There are many different varieties of honey bee, each one with its own distinct characteristics. The Italian honey bee may be the most popular variety for beekeepers, but there are also German, Carniolan, Caucasian, Russian and Buckfast varieties in use in North America, as well as many hybrid species.
Each variety of honey bee has both positive and negative characteristics. For instance, Italian bees produce large amounts of honey, but rob other hives when nectar stores are low, spreading mites and diseases more readily than other varieties. Carniolan bees produce large amounts of high-quality wax, but they form swarms more frequently to reduce overcrowding, lowering populations. Honey production, temperament, reproductive speed, winter survival and disease resistance are all important qualities to consider, and breeders work to combine positive traits to produce superior bees.
The most infamous variety of the honey bee is the Africanized bee, which was created in Brazil. Scientists were attempting to take advantage of the extremely high honey production of the African honey bee by cross-breeding it with western varieties. In 1957, 26 queens escaped the experiment and began to breed with local European varieties, producing an extremely defensive species capable of chasing intruders over long distances and attacking en masse, causing potentially fatal injuries.