Of all the characteristics that a beekeeper could want from their bees, a gentle temperament is top of my list.
For one thing, in this urban environment there are my neighbours to consider. A jar of honey is scant compensation for being terrorised while pruning the roses. And a garden full of tetchy bees is no fun for me either!
Further down the list we have (in no order):
- Low tendency to swarm
- Prolific honey production
- Winter survival
- Resistance to disease and parasites
- Regular comb architecture
- Moderate propolis production
The queen, as mother of the colony, is the genetic key to all this. The drones as fathers presumably make an equal contribution to the characteristics of each daughter bee, but with less individual influence on the colony as a whole. A colony has one queen, but she mates with many drones from numerous other hives, each drone having just one brief encounter with the young queen in mid-air on a sunny afternoon.
I have drawn a family tree of the queens of Copper Bee Apiary, which you can see here.