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Carniolan Honey Bees: A Beekeeper Favourite


The Carniolan honey bee is a powerful 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’s a lot variety within the honey bee household.  How will you presumably select the very best ones to your hive? You need to do your analysis. Carniolan bees many have the traits that you simply want to 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 title is pronounced with the emphasis on the primary syllable- Automobile-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 offers them the nickname “gray bee”.

In a hive, you’ll 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 vital well-liked honey bees on the planet, Carniolans (Apis mellifera carnica) originated in components of Jap Europe.

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

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

After all, this course of takes a whole lot (or hundreds) of years.  However finally, the survivors will probably be bugs that thrive of their native area or different areas with related circumstances.

As a result of local weather circumstances 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 america.

Coming to America

Carniolan bees have been launched into North America within the mid-late 1800’s. As we speak, we now have Carniolan strains (blended 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 packages such because the New World Carniolan mission. They’ve some qualities that researchers wish 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 well-liked sort of honey bee – rating slightly below Italians (Apis mellifera ligustica).

  • speedy Spring buildup
  • match brood rearing to circumstances
  • 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 recent nectar and pollen is accessible.

Likewise, if meals sources turn into scarce (maybe a dearth) – brood rearing is diminished shortly. This helps forestall colony hunger throughout a brief time period drought or related circumstances.

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

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

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

Some colonies produce a lot of it that colony inspections are made very troublesome. 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 could be a particular benefit if the honey vegetation in your space are tube formed. That is the case for some forms of clovers.

Carniolans possess an excellent sense of route or orientation. Beekeepers know that generally forager bees return to the flawed 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 scenario. Some hives turn into to sturdy and others lose wanted employees.

That is one motive we paint our beehives in particular colours. However, 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: Professionals and Cons

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


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

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

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

Not many individuals I do know take pleasure in bee stings. Beekeepers perceive why bees sting and work to keep away from it. Nonetheless, in case you are preserving 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 circumstances on overcast days than some varieties. This may increasingly assist them be good honey producers -even when climate circumstances should not best.

Robbing could be a huge 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 illnesses. Nonetheless, they require upkeep and varroa monitoring and management identical to every other colonies.


Even these great bees should not with out some minuses that must be thought of.

  • 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 charge. This will trigger undesirable swarms for beekeepers that don’t preserve up to the mark.

As a result of speedy charge of growth, hive inspections could also be wanted extra continuously throughout Spring. Packing containers needs to be added to the hive on the proper time to keep away from over-crowding.

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

We depend on good climate to permit bees to forage on Pink Maple and different early meals sources. This offers them a chance to rear brood for the key movement.

A really chilly or moist late Winter/early Spring may end up in sluggish buildup except the beekeeper feeds the hive. Monitoring colony circumstances on heat days turns into essential in these conditions.

Variations between Italian Bees and Carniolans

Because of their shut kinship, you can see some ways in these bees are alike. That’s an awesome factor as a result of it implies 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 are noticeable between the pure strains.

  • Italians are the preferred race of bee in america
  • A hive of Italians will begin brood manufacturing sooner than Carniolans
  • Carniolans – faster to ramp up or scale back brood rearing as meals availability modifications
  • Italian queens scale back brood rearing earlier within the Fall
  • Carniolans have a better tendency in direction of swarming
  • Each races are comparatively mild and in a position to be managed
  • Carniolans defend the hive towards bugs a bit greater than Italians –hornets, yellow jackets and so forth.
Close up of worker bee cleaning her long tongue.

Discovering pure Carniolan honey bees within the U.S. is nearly inconceivable. Most commercially out there package deal bees or nucs are a mixture of genetics – no matter what the adverts say.

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

Bee breeders – via synthetic insemination produce breeder queens of a pure nature. However, these are a whole lot of {dollars} and out of attain of the common pastime beekeeper.

Needless to say there isn’t any excellent honey bee. Once we say {that a} sort 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 sector 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 in a position to 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 methods 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 varieties however will sting in protection.

Sources embody:

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


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