Italian or Carniolan?

Having trouble deciding whether you want to order Italian or Carniolan bees? Here is a quick run down of the differences:

Italian (Apis mellifera liguistica)

ItaliansThese bees were brought to the US in the mid-1800s courtesy of Reverend Langstroth, the same person who discovered bee space and invented the original Langstroth hive configuration. True to their name, they originate from temperate Italy and are well-suited to the mild climate of most of the US. The Italians quickly replaced the German Black bee that was in fashion at the time because they were gentler, had a longer proboscis (tongue), and were less susceptible to European Foulbrood. They have been the most popular bee for US beekeepers ever since!

Pros: Italian bees are highly productive foragers and once they get going for the summer they tend to maintain high numbers of worker bees. Their gentle demeanor makes them easy to work, and the light golden color makes the queens quite easy to see. They don’t tend to propolize heavily, but this tendency can vary by colony and conditions. They also don’t swarm quite as much as many other races.
Cons: Italians don’t forage as far as Carniolans. They can be slow to build in spring, especially under wet Willamette Valley conditions. They don’t respond to external conditions as readily as some other races, and may try to keep more brood than they can raise with their existing food stores. Italians tend to orient by color, so they can drift from hive to hive, leading to low populations in some hives and contributing to the spread of maladies.

Carniolan (Apis mellifera carnica)

Carniolan queen bee imageCarniolan bees hail from the harsher, colder climates of northern Europe. They tend to desire more storage space so that they can put away greater pollen and nectar stores for the winter. Swarms of this race tend to disperse more widely than Italians. Sue Cobey has worked to bring a fresh supply of Carniolans to the US, which helps to diversify the very limited genetic pool honey bees have here.

Pros: Carniolans respond quickly to changes in nectar and pollen availability. They can build up a workforce and break it down more quickly than Italians. They fly at colder temperatures. They may be less susceptible to brood pathogens and don’t rob as often, so diseases may spread more slowly in a Carniolan apiary. They are commonly agreed to be as gentle as Italians.
Cons: These bees are much more likely to swarm, as evidenced by many first-year Carniolan hives that swarmed here in the Willamette Valley last year. They may be slow to build up, but keep in mind that if resources are limited this can be an advantage. It can be difficult to see the darker queen with this race of bee.

The Beekeeper’s Handbook, Diana Sammataro and Alphonse Avitabile
Honeybee Ecology, Tom Seeley

A Beekeeper’s Toolkit


Advice from Jen Holt –

Here at the store I get a lot of questions from beekeepers about what should be included in a beekeeping toolkit.  While the options may seem endless, I have assembled a list of essential items compiled over the years through trial and error.

THE CONTENTS OF MY TOOLKIT (in no particular order of importance):

  • A large sturdy basket for carrying everything to the bee yard
  • Leather gloves (2 pair)
  • Smoker with cork plug and fire proof container for transport
  • Blow torch for lighting smoker
  • Two spare stick lighters (I never use matches – they seem clumsy and inefficient!)
  • Smoker fuel organized into three bags – long burning fuel (raw cotton, dry wood chunks, wood pellets, etc), quick starting material (pine shavings and newspaper), and a bag of smoke sticks
  • Duct tape
  • Bee brush
  • Bag of miscellaneous items including corks for hive box entrance holes, plastic mesh sheets for grease patties, queen cages, nuc box entrance plugs, and queen marking                 equipment
  • Small spray bottle
  • Scissors
  • Top bar hive tool
  • Frame grips
  • Spacer tool (mine spaces 7 frames in an 8-frame hive) assortment of standard hive tools (7″, 10″, etc)
  • Maxant hive tool (I have two)
  • Frame holder
  • Slow release queen cage
  • Queen excluder cleaning tool
  • Uncapping tines (or ‘cappings scratcher’) – I use this to open drone cells for mite monitoring, and later for honey extracting
  • Notebook
  • Pens, pencils, permanent marker
  • Camera

This is a lot of items to have on hand, but it works for me and my specific needs, and everything except the smoker can be carried in the basket.  I also take a mite sampling kit with me on occasion.  I find that having a sampling kit made up ahead of time and always ready to go motivates me to sample for mites more often.


  • Large plastic tub to shake bees into (Rubbermaid or similar)
  • Smaller plastic container for emptying and examining sample (pie plates work well too)
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Wide mouth quart mason jar with lid and ring
  • Additional wide mouth canning jar rings fitted with #8 or smaller hardware cloth

*  see for Randy Oliver’s detailed techniques on mite sampling – this kit is a modified version of what he uses.