Italian or Carniolan Honeybees? Which is right for you?



The queen bee will ultimately determine the characteristics of the hive, however Carniolan and Italian bees do have some key differences! Read on to see which bee is right for you:



By far, the Italian honeybee is the most popular bee for beekeepers in the USA. The Italian bee is so popular and manageable that they are easy to work with for new beekeepers and experienced beekeepers.

Carniolan bees are in the minority of bees in the USA.

Spring Brood Production:

Italian queens begin very early in increasing their brood production. The queens tend to begin increasing their brood production once the pollen begins to come into the hive.

The Carniolan Queens have a slower start-up in brood production and require more pollen and some nectar coming into the hive. There could be up to a 45-day delay on brood production.

Fall Brood Production:

Italian queens tend to reduce their brood production as soon as the nectar sources end. This will mean that you will have average hive population going into winter.

Carniolan queens tend to continue strong brood production into late September. This means that you will have stronger and larger hives going into winter.


First, all bees have tendencies to swarm under certain circumstances. It is the way they were designed to reproduce themselves.

Italian bees will tend to swarm during their second year within the hive. This will happen during the Spring season and into summer. Overall, the Italian has average tendencies to swarm.

The Carniolan bee has a higher tendency to swarm in the first year going forward. This should not be under-estimated. The reason why swarming is a higher risk is due to the following issues: 1. The queen production of brood is explosive. Once the queen begins to lay maximum eggs, the hive can run out of bee space within 60 days. 2. Lack of bee space can be overcome by adding additional supers and allowing more bee space within the hive. 3. The Carniolan just has a genetic trait to swarm.

Honey Production:

Italian bees once again are the standard for honey production. Italians tend to not gather nectar during cooler and overcast days. So, if you have a cool and overcast Spring season, your honey production will be lower.

Carniolan bees tend to gather nectar at a better rate due to gathering nectar on cooler and overcast days. It has been our experience that the Carniolans produce about 15% more honey then the Italians due to their ability to fly on cool and overcast days.


Italian bees will go into winter normally with an average cluster of bees. The cluster must be as large as possible to help generate hive warmth during the winter months. Low hive warmth equals a loss of bees.

The Carniolans normally will go into winter with a large cluster of bees. This is a positive, in one regard, and a negative also. The positive is that the cluster will keep the hive warm throughout the winter season. The main negative is that the large cluster needs to eat and thus they will eat through their stored honey much more rapidly. This means you will need to feed your hive in early to mid-February.