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Carniolan Honey Bees

Carniolans (Apis mellifera carnica) are said to be closely related to Italians. That is not surprising, as they are native to a small area south of the Alps, but east of the Italians territory.

Carniolans have gained in popularity in the U.K., presumably because of the problems many beekeepers see with Italians. In some countries, carniolans have become the bee of choice, but I have spoken to some beekeepers in those areas who tell me that getting rid of the native bees (mainly Amm) was a big mistake and there are moves to restore the situation to what it was.

Carniolans have evolved in an area where the summers are warm but short, with winters being long and cold. For that reason, they are able to winter with small clusters to conserve food, with a very rapid build-up in the spring. In the UK, especially when beekeepers have stimulated the colony for early build-up, I have seen combs of brood in the spring that in my opinion are very short of nurse bees to look after them and my concern is the larvae won't get adequate nutrition, possibly leading to chalk brood and European foul brood (EFB), that are known to be aggravated by poor nutrition. In summer, the queens are prolific, needing a large single brood box or double brood B.S. hive .

I have handled carniolans in Eastern Europe and as with other pure races, I find them to be docile. I have never used carniolan bees myself, but they have a reputation for swarming heavily - inveterate being a common word. I have seen a colony headed by a young queen one year swarm early the next and both the swarm and colony have swarmed again the same year. I have spoken to beekeepers who say this can be selected out, but not according to beekeepers I have spoken to in countries where there is a high concentration of carniolans. If it is so easy to select out, then why are carniolans still so swarmy?

Roger Patterson.

Page created 19/04/2014

Page updated 02/12/2022