Traits of Common Honeybee Strains

Author: Meera, October 6, 2014


Worker honeybees drinking water on a hot day

Italian worker honeybees drinking water on a hot day


There are four main strains of domestic honeybees: Italian, Carniolan, Caucasian, and German Black.  The bees in my backyard hives are of the Italian variety. They are gentle and co-exist with my chickens as well as tolerate visits from my daughter’s dogs who drop by to sniff around.


Italian, apis mellifera linguistica.

  • Their coloring includes yellow pigmentation; the only honeybee with this coloring.
  • They are gentle
  • They don’t go great distances to forage
  • They tend to produce honey stores in late summer and continuing foraging until late in the autumn to produce enough honey to get through the lean winter months
  • They are not considered frequent swarmers
  • They have a moderate spring buildup of the hive
  • They may drift somewhat


Carniolan–apis mellifera carnica are honeybees that evolved on the European continent, particularly around Slovenia, Austria, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

  • Carniolan honeybees are big and long in size like the Western European black bee.
  • They possess a long tongue and high elbow joint
  • They have pigmented dark spots in brown or gray and also have gray hairs
  • They rapidly build up their numbers in the spring
  • They are calm and gentle, not aggressive
  • They swarm heavily
  • They forage even under less than ideal conditions
  • They may drift



Caucasian--apis mellifera caucasica emerged in the Black Sea Caucus mountains and can be found today in Georgia, Turkey, Armenia, and Azerbaijan.

  • Their color is mostly dark with some gray or brown spotting.
  • They are gentle
  • Slowly build their numbers in the spring
  • Swarm less
  • They produce lots of propolis (baby bee food)
  • They tend to stop foraging and making honey stores early in the fall
  • They winter over well except in northern climates where Nosema can be a problem
  • They have a tendency to drift



German Blackapis mellifera mellifera was the first bee in America and still is prominent in feral populations but they are native to England and Germany.

  • Their size is small
  • Their pigmentation is dark
  • They are not noted for gentleness
  • They are susceptible to American foulbrood (AFB), one of the most dreaded diseases to affect honeybees
  • They have survived in areas invaded by the aggressive Africanized bees
  • They are well suited to northern climates





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