GLOSSARY OF BEEKEEPING TERMS
We hope you find this glossary useful. If there are terms you would like to see included, or you can share photos or videos that illustrate some of the terms below, or you spot any inaccuracies, please contact Pauline.
The third and largest body segment of the bee which contains the heart, stomach and intestines. In the worker, it contains the sting and wax glands. In the drone it contains the testes. In the queen it contains the ovaries and the spermatheca.
Disease caused by a mite (Acarapis woodi), which infests the bee’s tracheae leading from the first pair of spiracles on the thorax. Known as the Isle of Wight disease because if was first noted there in 1906.
A strip of wood, usually fixed to the hive stand or as part of the floor, which protrudes in front of the entrance, giving a platform on which bees can land before running into the hive.
American Foul Brood
A disease caused by a spore-forming bacterium (Paenibacillus larvae subspecies larvae). Develops in the gut of the larva and kills it after the cell is sealed. This causes sunken and perforated cappings which indicate the problem. It is a notifiable disease.
A protozoan, Malpighamaeba mellificae, which affects the bee’s equivalent of the kidneys.
A severe reaction resulting from an acute allergy to bee venom. It may cause sudden death unless immediate medical attention is received. A useful source of advice is the Anaphylaxis Campaign: www.anaphylaxis.org.uk/
One of a pair of ‘feelers’ on the head of the bee which carries sensory cells for touch, smell and vibration. Plural: antennae.
The place where one or more hives are kept.
The practice of keeping bees.
A thymol-based treatment for control of Varroa destructor.
A slow-release polymer strip pyrethroid formulation specifically designed for use in beehives for control of Varroa destructor.
A wooden feeder the same size as the hive box. There is one syrup reservoir to which bees gain access from one side.
A hive placed to attract stray swarms.
A slow-release polymer strip pyrethroid formulation specifically designed for use in beehives for control of Varroa destructor.
A container for housing honey bees. It consists of a floor, brood box, one or more supers, an inner cover and a roof. Any sort of structure used by a beekeeper for housing honey bees.
See Royal jelly
The space left by bees between the comb and other surfaces in the hive. It is large enough for queen, worker and drone to pass through.
A long, full-body suit, usually made from light cotton and polyester, worn by a beekeeper for protection and comfort while opening beehives or collecting swarms.
The situation where there is no way in or out for bees or wasps.
A person who keeps bees (usually honey bees) in a hive.
A hydrocarbon produced from glands on the underside of the abdomen of the worker bee. Used by bees for comb building and capping cells.
Bottom bee space
See also bee space, top bee space. Equipment is often described as top or bottom bee space. Top bee space allows bees to pass over the top of the frames, bottom bee space enables them to pass below the frames. Equipment of the two types should not be mixed as it will result in either too much space between frames in different boxes, which will result in brace comb, or too little space between them which will lead to the bees sticking the two boxes together with Propolis.
Bridges of wax built between adjacent surfaces in the hive.
The immature live stage of the bee. Cells containing eggs and larvae are known as open brood. Sealed cells in which the larvae pupate into adult bees are known as sealed brood.
The area in which the queen is confined and the brood is reared. One or more brood boxes may be used.
The area within a hive or within a wild bees nest where the brood is being raised. This is normally a slightly squashed sphere or rugby ball shape, spread over several combs.
The pattern of concentric swirls of brood at different stages of development. A good brood pattern has few empty cells and indicates that the queen’s brood is largely healthy.
Wax built on a comb or upon a wooden part in a hive but not connected to any other part.
A board for clearing bees from honey supers. It has no moving parts. Bees pass through narrow gaps and fail to find a way back. They come in many different patterns.
See ‘Sealed brood’.
Honey covered with a thin layer of wax – once the conversion from nectar is complete, the bees cover the honey with wax to prevent moisture from entering and spoiling it.
The beeswax covering over a cell. Cappings over honey consist of wax only. Those over brood include hair and other materials.
The same as a swarm in all respects except that it may contain one or more unmated queens.
A different form of the same sex. Bees have two castes in the female form – queen and worker.
A thin piece of metal into which slots are cut to take frame lugs. They are fastened to the inside upper end of the hive body from which the frames are suspended. They are designed to maintain a constant spacing between frames and are available with differing numbers of slots.
Small, six-sided hexagonal wax compartments making up honey comb. Used to store honey and pollen and to rear the juvenile life stages of bees.
Caused by a fungus (Ascosphaera apis), which affects sealed brood.
One made by bees which have been confined to the hive for long periods such as in winter or during bad weather. Bees avoid defecating inside the hive and make a cleansing flight when the weather improves.
An inner cover designed to accommodate one or two Porter bee escapes.
Frames arranged at right angles to the entrance of a hive. See also ‘Warm way’.
The viable living unit for honey bees comprising a queen and workers. During the summer, male drones are also present.
The mass of six-sided beeswax cells built by honey bees in which brood is reared and honey and pollen are stored. The comb is built in two layers, with the cells in each layer pointing in opposite directions and the layers joined at the base of the cells.
Typical of insect vision. In the bee, the two eye patches are composed of thousands of separate eyes which combine results to give the bee a picture of its world.
One which gives bees direct contact with the contents. It does not cover the whole of the hive surface area and must be surrounded by an eke or empty super so that the roof can be replaced tightly.
See Inner cover.
See Inner cover.
Cut comb foundation
Very thin sheets of beeswax foundation. It is as close as practicable to the thickness of the mid-rib found in naturally built comb.
Natural comb or comb built on thin foundation cut to a size to fit a container for sale.
One of the two principal sugars that constitute honey. Also known as glucose. The other principal honey is fructose (levulose).
Foundation where the cells have been drawn out by the worker bees into full depth cells.
The tendency of bees from one colony to accidentally enter another when returning from foraging flights.
Sections of the comb built for raising drones. The cells are slightly larger than worker cells and have a convex, domed capping when sealed.
Drone congregation area
The places where drones congregate to mate with virgin queens who travel to the same areas.
A queen that lays only unfertilized eggs which develop into drones. This may be because she failed to mate or because she did not mate with a sufficient number of drones and has used up all the sperm stored in her spermatheca.
The male bee, reputed to be lazy, but actually works hard at his true function – to fly to drone assembly areas and mate with a virgin queen.
A slab of wood cut to the same size as a frame to take its place in a hive.
Caused by an excessive amount of water in a bee’s body. Afflicted bees cannot hold waste products in their bodies and defecate inside the hive. Usually caused by prolonged confinement during winter and early spring and consumption of food with high water content. Often, but not invariably, associated with Nosema.
The first stage of honey bee metamorphosis. Eggs laid by the queen appear as small, thin, rods, usually placed in the bottom of the cell. They look like tiny white bananas, about 1.6 mm long.
Four pieces of wood nailed together into a square the same size as the hive. Used to extend the hive when required.
An area of capped brood where the young adult bees are starting to emerge from their cells.
A removable block of wood used to reduce the width of the hive entrance.
The elongated space across the front of a beehive through which bees exit and enter the hive.
European Foul Brood
Caused by a bacterium (Melissococcus plutonius). Infects the gut of the developing larva and competes for food. Does not kill all affected larvae. A notifiable disease not confined to Europe.
The hard outside covering of all insect bodies, including bees.
See Honey extractor
The chemical breakdown of honey, caused by sugar-tolerant yeast and associated with honey having a high moisture content. Used to advantage when making mead.
A queen, inseminated instrumentally or mated with a drone, that can lay fertilized eggs.
Worker bees old enough to have largely completed their duties in the hive that go out foraging for nectar and pollen. Foraging generally starts at three weeks of age.
The annoying habit of some bees to follow and possibly sting another animals coming near to their nest. Some can follow for a good distance from the colony.
See ‘Flying bees’.
The act of seeking for and collecting nectar, pollen, water and propolis.
Beeswax sheets impressed with the shape of cell bases and the bases of the cell walls. It can be obtained in sizes suitable for worker and drone cells. It can be strengthened with wires or used without.
A narrow piece of folded metal fastened to the inside upper end of the hive body from which the frames are suspended.
Plastic or metal spacers which fit over frame lugs and butt up to the spacer on the adjacent frame to ensure constant spacing. Can be narrow or wide. Wide spacing is used only in supers where deeper honey storage cells are desired.
Wooden or plastic structure designed to hold bee comb and enable the beekeeper to inspect and utilize it fully.
Recently collected nectar in the process of conversion into honey. Significant often in early Spring when there may be capped stores from the Autumn but fresh stores indicate the bees have begun to collect nectar again.
The predominant simple sugar found in honey, also known as levulose.
When crystals are formed naturally in honey by the least soluble sugar (dextrose), especially when its temperature falls.
Bees that wait at the hive entrance to guard it from invaders, such as foreign bees, wasps, animals or humans. Guard bees give off an alarm pheromone (scent) if the hive is disturbed or threatened, and are the first to fly at and attack the invader.
The act of just lifting a hive from its support to ascertain its weight.
See Bee hive
A structure that supports the hive and raises it off the ground.
The composite lever/scraper used in the manipulation of a colony.
A type of self-spacing frame.
A species of bee that makes honey as winter stores, builds wax nests and lives in perennial colonies. There are 7 species and 44 subspecies. Apis mellifera is the most commonly domesticated species.
An organ in the bee’s abdomen used for carrying nectar, honey or water.
Machine that allows honey to be extracted from combs so that they can be reused.
A heightened influx of nectar into the hive brought about by favourable weather conditions and the availability of suitable flowers.
A holding tank for honey that allows air to rise to the surface before bottling using the tap at the base.
The concentrated form of nectar which will keep for a long time. The colour and flavour of honey depends on the flowers from which the nectar is gathered.
The product of sap-sucking bugs such as aphids. Collected by bees when it is diluted by dew. Honeydew flows therefore occur early in the day.
A young worker that stays in the hive and performs tasks such as feeding young larvae, cleaning cells, and receiving and storing nectar and pollen from foragers.
A board which is placed over the frames just beneath the roof.
The practice of looking into a hive and usually checking individual brood frames to establish the health and state of a colony.
Integrated Pest Management
The use of substances and specific manipulations to a colony to reduce the population of Varroa destructor.
Invert sugar syrup
A liquid sugar syrup formed by inversion, or chemical breakdown, of sucrose resulting in an equal mixture of glucose (dextrose) and fructose (levulose).
See ‘Integrated Pest Management’.
A period during June when availability of forage is seriously reduced. This could cause colonies to starve unless the beekeeper checks their stores and feeds if necessary.
The second stage of bee metamorphosis. The grub-like larva hatches from the egg. It then develops into a pupa and changes into an adult.
A worker that lays unfertilized but fertile eggs, producing only drones. This occurs if a colony becomes queenless and is not able to raise a new queen.
The flight taken by a virgin queen when she mates in the air with several drones.
An alcoholic wine-like drink made from honey and water.
A type of mead made using fruit juice and honey.
See ‘Frame spacers’.
See ‘Frame runner’.
The moving of colonies of bees from one locality to another during a single season to take advantage of two or more honey flows.
A wooden feeder the same size as the hive box. There are two syrup reservoirs to which bees gain access from a central slot.
The commonest hive in use in the United Kingdom. It is a single-walled hive.
The shedding of its skin by a larva to make room for new growth.
A metal strip or similar containing holes that allow bees in and out of the hive but prevent mice from gaining access.
The sugary secretion of plants produced to attract insects for the purpose of pollination.
Marks on flowers believed to direct insects to nectar sources. They may be visible to the human eye or may reflect ultra-violet and hence be visible only to bees.
Caused by a microsporidian parasite (Nosema apis). This infects the gut of the bee and shortens its life by preventing it from properly digesting its food.
A small hive designed to contain three, four or five frames only. Used primarily for starting new colonies, or for rearing or storing queens. Also known as a ‘nuc’.
A small colony, usually on three, four or five frames.
Young worker bees, three to ten days old, which feed and take care of developing brood.
A short flight taken by a young worker in front of or near the hive prior to when it starts foraging in order to establish the position of the hive.
An apiary established away from the beekeeper’s home.
The narrow waist between the thorax and abdomen of the bee.
A substance produced by one living thing that affects the behaviour of other members of the same species. Pheromones produced by the queen help the colony to function properly.
See ‘Frame spacer’.
See ‘Queen cell cups’.
See ‘Orientation flight’.
The part of the plant carrying the male contribution to the production of future generations.
A segment on the hind pair of legs in a worker bee specifically designed for carrying pollen. Also used to bring propolis back to the hive.
The pellets of pollen carried by a foraging worker bee in the pollen baskets (corbiculae) on its hind pair of legs.
The transfer of pollen from the anthers to the stigma of flowers.
Porter bee escape
A device invented by an American of the same name. Two spring valves allow bees to pass through one way but not return. Used for clearing bees from supers.
The first swarm to leave the colony, usually containing the old queen.
The mouthparts of the bee that form the sucking tube or tongue. Used for sucking up liquid food (nectar or sugar syrup) or water.
A resinous material collected by bees from the opening buds of various trees, such as poplars. Colonies will stick parts of the hive together with Propolis making it necessary for the beekeeper to use a hive tool to prise them apart prior to inspection. Larger holes are often filled with a mixture of wax and Propolis. It inhibits bacterial and fungal growth and a very thin layer is used to polish the inside of the hive and the cells within the wax comb. The bees will also use it to mummify any foreign body too big to remove from the hive, such as a dead mouse.
The third stage in the development of the honey bee during which the organs of the larva are replaced by those that will be used by an adult. Takes place in a sealed cell.
One of the two variants or castes of the female in bees. Larger and longer than the worker bee.
An elongated brood cell hanging vertically on the face of the comb in which a queen is reared.
Queen cell cups
The base of a queen cell into which the queen will lay an egg designed to develop into a new queen.
A device with slots or spaced wires which allows workers to pass through but prevents the passage of queens and drones.
Complex pheromones produced by the queen. Transmitted throughout the colony through the exchange of food between workers to alert other workers of the queen’s presence. Its presence stops worker bees rearing more queens and/or inhibits them from laying eggs.
The situation when a colony has no queen. If bees have access to worker eggs or very young larvae, they are able to rear a replacement queen.
The situation when a colony has a living, laying queen.
See ‘Inner cover’.
Removable frame hive
A hive consisting of frames that can be removed individually.
Worker bees who attend the queen and care for her needs within the hive.
Ripe queen cell
A queen cell that is near to hatching. Bees remove wax from the tip, exposing the brown parchment-like cocoon.
When wasps, or bees from other colonies, try to steal honey from a hive.
A highly nutritious glandular secretion of young bees, used to feed the queen, young brood and larvae being reared as new queens.
A virus disease which prevents the final larval moult. The larva dies in its larval skin which is easily removed from the cell.
Worker bees that search for new sources of nectar, pollen, water and propolis. If a colony is preparing to swarm, scout bees will search for a suitable location for the colony’s new home.
The pupal stage in a bee’s development during which it changes into an adult.
Honey comb built into special bass wood frames. Generally sold complete. Also available in circular plastic form.
A frame in which the upper part of the side bar is extended to touch that of the adjacent frame. Designed to maintain a constant distance between adjacent frames.
See Honey ripener.
See ‘Small hive beetle’.
A swarm-sized mass of bees shaken, together with their queen, from one hive into another. Used to control swarming or diseases such as Varroa destructor or European Foul Brood.
A beehive constructed from straw which does not contain moveable frames. No longer in general use as a permanent home for a colony. Now often used for collecting swarms.
Small hive beetle
A small beetle (Aethina tumida) about one-third the size of a worker bee. Dark red, brown or black. Has distinctive fringed antennae. Both larvae and adults eat honey and pollen. Will spoil honey in the comb. It is a growing pest in the US although not yet thought to be present in the UK. It is however a notifiable disease in the UK.
The product of burning suitable materials. The best smoke for working with bees comes from organic materials such as rotten wood, shavings, dried grass, etc.
Device that delivers smoke in a precise manner. It was devised by Quinby and improved by Bingham both of whom were American beekeepers.
A special organ in the queen’s abdomen in which she stores sperm received from drones during mating.
Aperture found on the sides of the thorax and abdomen which lead to the breathing tubes or tracheae.
The defensive mechanism at the end of the abdomen used by worker bees to deter predators. The queen will use her sting to kill rival queens, usually when several are hatching or due to hatch during the swarming process.
A fungal disease similar to Chalk Brood but caused by a different organism.
Food stored in the cells of the comb. This may consist of fresh stores, capped stores and pollen. The weight of honey collected by bees, especially the reserves needed for winter.
A solution of sugar and water used to feed bees.
The box(es) placed on top of the brood chamber to increase the space available for the colony for honey storage.
A term used to describe the whole colony working together as a single organism that amounts to more than the sum of its individual parts.
Queen cells, often but not always found on the bottom of the combs before swarming.
See Swarm prevention
Methods used by beekeepers to prevent the physical conditions arising which stimulate a colony to prepare to swarm.
A mass of bees not in a hive. The bees may be wanting to establish a new colony or be absconding from a bad environment. It should contain a mated queen.
See Cut comb foundation
The second and central part of the bee’s body. It contains the flight muscles and has the legs and wings attached.
See top bar hive.
Top bar hive
A hive where the beekeeper has provided bars, usually wooden and often with a starter strip of wax, from which he hopes the bees will build their comb.
Top bee space
See also bee space, bottom bee space. Equipment is often described as top or bottom bee space. Top bee space allows bees to pass over the top of the frames, bottom bee space enables them to pass below the frames. Equipment of the two types should not be mixed as it will result in either too much space between frames in different boxes, which will result in brace comb, or too little space between them which will lead to the bees sticking the two boxes together with Propolis.
Tropilaelaps clareae and Tropilaelaps koenigerum are serious parasitic mites which affect both developing brood and adult honey bees, much as the varroa mite does. Its natural host is the giant Asian honey bee (Apis dorsala) but it can readily infest colonies of the western honey bee, Apis melifera. Tropilaelaps is not currently known to be in either the UK or the US but is a statutory notifiable pest of honey bees and any suspected infestation should be reported to the appropriate government department. An advisory leaflet on Tropilaelaps is available from the National Bee Unit
A knife used to remove the cappings from combs of sealed honey prior to extraction.
The act of combining two or more colonies to form a larger colony. Colonies are usually united if one is weak or has lost its queen. It is unwise to unite a small sick colony to a large healthy one.
A mite that breeds in sealed brood cells, feeding on the larval blood. If it does not kill the developing larva, it can lead to serious deformations such as shrivelled wings. It is the latest pest to affect bees in the United Kingdom.
The see-through but bee-proof garment worn by beekeepers to protect head and face against stings.
A condition in which a person, when stung, may experience a variety of symptoms ranging from a mild rash or itchiness to anaphylactic shock. A person who is stung and experiences abnormal symptoms should consult a doctor before working with bees again.
Poison secreted by special glands attached to the bee’s sting.
A young, unmated queen.
The most common communication dance used by bees to indicate a food source over 100 metres from the hive.
Frames arranged parallel to the entrance of a hive. See also ‘Cold way’.
Eight pairs of glands on the underside of the last four visible abdominal segments of the worker bee which secrete small particles of beeswax.
Wax moth (greater)
The greater wax moth (Galleria mellonella) is the most serious and destructive insect pest of unprotected honey bee comb in warmer regions. Wax moths primarily infest stored equipment but will invade colonies where the worker bee population has been weakened. The larvae chew into woodwork to make depressions in which to pupate.
Wax moth (lesser)
The lesser wax moth (Achroia grisella) has the same type of scavenging habits as the greater wax moth but causes less damage. The adults are similar to clothes moths and are characterized by a yellow head.
A double-walled hive designed by William Broughton Carr. Often used in gardens because of its pleasing appearance.
Comb or equipment with honey on it. NOT, as you might imagine, wet with water. Wet supers are full of frames from which the honey has just been extracted. If left in the open the honey still remaining on them will encourage robbing from bees in the area. Honey will pass more readily through a wet filter cloth – ie one that already has some honey on it, NOT water.
A barrier to break the force of the wind blowing onto hives in an apiary. The best windbreak is a thick hedge.
The roughly spherical mass adopted by bees as a means to survive the winter.
The commonest bee in the colony. In a strong colony, there may be 40,000–50,000 workers. They are specialized to undertake the tasks required for the continuation of the colony such as feeding young larvae and foraging for nectar and pollen.
Sections of the comb built for raising worker bees. When sealed, the cappings are flat. Also used for storing honey and pollen.