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(Cut and pasted from http://www.carniolan.com/uk/caracter-uk.htm)

CARNIOLAN BEES - Origin Slovenea

ADAPTED TO FOUR DIFFERENTS ECOTYPE REGIONS, - the alpine one in the Northwest, the Mediterranean one next to the Adriatic Sea, the dinaro-karstic on in the Southeast and the Pannonian on in the Northwest.

Physical characteristics:carniolan_bee

Carniolan bees are nearly as big and long as the Western European black bees, though their abdomens are much slimmer. They have gray hairy stripe, which has led to the bees being known as the ‘GRAY BEE’. Their chitin is dark, but it is possible to find lighter colored or brown colored rings and dots on their bodies. Furthermore, the Carniolan bee has a very long tongue (6.5 to 6.7 mm, which is very well adapted for clover), a very high elbow joint and very short hair.

All those characteristics make the recognition of Carniolan bees easier, when compared to the other species.

- Carniolan bees adapt easily to different kinds of climatic conditions and landscapes. Just like Caucasian bees, Carniolan are gentle and Nnon-aggressive, which enables them to be kept in populated areas. They possess an excellent sense of orientation and flying ability (especially in mountainous regions) Carniolan forager bees usually live 4 to 9 days longer than other races. Being good wax producers, they are naturally clean (hence their advantage in comb honey production) and a low tendency to propolise. They do not rob honey from other beehives. They are strongly resistant to nosemia and dysentery. They are able to put up with extremely low temperatures and can over-winter with only 50% of their honey reserves, without getting sick. As well, they can spend up to 150 days inside the hive in winter. The over-wintering population is quite smaller than that of other bee races, but during spring and summer, the population grows substantially to a comparable size. When compared with the other species, Carniolan bees prove to be the ones requiring the least amount of food for over-wintering (i.e. half of what Italian bees require) In advance of other honeybee races, the carniolans build up very rapidly in spring. This is the reason why they are also called ‘SPRING HONEY FLOW BEES’. This characteristic allows the colonies to take full advantage of the early honey flows in agricultural European countries. They then require to be treated carefully and require a progressive expansion of the broodnest to prevent from swarming.under the same conditions, the amount of honeyharvested from Carniolan hives was considerably greater than that of the Caucasian and Italian hives. ( 37% and 18% more respectively).


In comparison to the Carniolan bees, the Italian bees showed good results, but only with wildflower nectar sources and only in late summer or autumn. With other nectar sources, (such as coniferous nectar sources), the honey yields were disappointingly lower. The Italian bees showed a greater ability in maintaining a larger colony size in autumn, even after the autumn honey flows are finished in Slovenia. There is also no denying that the Italians show a lesser tendency to swarm as compared to the Carniolan and that the Italians do not require the same extent of management skills.

The results given by the Caucasian bees were similar to those obtained with the Italian ones. The Caucasian spring build up was noticeably smaller, while their summer colonies were very strong. They did not swarm, but did propolise a lot more.

As far as the population of each species is concerned, the output given by the Caucasian colonies was inferior to the Italian and the Carniolan colonies by 19% and 37% respectively. Even though Carniolan bees are well known for their being quiet, the Caucasian bees did behave much better, being the least aggressive and the quietest.

The most amazing results were obtained with the coniferous honey flow during winter, as both Italian and Caucasian colonies performed noticeably badly compared to the Carniolan . The reserves were similar in every beehives, i.e. 1/3 epicea and 2/3 Saturea montana. The beehives were placed 5 km away from the sea, at an altitude of 80m above sea level. Over the winter, the Italian and Caucasian colonies developed nosemia and dysentery. Their strength deteriorated, to the point of delaying their development.

On the opposite, Carniolan colonies did not get sick and over-wintered in very well. This is explained by the fact that the bees decrease their activity in winter. By contrast, the Caucasian bees are still very active in late autumn, and Italian colonies will maintain a small patch larva, up to 2dm2 even in extremely difficult winter conditions. This characterises a higher rate of consumption of winter stores, which weakens the colonies.

Caucasian and Italian bees do not consume much of the fall honey (specifically picea honey) and winter reserves must not include wood honey leftovers. Italian bees consume too much during winter, which is only viable in countries where fall honey flows are of exceptional quality and happen late in the season.

Beekeepers who choose to breed Carnica bees have to respect some basic rules to make the most of their potential:

- from the 20th of July until the 10th of September, the bees will only be productive once they have accumulated a total of 7 kilos of food, with a 200g daily minimal requirement.

- Before winter, one must make sure that the bees are fed enough, so that their are enough reserves for the coming winter (around 16/22 kilos per bee-hive, while Italian bees need twice as much). These honey reserves must be at the correct moisture content and capped. Under extreme conditions, 3 more kilos are required.

- overall, Carniolan bees consume 5 to 9 kilos during winter while the rest is usually used up in spring

- Ideally, Carniolan bees require from 250mm to 400mm of capped honey reserves in height in the hives bodies, spread over 9 to 12 frames.

- It might be counter-productive to feed the bees quickly and lately.

- If one follows the process mentioned above, the winter cluster should include enough young and strong worker bees for optimal over-wintering conditions (from –5 to +5 degrees centigrade).

This is important in order to ensure an early spring build up.

Carniolan Queens start laying eggs as early as mid-January. In February, the size of the colony is usually limited, yet the process of egg laying follows a steady path.

- in March and April, the growth of the hive is remarkable and, as a result, hives get filled pretty quickly with brood. It is worth noting that there is a risk of swarming, a) providing that 450 bees exceed a volume of 1dm3;
b) that the frames are still filled with honey; and
c) that the weather is agreeable. Swarming becomes unavoidable when there are 520 bees per dm3.

- An important fact to remember is that the hive population increases by 450% over the first three months of spring (from 16/22 thousand in winter to 80 thousand in late June)

es_exp1.jpg (20108 octets)



How to prevent bees from swarming ?

- it is first necessary to increase the volume of the beehive provided to the bees to live in, so that the Queen has enough space to lay eggs and that she does not meet a fence (full frame). This means that the frames filled with honey should be removed and replaced with wax in order to contribute to building.

- Moreover, if under severe climatic conditions, it is recommended working with 160-174 mm-high and 9-12 mm-wide frames so as to be able to enlarge the family. (type Langstroth beehive)

It is crucial not to hinder the colony development in order to let the younger bees work as much as possible and obtain stronger families.

To conclude, the exploitation of Carniolan bees will prove to be the most beneficial if the beekeeper has great observation abilities, both from a theoretical and practical perspective. The beekeeper should ensure a neat and gradual enlargement of the beehive body, as too quick a development would harm the bees while too late and insufficient an increase would result into swarming. Furthermore, bees should be able to run building activities while young bees have to be kept busy and to work a plant, so that colonies can adjust to any kind of main flow. Beekeepers should also swap queens, check that the frames are adequately waxed and protect bees from sickness.

Carnica bees somehow require more care than other species, especially during periods of swarming, yet attentive and devoted beekeepers will always be rewarded for their efforts and will obtain outstanding results.

(Cut and pasted from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carniolan_honeybee)

The Carniolan honey bee (Apis mellifera carnica) is a subspecies of Western honey bee. It originates from Slovenia, but can now be found also in Austria, part of Hungary, Romania, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia.


The bee is the subspecies of the Western honey bee that has naturalized and adapted to the Carniola region of Slovenia, the Southern part of the Austrian Alps and North Balkan. These bees are known as Carniolans, or short Carnies, in English. At present this race (i.e., subspecies) is the second most popular among beekeepers (after the Italian honey bees). It is favored among beekeepers for several reasons, not the least being its ability to defend itself successfully against insect pests while at the same time being extremely gentle in its behavior toward beekeepers. These bees are particularly adept at adjusting worker population to nectar availability. It relies on these rapid adjustments of population levels to rapidly expand worker bee populations after nectar becomes available in the spring, and, again, to rapidly cut off brood production when nectar ceases to be available in quantity. It meets periods of high nectar with high worker populations and consequently stores large quantities of honey and pollen during those periods. They are resistant to some diseases and parasites that can debilitate hives of other subspecies.

Anatomy and appearance

Carniolan honey bees are about the same size as the Italian honeybee race, but they are physically distinguished by their generally dusky brown-grey color that is relieved by stripes of a subdued lighter brown color. Their chitin is dark, but it is possible to find lighter colored or brown colored rings and dots on their bodies. They are also known as the ‘Grey Bee’.

Carnica bee on Sedum telephium with pollen basket
Carnica bee on Sedum telephium with pollen basket

Carniolan bees are nearly as big and long as the Western European black bees, though their abdomens are much slimmer. Furthermore, the Carniolan bee has a very long tongue (6.5 to 6.7 mm, which is very well adapted for clover), a very high elbow joint and very short hair.

Character and behavior


  • considered to be gentle and non-aggressive
  • can be kept in populated areas.
  • sense of orientation considered better than the Italian honey bee race
  • less drifting of bees from one hive to a neighboring hive
  • when compared to the Italian race, they are not as prone to rob honey
  • able to overwinter in smaller numbers of winter bees; honey stores are conserved.
  • able to quickly adapt to changes in the environment
  • better for areas with long winters
  • rhythm of brood production very steep. Brood rearing is reduced when available forage decreases
  • small use of propolis
  • resistant to brood diseases
  • for areas with strong spring nectar flow and early pollination
  • forage earlier in the morning and later in the evening, and on cool, wet days.

Not beneficial

  • more prone to swarming if overcrowded
  • low ability to produce wax and build comb (not uniformly accepted as fact)
  • low ability to thrive in hot summer weather
  • strength of broodnest more dependent on availability of pollen
  • dark queen is difficult to find

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