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Carniolan vs Italian Honey bees

We have used both in our family-run apiary and have strong opinions on the Carni vs Italian honey bee's performance and attitude (if you can call it that).

It Depends-

Let me start off by saying, our experience isn't going to mean your experience, as there are a ton of factors, like: breeding programs, weather, hive conditions, management strategies and others. And, I am not going to exercise the discussions around any of those merits and why you may or may not have differing results. But these are ours and we are located in Western WI, we overwinter outside in single deeps that are heavily insulated year round and run a treatment free commercial operation. We manage all our bees for Varroa with timely splits and other non-chemical strategies. This is what we do, and we think you need to do what works for you. Well now that we have that out of the way, let's get into it.


  • Carniolans: Generally known for their gentleness and docility, making them easier to manage, especially for new beekeepers. They tend to be less defensive and easier to work with during inspections.

  • Italians: Often described as lively and active, sometimes exhibiting more defensiveness, especially in hot weather. However, they can still be calm and manageable with proper handling.

Honey Production:

  • Carniolans: May produce slightly more honey than Italians in cool and overcast climates due to their willingness to forage on less ideal days. They are also efficient at utilizing pollen, which can indirectly boost honey production.

  • Italians: Known for their prolific honey production in good weather conditions. They excel at finding new nectar sources and can build strong colonies quickly.


  • Carniolans: Tend to winter well due to their ability to cluster tightly and conserve energy. Their smaller winter cluster size may require less food compared to Italians.

  • Italians: Can also winter well with proper management, but their larger winter clusters may need more food supplies. Their swarming tendency can become an issue if not addressed before winter.

Other Considerations:

  • Swarming: Both breeds can swarm, but Italians are generally known to be more prone to it. Timely management practices like splitting hives can help control swarming in both breeds.

  • Disease Resistance: Both breeds have similar disease resistance levels, although individual breeding programs can vary.


The "better" breed ultimately depends on your specific needs and location. Consider your climate, beekeeping experience, and desired outcomes when making your decision. Both Carniolans and Italians can be productive and enjoyable to work with. Highlight your personal experiences and observations throughout the post, but be sure to emphasize that beekeeping success depends on more than just the bee breed.

My Experience:

I have a preference for Carni's mainly because they have shown a higher tolerance for natural mite loads and they always seem to be calm. We started breeding a mix of Carniolans and Italians to help increase honey production as I noticed Carniolans tend to produce a little less honey each season. It's not by much, maybe 10-25% less, however, we want to also produce a line that has great VSH qualities without sacrificing that honey production for commercial keepers. Our girls still produce well over 100 pounds of excess honey each year per hive. You can get more info on our queen breeding process or you can get your hands on our honey bee genetic line.

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