Carniolan bee (Apis mellifera Carnica) in Slovenia

Janez GREGORI

Janez POKLUKAR

Janez MIHELIČ

Historical review of the development and recognition of the Carniolan bee

Rothschütz was the first exporter of the Carniolan bee and soon he was followed by many others. One of these exporters and certainly the largest and most known was Mihael Ambrožič (1846-1904) from Mojstrana, who expanded his business worldwide. One of his orders went as far as Far East Russia to Vladivostok. From 1872 to 1904 he sent away close to 40,000 beehives, according to some sources the number was even as high as 74,343 Carniolan beehives with queen bees.

Jan Strgar's commercial bee-house in Bitnje by Bohinjska Bistrica

3 - Jan Strgar's commercial bee-house in Bitnje by Bohinjska Bistrica

Jan Strgar from (1881 - 1955) from Bitnje later became our largest breeder and exporter of Carniolan bees. Beside him there were many other beekeepers trading in that period. In 1906 only in Carniola there were 21. In the period between 1858 and the end of WW I, the export of at least 170,000 swarms is documented, with some estimates claiming even the number as high as 500,000.

    4 - A container for transport of bee swarms (Beekeeping museum in Radovljica)

The newspaper Slovenian Bee, first published in1873, was also very important in promotion of the Carniolan bee. At the same time the German newspaper, Die Krainische Biene, edited by Rothschütz himself, was published. Monthly Magazine Slovenian Beekeeper has been performing an outstanding mission in promoting an informative outlook about the Carniolan Bee. In this jubilee year of the Apimondia Congress in Ljubljana it has reached its 106th year of publication.  From a large selection of contemporary literature on the Carniolan let us mention two books: Josip Verbič’s Raising the best honey bees, 1947, and Jože Rihar’s Let’s raise better honey bees, 1972.

5 Antique queen cages (Beekeeping Museum  in Radovljica )

In the mid -19th century beekeeping with promotion of swarming was very profitable. In addition to honey the beekeeper also made profit with the sale of swarms. Beekeepers encouraged propensity to swarming in order to acquire as many colonies as possible to take to pastures of buckwheat, the blooming of which starts as late as in august.

After WW I, trade in honeybees almost ceased. Introduction of large leaf hives made it possible to harvest larger amounts of honey than with beekeeping with smaller traditional hives. Suddanly swarming became an unwanted feature. Later on there were several attempts in this area to make an organized selection of bees within the realm of the beekeepers' association, by following  several foreign examples. The great Slovenian beekeeper, Anton Žnidaršič played a big part in these activities. WW II put stop to all these promising endevours. After WW II several large projects financed by the beekeeeprs association failed, which made the attempt of collectivization unsuccessful. The organized selection of the Carniolan bee within the beekeeping association was not realized inspite of several attempts to restart it.

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