Queen honey bee surrounded by workers

What are the differences between Italian and Carniolan Honey bees?

What’s all the buzz about? What makes the Italian and Carniolan Honey bees different? First – both lines of bees are great for beginners and experts alike. At West River Exchange we use both in our Apiaries all across Ohio.

Why you need to know the difference between Italian and other types of honey bees.

It’s really important to know the difference in the type of bee you’re purchasing, not just to make sure you know what you’re getting but so that you can wade through the endless sea of ads that talk about Italian Honey Bees for Sale, or Italian Honey Bee Queens for sale… it some times seems like the list never ends.

It is also important to know the difference between the types of bees for a safety standpoint. It is absolutely true that Italian Queen bees will produce daughters (workers) who will sting you if you get close to the hive, but Russian Queen bees may produce hives that are capable of chasing you for 40 or 50 yards if they are not handled the right way.

One of the first question all of our customers asks us is “Which honey bee should I get?” If you’re just starting out, planning to start beekeeping, or have been in this for a few years there is one universal truth and that is if you ask 10 bee keepers for an answer you will probably get 11 different answers.

Italian Queens look different than Carniolan Queen Bees.

The first difference between the two types of honey bees is how they look. vs

On the left we have an Italian queen honey bee and on the right we have a Carniolian queen. Both of these queens are currently in our hives right now. You can see that the Italian queen is lighter in color, as are her daughter worker bees. (Fun tip: One easy way to locate a queen bee is to look for a ground of 6 to 7 worker bees circling a long slender bee) The Carniolan queen is much darker in color, the queen we pictured above is actually kind of light in color for the “Carni” line as they get very dark.

The way the bees “behave” on and around the hive is important.

The next major difference between the two species of honey bee are how they act in the hives, and this is why both are good for beginners. Some species, which are great with more experience, tend to get “fiesty.” Italians are considered a very “gentle” type of honey bee (note: they will absolutely try to sting you) and what this means is that if you handle them correctly they will mostly ignore you. Carniolan honey bees are a little more nervous from time to time, but they also do much better when it’s overcast out.

And speaking of overcast. One of the great traits of the Carniolan is that they will go out and fly/forage in cooler, more overcast, days than Italian bees will. This means that if you live someplace like we do in Ohio, where it can get cloudly a lot and weather is cool in the Spring and Fall then Carni’s can be great for you.

The last major trait we will discuss today is what everyone who has been doing this for at least a year worries about – swarming. What is swarming? Swarming is where honey bees divide their hives in half and the queen flies off with half the honey, bees, and other stores. This is not ideal, but it can be managed. Both Italian and Carniolan bees have a significant desire to swarm because of how fast they build up their hives. This is completely manageable and we can help guide you through it.

In the end, if you are looking for Ohio honey bees for sale to put in your hives you will not go wrong with either Italian or Carniolan honey bees. If you have questions feel free to give us a call.