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The Italian honey bee is thought to originate from the continental part of Italy, south of the Alps, and north of Sicily. The subspecies may have survived the last Ice Age in Italy. It is genetically a different subspecies than that from the Iberian peninsula and from Sicily. It is the most widely distributed of all honey bees, and has proven adaptable to most climates from subtropical to cool temperate, but it is less successful in humid tropical regions. It is sometimes called the Ligurian bee.
Italian bees, having been conditioned to the warmer climate of the central Mediterranean, are less able to cope with the “hard” winters and cool, wet springs of more northern latitudes. They do not form such tight winter clusters. More food has to be consumed to compensate for the greater heat loss from the loose cluster. The tendency to raise broods late in autumn also increases food consumption. The noted beekeeper, Thomas White Woodbury, first introduced the Italian bee to Britain in 1854 and regarded it as vastly superior to the English Black.