Buying Honeybees Online – Difference Between Italian and Carniolan Honeybees

Welcome back to Novice Rancher. In this post I want to discuss the difference between two of the most common honeybee species you will find for sale in the US. I’ll break down a few of the important talking points when considering which species would be best suited for your apiary.

They both have their positive and negative attributes, but both are excellent choices regardless. This post isn’t intended to sway you in any way, this is simply a couple key factors I weighed before I made my purchase.

Without further ado…

Popularity Amongst Beekeepers

The top choice for new beekeepers in the USA is the Italian honeybee. Due to their gentle temperament and ease to work with, they have become quite popular among novice beekeepers. When starting out, the docile nature of the Italian honey helps gain confidence with the new comers. They are known for their honey production, cleanliness inside the hive, comb production, and being excellent foragers.

Carniolan honeybees are another very popular bee among the beekeeping community. In other parts of the world, they are quickly growing in popularity due to their unique qualities. They too are known for their very docile and gentle behavior, explosive brood production, disease resistance, sense of orientation, and are less prone to robbing. Although they are quite popular in other parts of the world, they are still less common in the US than the Italian honeybee.

Brood Production


Italian queens will begin increasing their brood production in the early spring and will continue generate brood at that pace throughout the summer. One down fall to this method of production is that she will continue to increase the population even when the nectar flow has slowed down. When that happens, the bees tend to consume the honey reserve they built up in the supers. You can counter this by simply removing the supers during the dearth. However, when the population is still high and the nectar slows down, the Italian honeybees are known for robbing other hives which inadvertently spreads diseases. After the last nectar flow of the year, the queen will begin to draw back the population of the hive to prepare for winter.

Carniolan queens are known for their explosive brood production in the late spring once the pollen and nectar start coming in more frequently. The amount of brood the Carniolan queen produces is such a short time is admired by many beekeepers. However, due to the population growing so rapidly, it can sometimes lead to swarming. This can be countered by the addition of hive boxes to allow the bees more room. When the nectar flow slows down between seasons the queen will also slow the brood production, which seems like a positive aspect, but it can also hinder the growth of the colony. Some beekeepers choose to feed the colony during slow nectar flows to keep the population at its peak. Due to the queen rearing a high volume of brood later in the year, the colony will go in the winter with greater numbers and a stronger colony.

Honey Production


In general, the Italian honeybee is known to be a good honey producer. However, they tend to be at the mercy of the weather quite often. During cooler days and overcast, don’t expect the honeybees to be out collecting. They are a little reluctant to leave the hive during undesirable conditions. If you have a summer of poor weather, you will likely have a low honey production that year.

Due to the Carniolan honeybee’s ability to collect nectar during poor weather and the pure volume at which they can collect due to sheer numbers, they are considered to be very good honey producers. Keep in mind that they will go in to the winter with a larger population than their counterparts, so they will likely need the excess stored honey and pollen to make it through the winter though.

Surviving the Winter

The Italian honeybee will go in to the winter as a smaller cluster. Only the queen and the workers will take on the colder months, as drones (males) are kicked out of the colony to die in order to preserve the food source. They will eat through their honey and pollen surplus slower because of their low numbers, but may have a difficult time keeping the hive warm. In my region, it’s very common to see the hives insulated during the winter months to assist with the temperature. A cold hive lead to a dead hive in my experience.

The Carniolan honeybees will typically go into the winter as a larger cluster of bees, making them a better option for the northern states where the temperature is much colder. Even though the hive will start out stronger and will likely be more suited to regulating the temperature in the hive, they will also eat through their honey and pollen reserve faster. If they do run out of food, they may require supplemental feeding in order to keep them going through the end cold months.

Which Species Should You Choose

Now that you have a better understanding of the two species, you’ll find that both have their own unique qualities that would make an excellent addition to any bee yard. Another factor for some may be the price of the honeybees themselves. The prices of the two vary depending on where you get them from, but in my experience the Carniolan are a little more expensive.

For those of you that want to try something completely out of the norm, there are plenty of other species that you can try. Just do your research before making your decision, as they may not be that popular for a reason.

If your still having trouble deciding which honeybees would be best for you, try contacting your local beekeepers to see what they recommend. They have likely figured out which species are best suited for the climates and nectar flow in their area.

I hope you found this helpful and if you have any questions feel free to leave me a message and I’ll gladly get back to you.

Best of luck…






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