ontario Buckfast


Buckfast bees specifically selected for the far northern climates. Very gentle and very strong buildup. These are the "Italians of the Buckfast" yet winter over extremely well.