Many times i have been told "the bees know better" i don't disagree, but along with this comment usually comes "they have been doing it for millions of years". I have to disagree to a point. Yes honey bees have been around for millions of years, but NOT in North America.
First the German Black Bee was brought over by the settlers in the or so in the 1600's. However, the bee we keep is based off the Italian Honeybee which was not brought over until the mid to late 1800's. which means they have only had a chance to adapt for about 150 years, and of course we have constantly meddled with them as well, which i am sure has slowed their adaptations. As nothing "Man" does ever really works well. Keep in mind 150 years is NOTHING in the life cycle of evolution. Not to mention we keep bees in un-natural boxes. there is NOTHING natural about keeping bees in boxes, topbar hives OR Langs.
So what i am getting at is YES our bees AT TIMES do need our help. After all don't we have an obligation to them since we removed them from their home country and brought them here?
Here is an article that was posted on Bee-L i found an interesting read...
During the early part of last year the Commissioner of Patents at Washington authorized Mr. S. B. Parsons, of Long Island, N. Y., to proceed to Italy, and inquire into the habits of Italian bees, and if, upon investigation, he found them possessing qualities of value which our native bees do not possess, to procure a certain number of swarms and send them to the Patent Office.
He entered upon the duties assigned him, and arrived in the country of the Italian Lakes in April, 1859. After wandering about among the hills of that delightful region for some months, his researches were arrested by the approach of hostile armies, and he was not able to resume them until the following September, when he met an intelligent Bavarian who had established himself in the Grisons, and had devoted himself to the culture of pure Italian bees.
The result of his researches convinced him that these bees possess qualities superior to those of our own, and he ordered for the Department to the full amount which he was authorized to expend, and directed them to be sent by the Arago on the 18th of October from Havre, but by some unaccountable delay they were not shipped until December 28th, from Genoa.
In his investigations, Mr. Parsons says he came to the following conclusions in relation to the Italian bees:
1. That they will endure the cold better than ours.
2. That they swarm twice as often.
3. That they are abundantly more prolific.
4. That the working bees begin to forage earlier, and are more industrious.
5. That they are less apt to sting, and may be easily tamed by kind treatment.
6. That the queen may be so educated as to lay her eggs in any hive in which she is placed, while the bees of such a hive, deprived of their ownqueen, will readily receive her.
7. That its proboscis is longer, and it can reach the depths of flowers which are entirely beyond the efforts of the common bee.
8. That a young queen, once impregnated, will continue fertile during her life—from four to seven years. This quality will insure pure broods, till the whole country is fllled with them.
9. That they are far more brave and active than the common bee; will fight with great fierceness, and more effectually keep the moth out of the hive.
Having read the statement of Mr. Parsons, and learning that Mr. Brackett, of Winchester, in this State, a gentleman who has gained some celebrity as a'skillful cultivator of several varieties of grapes,—had introduced the Italian bee into his colonies, we visited his place a few days since, and examined both bees and grapes for ourselves. In the midst of his delightful retreat, surrounded on all sides but the south by the natural forest, he nestles on the hillside with his pleasant family, his forcing houses, grapes, and other plants, and his twenty odd swarms of bees! He is full of zeal in regard to them all,—and that zeal is so admirably tempered with knowledge, that one cannot fail to gather valuable suggestions upon any of his favorite topics. Mr. Brackett was early called into consultation with Mr. Parsons, and one or two other distinguished apiarians, in regard to the course to be pursued with the Italian bees, and as a part of the policy he has introduced eight pure queens into his colonies, having first by a most ingenious device driven all the drones, or males, of the common bee from his hives. The queen of the common bee and the drone brood being taken away, and a new Italian queen introduced, the natural work was at once entered upon of forming new queen and brood cells, so that the eggs deposited by the new queen would produce the pure Italian bee!
From the experience thus far gained, Mr. Brackett is inclined to confirm the statements made by Mr. Parsons. He thinks their merits have not been overrated, and states that they are more easily managed, and less sensitive to cold than our bees.
From a little work by H. C. Hermann, the Bavarian referred to above, we learn tjiat the yellow, Italian bee is a mountain insect; it is found between two mountain chains, to the right and left of Lombardy and the Rhetian Alps, and comprises the whole territory of Tessir, Veltlin and South Graubunden. It thrives up to the height of 4500 feet above the level of the sea, and appears to prefer the northern clime to the warmer, for in the south of Italy it is not found.
It differs from our common black bee in its longer, slender form, and light chrome-yellow color, with brimstone-colored wings, and two orangered girths, each one-sixth of an inch wide. Working bees as well as drones have this mark. The drones are further distinguished by the girths being scolloped, like the spotted water-serpent, and attain an astonishing size; almost half as corpulent again as the black drones. The queen has the same marks as the working bees, but much more conspicuous, and lighter; she is much larger than the black queen, and easy to be singled out of the swarm on account of her remarkable bodily size and light color.
We engaged with Mr. Brackett in some manipulations, such as taking out the queen bee and a drone or two for examination, and peeping into some of the nuclei which he is forming.
The New England farmer, Volume 12. September 1860