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Сarniolan bees

Carniolan bees

Carniolan bees (Apis mellifera carnica, Pollmann) derive their name from the Carniola region (Slovene: Kranjska; German: Krain; Italian: Carniola; Hungarian: Krajna) which is now part of Slovenia. The export of bees from Krajna started about 100 years ago. In many European countries, and especially in Germany, after the invention of the honey extractor and the frame beehive, interest in beekeeping increased and soon the demand for bees increased considerably, which the entrepreneurs from Carniola (Kranjska, Krain, Krajna) and the neighboring Austrian province of Carinthia rushed to satisfy.

How Carnica came to be called

These bees were first described in 1880 by Pollmann, an apiculturist from Bonn, who gave them a scientific name. This is how Apis mellifica carnica Pollm came to be. In giving the Krajina and Carinthia bees this name, Pollmann apparently derived it from the name “Carnian bee”, which occupies a small mountainous region of the Carnian Alps, located somewhat west of the border between Krajina (now Slovenia) and Carinthia. Under this name the Krajina and Carinthian bees have been known for a very long time. It is found in ancient books and thus may be considered the earliest name of this bee. It is interesting to note that in general the name carnica comes from the Celtic people living in Carinthia, whose representatives were called carni. The word carni, in turn, comes from the Celtic word carn, which means pointed cliff.

The question of naming this breed of bee is not a secondary issue. The fact is that in the countries that imported this bee in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, it was called by the locality from which it was delivered. Thus, in Germany and Switzerland, and still to this day, the whole race is sometimes called Krainian or Carinthian.

There are now reasons for believing that it is inappropriate to call the whole of this bee Krainian or Carinthian. Two circumstances make it necessary to agree with this view.

In recent decades, after research work has been undertaken and carried out on bees in many European countries, it has become clear that bees of a type that was thought to be characteristic only of Carinthia and Krajina occupy a very large range and are widespread throughout Southeastern Europe. They inhabit not only Yugoslavia and Austria, but also Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia and part of Greece, and in the north they occupy the Carpathians. It is clear that for all these bees, belonging by a number of important features to one species, a common name uniting all populations is necessary. The old names Carniolan bee, Craine bee and Carinthian bee – can no longer be considered acceptable. These names now refer only to the local bees of Carinthia and Slovenia (Krajne). In general, the entire large population of bees in Southeastern Europe is given the name “carnica”, which is based on the official scientific name of this bee.


The Carniolan honey bee (Apis mellifera carnica) is distinguished by its characteristic gray color with silver down. Yellowing is rare and indicates interbreeding. All carnica lines are quite large. The worker bee weighs up to 190 mg, the drones up to 235 mg, and the queen up to 210 mg.


Carnica is a peaceful bee. The variability in this trait for the general mass of bees does not seem to be very great, although it is well known that between and within different populations of Carnica there are forms that are both extremely peaceful and more aggressive. Nevertheless, the peacefulness of Carnica cannot be compared to the aggressiveness of Russian bees, which are very prone to aggression. At the same time Buckfast is more peaceful than Carniolan bee (Carnica).

Carniolan bee is not only peaceful but also very calm. This quality is expressed by the fact that during inspections the bees continue to behave as if they are not disturbed at all. They sit calmly on the honeycomb and keep well on it. Inspections of colonies of the most peaceful forms can be carried out at any time of the year and in any weather without smoke.

К. M. Dole (Adelaide, Australia) reports that when transporting bees to a honey harvest, the air temperature in hives with Italian bees rose faster and stayed at a higher level than in hives with Carnica bees. Italian bees suffered more from the heat. Calm behavior during transportation is a characteristic feature of Carnica bees.


One of the characteristic features of carnivorous bees is their ability to quickly build up strength and make good use of spring nectar.

They are characterized by high honey production even in areas with poor nectar.

High productivity of the queen with the ability to lay eggs up to 2500 thousand eggs per day.

They build honeycombs well and use little propolis.

Winter resistance

High level of winter resistance. Consume a small amount of honey during the winter period. Have protection against honey dew toxicosis.  Gather in medium-sized colonies before winter.

Robbery tendency

Carnica is not inclined to rob neighboring colonies as Italian bees, Cordovan and Caucasian bees.

Swarming tendency

Not everything is so obvious about swarming. There are different opinions about it. Some say that Carnica is prone to swarming, some say it is not. The truth lies somewhere in the middle and we can say that Carnica has an average tendency to swarm.  This is due to the fact that the bee quickly builds up its numbers when nectar appears. Therefore, if you do not follow this and do not expand the hive, you can provoke swarming. But it should be taken into account that there are different lines of Carnica, which can differ from each other in some properties. Some are more prone to swarming and some less so.

Carnica lines

There are many lines of Carnica (Carniolan bee). Here we will list only some of them.


It is a typical Carnica with very early emergence of brood and early termination of brood rearing at the end of summer. Goes into hibernation weak. Requires good care and sufficient feed throughout the summer. Swarming depends on the beekeeper’s action.


Behavior and morphological features are typical for Carnica. Brood quantity is average, family strength is average. Spends little forage. An economical bee for areas with scarce bribery.


Also a typical carnivore, however, due to colonies of greater strength it collects more honey.

 Sklenar 47.

 These bees differ considerably from the typical Carnica. They start brood rearing relatively late, but the rate of colony development is very high. They prefer a nest of large volume, and the strength of the families is high. With some help from the beekeeper, the family maintains a high brood level throughout the summer. Goes into winter quite strong and develops well from spring. Some researchers consider this bee to be an intermediate form between the dark northern bee and the carnica.


Peace-loving, friendly nest defender, characterized by strong health, resistance to mites and ability to fight them independently.

Pros and cons

Representatives of this breed are quickly gaining popularity among beekeepers. Insects are bred not only for their high productivity and long period of honey collection. These are individuals characterized by good health, economical maintenance. It is worth highlighting a number of characteristic advantages that made the bee in demand among apiary owners.


– Productivity of one family per season, depending on the climate, reaches 70 kilograms.

– Average swarming, which is quite easy to foresee or eliminate. Often the blame lies with the beekeeper if the living space for the colony is not expanded in time.

– The worker bee has the ability to work. Do not stop frost, rain, sudden changes in temperature.

– A high level of olfaction excludes the possible entry of individuals into the hive.

– The bee is peaceful. Aggression is shown only when there is a real threat. The beekeeper can maintain hives without protective equipment.

– They winter in a compact colony composition. This makes it possible to save on forage reserves.

– With the arrival of spring, actively develop colonies and early make the first flights. This allows you to collect an early harvest of up to 30 kilograms from each hive.


– Due to excessive insect activity, bee deterioration occurs quickly. The same situation can happen due to a long warm fall.

– Warmer days activate the queen, which sometimes produces brood until November, forcing worker bees to carry more pollen, which is already scarce at this time of year.

– Some have noted a tendency to swarm. Although if you take real breeding material, there are no such problems.


But the above disadvantages do not affect the popularity of the breed. Beekeepers are successfully engaged in breeding. Carnica is among the three most popular species at the apiary. It has all the necessary properties both for commercial beekeeping and for amateur level.

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