A Guide to the Species of Honey Bees thumbnail image

A Guide to the Species of Honey Bees

Like any other animal, there are many different types of honey bees, each with its own unique details and characteristics. Scientists and beekeepers have studied these different bee species to learn more about how they work, the role they play in their environments, and how we can best interact with and protect them. If you’ve ever wondered about the different honey bee species and all their unique characteristics, look no further than this guide.


The Carniolan honey bee is extremely popular among beekeepers for several reasons. These bees have a remarkably gentle temperament, making it easier to work with and around their hive. Carniolan bees also have a remarkable spring buildup, which means they can take advantage of the early spring blooms and create a large, productive population by the time summer comes around. However, beekeepers who keep Carniolan bees must keep an eye out for swarming, since the early population blooms create a higher tendency to swarm in the summer.


Another beekeeper favorite, the Italian honey bee, has it all: a peaceful attitude, fantastic honey production rates, and less of a tendency to swarm. Many beekeepers have found success with this popular honey bee. However, their longer brood cycles mean they go through resources quickly. This also leads to Italian bees stealing honey from neighboring hives, which increases the risk of diseases spreading among populations.


You can spot the German bee—also known as the black bee or the German dark bee—by its dark brown or black hair. German bees are far more defensive than their Italian or Carniolan cousins, and their more aggressive temperament has caused them to fall out of favor with many beekeepers. However, German bees are also a hardy stock used to surviving in the long, harsh winters of northern climates. Unfortunately, this strain is more susceptible to diseases, and the population has sustained serious damage during the last few decades.


Caucasian bees have large, gray, hairy bodies and longer tongues that allow them to reach nectar from flowers other bees might not be able to access. Like Carniolan and Italian bees, Caucasian honey bees have gentle temperaments. However, their hives grow slower in the spring and don’t yield as good of a honey crop as those of other species. Caucasian bees also tend to use an excess amount of propolis, or bee glue, when building their hives, making it harder for beekeepers to take honey or perform hive inspections.

Each of the different honey bee species has its pros and cons. Before you start your beekeeping journey, it’s important to know which type of bee species is right for you and your hives. Once you’ve made your decision, you can pick up your new bees, your hive box, and any other essential supplies at Mann Lake.

What specific bee-haviors have you noticed in your hives? Which honey bee species do you prefer? Share your experiences in the comments below.