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Apis mellifera carnica

Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Apidae
Subfamily: Apinae
Genus: Apis
Subgenus: (Apis)
Species: A. mellifera
Subspecies: A. m. carnica
Trinomial name
Apis mellifera carnica
Pollman, 1879

Apis mellifera carnica, commonly called the Carniolan honey bee or Grey bee, is a sub-species of Western honey bee. It originates from Slovenia, but can now be found also in Austria, part of Hungary, Romania, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia.


This bee is the sub-species of Western honey bee that has naturalized and adapted to the Carniola region of Slovenia, the Southern part of the Austrian Alps and North Balkans. These bees are known as Carniolans, or short Carnies, in English. At present this race (i.e., sub-species) is the second most popular among beekeepers (after Italian honey bees). It is favored among beekeepers for several reasons, not the least being its ability to defend itself successfully against insect pests while at the same time being extremely gentle in its behavior toward beekeepers. These bees are particularly adept at adjusting worker population to nectar availability. It relies on these rapid adjustments of population levels to rapidly expand worker bee populations after nectar becomes available in the spring, and, again, to rapidly cut off brood production when nectar ceases to be available in quantity. It meets periods of high nectar with high worker populations and consequently stores large quantities of honey and pollen during those periods. They are resistant to some diseases and parasites that can debilitate hives of other subspecies.

Anatomy and appearance[]

Carniolan honey bees are about the same size as the Italian honeybee race, but they are physically distinguished by their generally dusky brown-grey color that is relieved by stripes of a subdued lighter brown color. Their chitin is dark, but it is possible to find lighter colored or brown colored rings and dots on their bodies. This has lead to the alternate name, the Grey bee.

Carnica bee on sedum telephium

Carnica bee on Sedum telephium with pollen basket

Carniolan bees are nearly as big and long as the Western European black bees, though their abdomens are much slimmer. Furthermore, the Carniolan bee has a very long tongue (6.5 to 6.7 mm, which is very well adapted for clover), a very high elbow joint and very short hair.[1]

Character and behavior[]


  • considered to be gentle and non-aggressive
  • can be kept in populated areas.
  • sense of orientation considered better than the Italian honey bee race
  • less drifting of bees from one hive to a neighboring hive
  • when compared to the Italian race, they are not as prone to rob honey
  • able to overwinter in smaller numbers of winter bees; honey stores are conserved.
  • able to quickly adapt to changes in the environment
  • better for areas with long winters
  • rhythm of brood production very steep. Brood rearing is reduced when available forage decreases
  • small use of propolis
  • resistant to brood diseases
  • for areas with strong spring nectar flow and early pollination
  • forage earlier in the morning and later in the evening, and on cool, wet days.

Not beneficial

  • more prone to swarming if overcrowded
  • low ability to produce wax and build comb (not uniformly accepted as fact)
  • low ability to thrive in hot summer weather
  • strength of broodnest more dependent on availability of pollen
  • dark queen is difficult to find


  1. Graham, Joe. The Hive and the Honey Bee. Hamilton/IL: Dadant & Sons; 1992; ISBN 0-915698-09-9.

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