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basic terms of beekeeping with which a beginning beekeeper might want to become familiar. Selected in part from the glossary of Kim Flottom's book The Backyard Beekeeper and The New Starting Right with Bees A Beginner's Handbook on Beekeeping 21st Edition by A.I. Root Co.., Publisher


the action of all bees leaving the hive due to extreme stress, disease, pests, or danger such as a fire

African honey bees

a subrace of honey bees, originally from Africa, brought to Brazil, that has migrated north into the U.S. They are extremely defensive and nearly impossible to work.

Alarm pheromone

Pheromone released by worker bees during an emergency

American foulbrood (AFB)

a brood disease of honey bees caused by the spore forming bacterium Paenibacillus larvae.


The part of a flower that produces pollen: the male reproductive cells.


where honey bee colonies are located: often called a beeyard


The science and art of keeping honey bees.

Bait hive

a box, often an old brood box, composed of a comb or two, a top and bottom and a small entrance hole, used to attract swarms. It is often placed in an apiary.

Balling the Queen

The action of worker bees attacking a new queen, or a queen cage, intent on killing her because she is foreign. Often occurs during queen introduction.

Bee bread

a mixture of pollen and honey used as food for the bees

Bee escape

a device used to remove bees from honey supers during harvest by permitting bees to pass one way but preventing their return.

bee space

1/4"-3/8" space between frames for bees to move around and in which bees live.


a complex mixture of organic compounds secreted by eight glands on the ventral side of the worker bee's abdomen: used for molding six-sided cells into comb. Its melting point is from 144-147 degrees F (62-64 degrees C)

Bee veil

a cloth or wire netting for protecting a beekeepers face, head and neck from stings.

bee venom

the poison secreted by glands attached to a bee's stinger

Bee Yard

a location where honey bee colonies are kept

Bottom board

the floor of a bee hive. May be screened or solid

Brace/burr comb

comb built between parallel combs, adjacent wood, or two wooden parts such as top bars.


The term used for all immature stages of bees, eggs, larvae, and pupae.

Brood chamber

the part of the hive in which the brood is reared

Capped brood

pupae whose cells have been sealed as a cover during their nonfeeding pupal period


the thin, pure wax covering of cells filled with honey: the coverings after they are sliced from the surface of the honey-filled comb when extracting the best beeswax.


dark colored race of bees from Eastern Europe which are very gentle.


grayish-colored race of bees from Europe, use excessive propolis


A single hexagonal (six-sided) compartment of a honey comb.

Chilled brood

developing bee brood that have died from exposure to cold.

Cleansing flight

a quick, short flight bees take after confinement to void feces.


a group of bees hanging together for warmth.


adult bees and developing brood living together including the hive in which they are living

Colony Collapse Disorder

a pathogen-driven condition in the honey bee colony in which the adult bees are stricken and leave the hive to die. Ultimately only the queen, a very few young bees, and (depending on the time of year), a large quantity of brood are left. It is suspected to be virus driven but concrete proof has not been discovered.


a sheet of six-sided cells made of beeswax by honey bees in which brood is reared and honey and pollen are stored

Comb foundation

a commercially made sheet of plastic or beeswax with the cell bases of worker or drone cells embossed on both sides.

Comb honey

honey produced and sold in the comb, made in plastic frames and sold in round, plastic packages.

Cremed (Crystallized) honey

honey that has been allowed to crystallize under controlled conditions

Cut-Comb Honey

Comb honey, cut-comb honey and chunk honey are all derived from a full frame of capped honey, made on foundation without wires. Cut-comb honey is a piece of comb honey cut to fit into a container. The edges are drained before being packaged. Chunk honey is a piece of cut-comb honey placed in a jar, which is filled with liquid honey.


a series of repeated movements of bees on comb used to communicate the location of food sources and potential home sites


a time when nectar or pollen or both are not available


partitioning a honey bee colony to form two or more units, often called divides or "splits".

Drawn comb

comb with cells built out by bees from a foundation

Drone comb

comb measuring about four cells per inch in which the queen lays unfertilized eggs that become drones.

Drone layer

a queen able to produce only unfertilized eggs, thus drones


the first stage of a honey bee's metamorphosis

Entrance reducer

a wooden or metal device used to reduce the large entrance of a hive to keep robbing bees out and to make the entrance easier to defend, and to reduce exposure to wind and the elements outside.

European foulbrood (EFB)

an infectious brood disease of honey bees caused by the bacterium Melissococcus (formally Streptococcus) pluton.

Extracted honey

liquid honey removed from the comb with an extractor.


worker bees producing Nasanov pheromone and sending it out to bees away from the colony as a homing beacon


any one of a number of devices used to feed honey bees sugar syrup including pail feeders, in-hive frame feeders, hive top feeders, and entrance feeders.

Fertile queen

a queen that can lay fertilized eggs


worker bees that work (forage) outside the hive, collecting nectar, pollen, water and propolis.

Formic Acid

a chemical treatment for varroa and tracheal mites. Pads of absorbent material are soaked in a strong solution of formic acid which are added to a bee hive. The acid volatizes and the fumes are toxic to mite populations.


four pieces of wood/plastic (top bar, a bottom bar and two end bars) designed to hold foundation/drawn comb.


a chemotherapy used in the prevention and suppression of Nosema, sometimes sold under the brand name Fumidil-B

Fume board

a rectangular frame, the dimensions of a super, covered with an absorbent material such as cloth or cardboard, on which a chemical repellent (Bee Go or Bee-Quick) is placed to drive bees out of supers for honey removal


the formation of sugar (glucose) crystals in honey

Grease patty

a mixture of vegetable shortening and granulated sugar placed near the brood area of a bee hive for tracheal mite control

Guard Bees

after bees have been house bees, but before they become foragers, many spend time as guard bees: stationed at the front door or other entrance, checking incoming bees to make sure they belong to their hive.


sections of whole tree trunks with a complete, natural honey bee hive inside. There are then moved to a bee yard and are tended like a manmade beehive. The word comes from the tree species often preferred by bees: gum trees in the Appalachian region of the U.S.


a man-made home for bees

Hive tool

a metal tool used to open hives, pry frames apart and remove wax and propolis.


a sweet material produced by bees from the nectar of flowers, composed of glucose and fructose sugars, dissolved in about 18% water: contains small amounts of sucrose, mineral matter, vitamins, proteins and enzymes.

Honey flow

a time when nectar is available and bees make and store honey

Honey stomach

a portion of the digestive system in the abdomen of the adult honey been used for carrying nectar, honey, or water.

Hygienic Bees

honey bees that have a genetic trait that pushes them to remove dead, diseased or mite-infested larvae from a beehive are said to be hygienic


the order of insects that all bees belong to, as do ants, wasps, and sawflies.

Inner cover

a lightweight cover used under a standard telescoping cover on a beehive

Italian bees

most widely used race of honey bees in the United States: originally from Italy.

Langstroth Hive

our modern-day, man-made, moveable frame hive named for the original designer.

Larva (plural larvae)

the second (feeding) stage of bee metamorphosis, a white, legless, grublike insect.

Laying worker

a worker that lays drone eggs, usually in colonies that are hopelessly queenless.

Marked queen

A queen, usually produced by a commercial producer, that has been marked with a spot of colored paint on the top surface of the thorax to make her easier to find in a hive and to insure a beekeeper that the queen has not been replaced by a new one produced by the colony.

Mating flight

the flight or flights made by a virgin queen when she mates in the air with several drones.


the four stages (egg, larva, pupa, adult) through which a bee passes during its life.


a sweet liquid secreted by the nectaries of plants to attract insects.


A digestive disease of honey bees, treated with Fumigillin.

Nuc or Nucleus (plural nuclei)

a small, two to five frame give used primarily for starting new colonies.

Nurse bees

young bees, three to ten days old, that feed and take care of developing brood.


simple eyes (3) on top of a honey bee's head. Used primarily as light sensors.

Package bees

screened shipping cage usually containing three pounds of bees, usually a queen, and food.


paradichlorobenzene crystals used as a last resort as a fumigant to protect stored drawn combs against wax moth infestation.


the general name for chemicals used to kill pests of many varieties. Subcatagories include insecticides and fungicides.


a chemical secreted by one bee that stimulates behavior in another bee. The best known bee pheromone is queen substance secreted by queens that regulate many behaviors in the hive.


the male reproductive cells produced by flowers, used by honey bees as their source of protein

Pollen basket

a flattened area on the outer surface of a worker bee's hind legs with curved spines used for carrying pollen or propolis to the hive.

Pollen trap

a mechanical device used to remove pollen loads from the pollen baskets of returning forager bees.


the transfer of pollen from the anthers to the stigma of flowers.


sap or resinous materials collected from the buds and wounds of plants by bees, then mixed with enzymes and used to strengthen wax comb, seal cracks and reduce entrances, and smooth rough spots in the hive.


the third stage in the metamorphosis of the honey bee, during which the larva goes from grub to adult.


a fully developed female bee capable of reproduction and pheromone production. Larger than worker bees.

Queen cage

a small cage used for shipping and/or introduction of a queen into a colony.

Queen cell

a special elongated cell in which the queen is reared. Usually an inch or more long, has an inside diameter of about 1/3 inch and hangs down from the comb in a vertical position, either between frames or from the bottom of a frame.

Queen cell cup

A round, cup-shaped structure that workers build on the bottom of frames to accommodate a future queen cell.

Queen excluder

metal or plastic grid that permits the passage of workers but restricts the movement of drones and queens to a specific part of the hive.


a colony of honey bees with a healthy queen is said to be "queenright".


a narrow ledge on the inside of the upper end of a hive body or super from which the frames are suspended.


beens stealing honey, especially during a derth and generally from weaker colonies.

Royal jelly

a highly nutritious glandular secretion of young bees, used to feed the queen and young brood.

Russian bees

a line of honey bees that had spent generations exposed to varroa mites without miticides. They were brought to the U.S. from eastern Russia for their innate resistance to mites.

Scout bees

foraging bees, primarily searching for pollen, nectar, propolis, water or a new home.


a woven basketlike container, often covered with mud or dung used to house honey bees. Not legal in the U.S.

Small hive beetle

a destructive beetle that is a beehive/honey house pest living generally in the warmer areas of the U.S. Originally from South Africa.


a device used to produce smoke, used when working a bee colony

Solar wax melter

a glass-covered insulated box used to melt wax from combs and cappings.


an internal organ of the queen that stores the sperm of one or more drones.


the modified ovipositor of a honey bee used by workers in defense of hte hive and by the queen to kill rival queens.


principal sugar found in nectar


a hive body used for storying surplus honey placed above the brood chamber.


a natural or emergency replacement of an established queen by a daughter in the same hive.

Surplus honey

honey stored by bees in the hive that can be used by the beekeeper and is not needed by the bees.


about half the workers, a few drones, and usually the queen that leave the parent colony to establish a new colony.


developing queen cells usually found on the bottom of the frames: reared by bees before swarming.


The middle section of a honey bee, that has the wings and legs and most of the muscles.

Tracheal mite

Acarapis woodi. The tracheal infesting honey bee parasite

Uncapping knife

a specially designed knife used to remove the cappings from sealed honey


combining two or more bee colonies to form a larger colony.


the chemical injected into the skin when a honey bee stings. It's what makes being stung painful.

Virgin queen

an unmated queen


Varroa Sensitive Hygiene. Honey bees can locate a larva in a capped cell that contains varroa. VHS bees remove the infected larva and mites, and thus reduce varroa populations in a honey bee colony.

Wax moth

larvae of the moth Galleria mellonella., which damages brood combs.

Worker bee

a female bee whose reproductive organs are undeveloped. Worker bees do all the work in the colony except for laying fertile eggs.

Worker comb

comb measuring about five cells to the inch in which workers are reared.


The posterior or third region of the body of the bee that encloses the honey stomach, stomach, intestines, sting and the reproductive organs.


Swarms which leave a colony with a virgin queen, after the first (or prime) swarm has departed in the same season; afterswarms are also referred to as secondary or tertiary swarms.

Bee brush

a soft brush or whisk (or handful of grass) used to remove bees from frames

Boardman feeder

a wooden or plastic device that fits into the entrance of a bee hive and holds a quart jar that can be filled with syrup or water.

Bottling Tank

a plastic or stainless steel tank holding five or more gallons of honey and equipped with a honey gate to fill honey jars.

Buckfast Hybrid

A strain of bees developed by Brother Adam at Buckfast Abbey in England, bred for disease resistance, disinclination to swarm, hardiness, comb building and good temper.

Cage shipping

Also called a package, a screened box filled with two to five pounds of bees, with or without a queen, and supplied with a feeder can; used to start a new colony or to boost a weak one (see package bees)

Candy plug

A fondant type candy placed in one end of a queen cage to delay her release.

Capping scratcher

A fork-like device used to remove wax cappings covering honey, so it can be extracted.


A disease affecting bee larvie, caused by a fungus Ascosphaera apis, larvae eventually turn into hard, chalky white "mummies".

Chimney effect

The tendency for bees to fill only the center frames of honey supers; happens when bees are given too much room too fast.


A thin, silk covering secreted by larval honey bees in their cells in preparation for pupation


Also known as glucose (grape sugar), it is a simple sugar (or monosaccharide) and is one o fhte two main sugars found in honey; forms most of the solid phase in granulated honey.


The movement of bees that have lost their location and enter other hives; common when hives are placed in long straight rows where returning foragers from the center hives tend to drift to the row ends.

Drone congregating area (DCA)

A specific area to which drones fly waiting for virgin queens to pass by; it is not know how or when they are formed, but drones return to the same spot year after year.

Fermenting honey

Honey which contains too much water (greater than 20%) in which a chemical breakdown of the sugars takes place producing carbon dioxide and alcohol; caused by naturally occurring osmophylic yeasts of the genus Saccharomeyces (formerly Zygosaccharomyces)


The activity of young bees, engorged with honey, hanging on to each other and secreting beeswax.

Field bees

Worker bees which are usually 21 or more days old and work outside to collect nectar, pollen, water and propolis; also called foragers.


Natural food source of bees (nectar and pollen) from wild and cultivated flowers.

Foundation, wax

Thin sheets of beeswax embossed or stamped with the base of worker (or sometimes drone) cells pn both sides on which bees will construct a complete comb (called drawn comb); also referred to as comb foundation, it comes wired or unwired.

Foundation, wired

Comb foundation which includes evenly spaced vertical wires for added support; used in brood and extracting frames.

Foulbrood, American (AFB)

A malignant, contagious bacterial disease affecting bee larvae caused by a spore-forming bacteria Bacillus larvae.

Foulbrood, European (EFB)

A serious, infectious larval disease of honeybees caused by Melissoccoccus pluton formerly Streptococcus pluton, a spore-forming bacteria.


The process by which honey, a super-saturated solution (more solids than liquid) will become solid or crystallize; speed of granulation depends on the kinds of sugars in the honey.


An excreted material from insects in the order of Homoptera (aphids) which feed on plant sap; since it contains almost 90% sugar, it is collected by bees and stored as honeydew honey.

Honey house

A building used for activities such as honey extraction, packaging and storage.

Honey supers

Refers to hive bodies used for honey production.

Honey plants

Plants whose flower (or other parts) yields enough nectar to produce a surplus of honey; examples are asters, basswood, citrus, eucalyptus, goldenrod, and tupelo.

Langstroth, L.L.

A Philadelphia native and minister (1810-95). Lived for a time in Ohio where he continued his studies and writing of bees, recognized the importance of the bee space, resulting in the development of the movable-frame hive. Generally recognized as the "father of modern beekeeping"

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