How to Become a Beekeeper: 2 Species of Bees for Beginners

beekeeper-beekeepingSo you’ve just started to get into beekeeping — and good for you! It’s a great way to spend your time and the reward is so worth it when you discover that you’re able to help out and maintain an entire hive. But with so many bees in the world, how do you know which stock is best for you and your lifestyle? Here are a few suggestions, featuring two of the most popular bee stocks in the United States:

1. Carniolan Bees

These kinds of bees have origins in Middle Europe and start breeding early on in March, sometimes even late February if the weather gets warm early.

  • PROS

This earlier reproduction is better for the hive because they generally have a high yield. They are also more tolerant of colder climates and longer winters than other bees, making them a good first-time bee for the entire year. They are also less likely to steal honey from other colonies, preventing disease transmission. They are gentle when overcrowding is not a major problem. Carniolans tend to be proficient as they adjust worker bee population to the availability of nectar as well.

  • CONS

They are more likely to swarm and potentially be defensive if overcrowding is a problem. Carniolans struggle during the hot summer months.  There is a lot of time, money, and effort involved in making them thrive and live pleasantly.

2. Italian Bees

Italian Bees were brought to the US in the mid-19th century, so American beekeepers have had years of experience with them.

  • PROS

Italian bees are extremely efficient at producing great quality honey. They are significantly less defensive compared to other bee stocks. Their coloring is desirable and unique. They also tend not to swarm when under stress.

  • CONS

They tend to eat their own honey if there is a surplus, particularly in the springtime. They are also known to steal honey from other colonies, making disease transmission possible. In addition, they are not known to fare so well during cold winters.

Remember these tips:

  • All generalities about certain bee groups should be treated with caution, as they are still somewhat unpredictable and can act uniquely against the norm.

  • Some beekeepers allow oversimplifications about certain bee groups so that you can make the best judgement about which bee stock to get, based on their experiences.

  • Bees will act however their Queen acts — meaning, if your bee is particularly defensive, the others will act so as well. If you want to change the stock’s behavior, swap out the Queen.

To get started beekeeping, get Big R’s beginner beehive kit!


About Big R

Bill and Pat Crabtree originated the Illinois Big R Stores in 1964 opening the first store in Watseka, Illinois. To date 20 stores have been opened in Illinois and Indiana; 2 stores in Ohio and 1 store in Wisconsin and we are still proud to be family-owned and operated. Our 12 Illinois stores are located in Watseka, Gibson City, Danville, Tilton, Pontiac, Morris, Pekin, Washington, Rochelle, Homer Glen, Streator and McHenry. Our 8 Indiana stores are located in Warsaw, 2 locations in Elkhart, Rochester, Wabash, Crawfordsville, Michigan City, and Marion. Our 2 stores in Ohio are located in Lima and Findlay. And 1 location in Wisconsin in Burlington. The offices and warehouses for Big R remain in Watseka, IL. Farm and Ranch store owners in the western states started the Big R brand name; they chose the name "Big R" to convey the "Ranch" identity. The Big R group is now comprised of 12 independent owners with store locations throughout the U.S. They all are members of Mid-States Distributing Company of St. Paul, MN. The Mid-States Coop has over 600 stores throughout the United States and Canada.