HomeBeekeepingCarniolan Honey Bees: A Beekeeper Favourite

Carniolan Honey Bees: A Beekeeper Favourite

The Carniolan honey bee is a robust favourite amongst many beekeepers.  Maybe you suppose all honey bees are simply the identical? A beekeeper can shortly clarify that this isn’t true. There may be a lot variety within the honey bee household.  How will you presumably select the very best ones in your hive? It’s important to do your analysis. Carniolan bees many have the traits that you just need in your hives.

“Carnis” – The Honey Bee of the Alps

Group of Carniolan honey bees on a frame from a hive.

Typically referred to as “carnis” for brief – Carniolans are a race (or subspecies) of the European honey bee (Apis mellifera).  The European honey bees are additionally referred to as “Western Honey bees”.

That is to distinguish them from their distant cousins Apis cerana present in Asia. The identify is pronounced with the emphasis on the primary syllable- Automotive-ni-olan.


They’re comparatively the identical dimension as different honey bees. The darkish physique has brown bands lined with quick hairs of a grayish tint. This provides them the nickname “gray bee”.

In a hive, you’d have hassle figuring out Carniolan bees if the opposite hive members have been additionally darkish.

Mixture of honey bees on a frame light and dark and grey bees.

Place of Origin

One of the crucial widespread honey bees on the planet, Carniolans (Apis mellifera carnica) originated in components of Japanese Europe.

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The Carniola area of Slovenia, components of the Austrian Alps and the North Balkans have been their dwelling. You could hear them known as the “honey bee of the alps”.

Bees that develop in sure areas should adapt to the situations of the realm.  These that don’t adapt to the temperatures or nectar availability die out.

After all, this course of takes lots of (or 1000’s) of years.  However finally, the survivors can be bugs that thrive of their native area or different areas with comparable situations.

As a result of local weather situations the place Carniolans developed, they’re well-adapted to areas with lengthy sizzling summers and lengthy chilly Winters. This makes them an excellent match for a lot of components of the US.

Coming to America

Carniolan bees have been launched into North America within the mid-late 1800’s. As we speak, we’ve Carniolan strains (combined genetics) through-out the inventory of bees in America.

They’re additionally a preferred race of honey bee to make use of in bee breeding applications such because the New World Carniolan challenge. They’ve some qualities that researchers need to develop within the present gene pool.

Workers in a Carniolan bee hive tending developing brood.

Behavioral Traits of Carniolan Honey Bees

Carniolan bees have some spectacular traits that make them a beekeeper favourite. They’re the second most widespread kind of honey bee – rating slightly below Italians (Apis mellifera ligustica).

  • fast Spring buildup
  • match brood rearing to situations
  • calm method
  • over-winters nicely in chilly climates
  • produces much less propolis
  • longer tongues to entry flowers
  • good sense of orientation – much less drifting

After over-wintering as a smaller cluster, brood rearing ramps up shortly when contemporary nectar and pollen is offered.

Likewise, if meals assets grow to be scarce (maybe a dearth) – brood rearing is diminished shortly. This helps stop colony hunger throughout a brief time period drought or comparable situations.

Carniolans have a fame for being a calmer bee. They’re much less defensive than some races and fewer vulnerable to stinging with out provocation.

If you happen to reside in an space that has chilly, damp Winters, having some Carniolan genetics in your apiary is an effective follow. They originate in areas that have chilly temperatures for months at a time.

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Propolis or “bee glue” is a crucial a part of hive life. Nevertheless, it may be a ache to beekeepers throughout hive inspections.

Some colonies produce a lot of it that colony inspections are made very tough. Carnis have a tendency to provide much less propolis than others.

Here’s a bodily distinction. Having an extended tongue that different honey bees, they can attain extra nectar in deep throated flowers.

This is usually a particular benefit if the honey vegetation in your space are tube formed. That is the case for some sorts of clovers.

Carniolans possess an excellent sense of course or orientation. Beekeepers know that typically forager bees return to the fallacious hive.

They might be welcomed in-if they’re have an excellent load of meals on board. Beekeepers name this “drifting” and it isn’t the very best state of affairs. Some hives grow to be to sturdy and others lose wanted staff.

That is one motive we paint our beehives in particular colours. However, it appears that evidently Carnis do a greater job than Italians of discovering their very own entrance door.

Worker bee collecting pollen from yellow flower.

Why Beekeepers Like Carniolans: Execs and Cons

A number of of the traits of the Carniolan bee are accountable for making them a good selection in your apiary. Nevertheless, as with every race of bees, we should have a look at the professionals and cons.


  • reply shortly to modifications in meals sources -brood manufacturing
  • as light as Italians
  • good honey manufacturing
  • fly at cooler temperatures
  • much less vulnerable to hive robbing
  • thrifty with saved honey reserves throughout winter
  • some resistance to tracheal mites
  • “could also be” much less vulnerable to brood ailments

Colonies that regulate the quantity of brood rearing to meals provide are much less prone to want beekeeper intervention. Feeding bees is a helpful approach however their very own honey and pollen is all the time the primary alternative.

Carniolan queens are inclined to proceed brood rearing till late September making for sturdy colonies going into Winter.

Not many individuals I do know get pleasure from bee stings. Beekeepers perceive why bees sting and work to keep away from it. Nevertheless, if you’re retaining bees within the yard or a neighborhood – having good tempered colonies is a plus.

Due to their native area, Carniolan honey bees fly at cooler temperatures and damper situations on overcast days than some sorts. This may increasingly assist them be good honey producers -even when climate situations should not very best.

Robbing is usually a large drawback in a bee yard the place many hives are shut collectively. Carnis should not fairly as “grabby” as their Italian cousins.

By the identical token, they’re additionally very thrifty with their Winter meals shops. Along with adjusting the colony inhabitants to the season, they don’t want as a lot meals for the Winter months.

Carniolans are over-all a wholesome bee. They do present some resistance to tracheal mites and maybe to some brood ailments. Nevertheless, they require upkeep and varroa monitoring and management similar to some other colonies.


Even these fantastic bees should not with out some minuses that have to be thought-about.

  • swarming tendencies
  • frequent inspections throughout Spring buildup
  • will not be prepared for early honey flows

When plant nectar turns into available in Spring, Carniolan bees will ramp up brood rearing at an alarming price. This will trigger undesirable swarms for beekeepers that don’t hold up to the mark.

As a result of fast price of growth, hive inspections could also be wanted extra incessantly throughout Spring. Containers needs to be added to the hive on the proper time to keep away from over-crowding.

The honey circulation (or honey flows) differ for every a part of the nation. If you happen to solely have one main honey circulation (like me) that happens in early Spring – your colonies will not be prepared.

We depend on good climate to permit bees to forage on Purple Maple and different early meals sources. This provides them a possibility to rear brood for the main circulation.

A really chilly or moist late Winter/early Spring can lead to sluggish buildup until the beekeeper feeds the hive. Monitoring colony situations on heat days turns into essential in these conditions.

Variations between Italian Bees and Carniolans

Because of their shut kinship, you can find some ways in these bees are alike. That’s a terrific factor as a result of it signifies that both will seemingly do nicely in your hive.

It’s one motive, many suppliers deliberately cross them – hoping to get the very best of each worlds. However, listed below are some generalities which might be noticeable between the pure strains.

  • Italians are the preferred race of bee in the US
  • A hive of Italians will begin brood manufacturing sooner than Carniolans
  • Carniolans – faster to ramp up or cut back brood rearing as meals availability modifications
  • Italian queens cut back brood rearing earlier within the Fall
  • Carniolans have the next tendency in direction of swarming
  • Each races are comparatively light and capable of be managed
  • Carniolans defend the hive in opposition to bugs a bit greater than Italians –hornets, yellow jackets and many others.
Close up of worker bee cleaning her long tongue.

Discovering pure Carniolan honey bees within the U.S. is nearly unimaginable. Most commercially accessible bundle bees or nucs are a mixture of genetics – no matter what the advertisements say.

Nonetheless, you should buy bees which might be an Italian Carni combine. And, you will discover some nice Carni combine queens to introduce some new genetics to your present hives.

Bee breeders – by synthetic insemination produce breeder queens of a pure nature. However, these are lots of of {dollars} and out of attain of the typical pastime beekeeper.

Understand that there is no such thing as a good honey bee. After we say {that a} form of bee is that this or that – it’s only a generalization.

The Italian honey bee has a fame for being calm and non-defensive. However, I’ve had them chase me throughout the sphere earlier than. Every hive is completely different – irrespective of the genetic ancestry of the inhabitants.


Are you able to combine Italians and Carniolan honey bees?

Italians and Carniolans are completely different races of the identical species – Apis mellifera.  The queens and drones of every are capable of inter-mate.

Will my bees settle for a Carni Queen?

Sure, it’s usually a easy matter to introduce a Carniolan queen bee into one other colony.  All the time use correct introduction strategies when requeening a hive.

Are Carniolan bees higher than Italians?

Not essentially, each Carniolan and Italian bees share some fascinating traits that make them good for brand new beekeepers.

Are Carniolan bees aggressive?

These honey bees are inclined to have a mild disposition. They don’t seem to be as defensive or aggressive as some sorts however will sting in protection.

Sources embody:

The Hive & The Honey Bee – Dadant & Sons, Inc 2015



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