Technical Terms Used In Beekeeping

Beekeeping, also known as apiculture, is the art and science of raising and maintaining honey bee colonies. It’s a rewarding and vital practice that contributes to pollination, honey production, and various other bee-derived products. To navigate the world of beekeeping successfully, it’s essential to understand the technical terminology used in this field. This comprehensive guide will provide insights into the technical terms used in beekeeping, helping both novice and experienced beekeepers communicate effectively and expand their knowledge.

Basic Terms Related to Beekeeping:

  1. Apiculture/apiculturists: Apiculture is the science and practice of beekeeping, while apiculturists are individuals who engage in beekeeping.
  2. Apiarist: An apiarist is a person who keeps and manages bee colonies, often for the purpose of honey production.
  3. Bee Bread: Bee bread is a mixture of pollen and nectar or honey, stored by worker bees in cells within the hive. It serves as a protein-rich food source for developing bees.
  4. Brood: Brood refers to the eggs, larvae, and pupae of honey bees within the comb. It includes all developing stages of bees.
  5. Brood Box: A brood box is a hive box where the queen bee lays her eggs, and worker bees raise brood. It’s typically separate from honey storage areas.
  6. Capped Brood: Capped brood is the sealed cells containing developing pupae. These cells are capped with beeswax after the larvae pupate.
  7. Cappings: Cappings are the wax covers that seal honey cells within the comb. Beekeepers remove these cappings to extract honey.
  8. Colony: A colony is a group of honey bees living and working together in a hive. It includes a queen, worker bees, and drones.
  9. Comb: Comb is the structure within a beehive made of beeswax. It contains cells used for storing honey, pollen, and brood.
  10. Dancing: The waggle dance is a communication behavior performed by forager bees to indicate the direction and distance of a food source to other members of the colony.
  11. Dearth: Dearth refers to a period when nectar and pollen sources become scarce, making it challenging for bees to forage for food.
  12. Drawn Comb: Drawn comb refers to beeswax comb that bees have fully constructed and populated with honey, brood, or other resources.
  13. Drones: Drones are male bees in the colony. They don’t engage in foraging or hive tasks and are primarily responsible for mating with queens.
  14. Entrance Reducer: An entrance reducer is a device used to adjust the size of the hive entrance. It helps the colony defend against pests and regulate temperature.
  15. Feeder: A feeder is a container used to provide supplemental food, like sugar syrup, to a bee colony during periods of scarcity.
  16. Foragers: Foragers are worker bees responsible for collecting nectar, pollen, water, and other resources from the environment.
  17. Foundation: Foundation is a sheet or frame that serves as a guide for bees to build comb. It’s often used in modern hives to ensure uniform comb construction.
  18. Guard Bees: Guard bees are worker bees stationed at the hive entrance to protect against intruders, such as wasps or other bees.
  19. Hive: A hive is a structure or container where a colony of bees lives and stores honey. It includes hive boxes, frames, and other components.
  20. Nuc/nucleus: A nuc, short for nucleus colony, is a smaller bee colony used for various purposes, such as starting a new colony or rearing queens.
  21. Nurse Bees: Nurse bees are worker bees responsible for caring for and feeding the developing brood and the queen.
  22. Proboscis: The proboscis is a long, tube-like tongue that bees use for feeding on nectar, honey, and other liquids.
  23. Propolis: Propolis is a resinous substance collected by bees from tree buds and used as a sealant, disinfectant, and structural material in the hive.
  24. Queen: The queen bee is the reproductive female in the colony. She lays eggs and is essential for colony survival.
  25. Queen Cell: A queen cell is a special cell within the comb where the colony rears new queens. It’s larger and distinct from worker bee cells.
  26. Requeen: Requeening is the process of replacing an existing queen bee with a new one, often for reasons related to behavior or genetics.
  27. Royal Jelly: Royal jelly is a secretion produced by worker bees and fed to queen larvae. It’s rich in nutrients and essential for queen development.
  28. Super: A super is a hive box placed above the brood chamber where bees store surplus honey. It’s used for honey harvesting.
  29. Swarm: A swarm is a large group of bees that leaves the hive with a new queen to establish a new colony. It’s a natural form of reproduction for honey bee colonies.

The Hive Components

1.1. Hive Body

  • Definition and Purpose: The hive body, also known as the brood chamber, is the core component of a beehive where the queen bee lays her eggs and the worker bees raise brood. Its primary purpose is to provide space for the colony’s growth and development.
  • Types of Hive Bodies: There are various types of hive bodies, including deep brood boxes and medium brood boxes. Deep brood boxes are typically used for overwintering, while medium brood boxes are versatile for different seasons.
  • Materials Used: Hive bodies are commonly made from wood, plastic, or other hive materials. The choice of material can affect the hive’s insulation and durability.
  • Hive Body Management: Managing the hive body involves inspecting frames, ensuring proper spacing between frames, and monitoring the brood chamber’s health. It’s essential to maintain a healthy brood nest for a thriving colony.

1.2. Super

  • What is a Super?: A super is an additional box added to the hive above the brood chamber. It serves as storage space for surplus honey. Supers are not used for brood rearing, making their honey relatively pure and ready for harvest.
  • The Role of Supers: Supers allow beekeepers to harvest honey without disturbing the brood chamber, reducing the risk of damaging the queen or brood. They also provide bees with a place to store excess nectar.
  • Different Super Sizes: Supers come in various sizes, including shallow, medium, and deep. The choice of super size depends on regional honey production, colony strength, and beekeeper preferences.
  • Super Placement and Removal: Beekeepers must know when to add supers during a honey flow to prevent overcrowding and when to remove them after the honey is capped. Proper super management ensures a bountiful honey harvest.

1.3. Frames

  • Frame Structure and Function: Frames are rectangular structures within the hive body and super that hold the beeswax foundation, where bees build comb and store honey or raise brood. Frames provide structural support and organization within the hive.
  • Types of Frames: Common frame types include wooden frames with a beeswax foundation and plastic frames with plastic foundation. Frames can be standardized for ease of management.
  • Frame Inspection: Regular frame inspections are crucial for monitoring colony health, looking for signs of disease, and ensuring the frames are free of pests. Inspection can help beekeepers make informed decisions.
  • Frame Replacement: Over time, frames may become damaged or contaminated. Knowing when and how to replace frames is essential for maintaining a hygienic hive environment.

1.4. Foundation

  • Foundation Types: Foundation is a sheet made of beeswax or plastic that serves as a base for bees to build their comb. It comes in various cell sizes, including deep, medium, and small cell sizes, which can influence brood development and mite control.
  • Importance of Foundation: Foundation provides a guide for bees to create uniform comb, making hive management more manageable. It also helps beekeepers control cell size for specific purposes, such as Varroa mite control.
  • Foundation Installation: Proper installation of foundation involves securing it within frames. Bees will then draw out the foundation and build comb, which can be used for brood, honey, or pollen storage.
  • Foundationless Beekeeping: Some beekeepers opt for foundationless frames, allowing bees to build comb entirely on their own. This method requires careful hive management to ensure straight comb and proper spacing.

1.5. Hive Stand

  • The Significance of Hive Stands: Hive stands elevate the beehive off the ground. This elevation helps improve hive ventilation, reduces moisture buildup, and provides some protection against pests like ants and rodents.
  • Types of Hive Stands: Common hive stand types include single stands, double stands, and adjustable stands. The choice depends on factors like hive weight and terrain.
  • Hive Stand Placement: Hive stands should be placed on level ground to ensure hive stability. Proper spacing between hives is also essential to prevent overcrowding and interference between colonies.
  • Maintenance of Hive Stands: Regular maintenance involves checking for wear and tear, ensuring stability, and addressing any signs of pest activity. Properly maintained hive stands contribute to a healthier bee colony.

Bee Species and Castes

2.1. Apis mellifera

  • Overview of Apis mellifera: Apis mellifera, commonly known as the Western honey bee, is the most widely recognized bee species in beekeeping. It is highly valued for its honey production, pollination services, and social structure.
  • Common Honey Bee Subspecies: Apis mellifera has several subspecies, such as the Italian honey bee, Carniolan honey bee, and Buckfast bee, each with unique traits and characteristics suited to specific environmental conditions.
  • Geographic Distribution: Apis mellifera is found worldwide, adapted to various climates and regions. Beekeepers often select subspecies that thrive in their local environment.
  • Importance in Beekeeping: Apis mellifera is the primary species kept by beekeepers for honey and pollination services. Understanding its biology and behavior is fundamental for successful beekeeping.

2.2. Queen Bee

  • Role of the Queen Bee: The queen bee is the hive’s reproductive female responsible for laying eggs. She plays a vital role in maintaining colony cohesion and population.
  • Queen Bee Characteristics: Queen bees are larger than worker bees and have a distinct appearance, including a longer abdomen and fewer hairs. They are also capable of laying up to 2,000 eggs per day.
  • Queen Bee Rearing: Beekeepers can raise queen bees through a process called queen rearing, where larvae are selected and nurtured into new queens. Queen bees are often marked for easy identification.
  • Queen Bee Marking: Beekeepers mark queens with colorful paint on their thorax, making it easier to locate and observe them during hive inspections.

2.3. Worker Bee

  • The Duties of Worker Bees: Worker bees are the female bees responsible for various tasks within the colony, including foraging, nursing brood, building comb, and defending the hive.
  • Worker Bee Lifespan: Worker bees have a relatively short lifespan, typically living for a few weeks during the summer but surviving longer during the winter months.
  • Worker Bee Behavior: Worker bees exhibit complex behaviors, such as the waggle dance to communicate forage locations, fanning to ventilate the hive, and tending to the queen and larvae.
  • Worker Bee Evolution: Worker bees have evolved specialized roles and behaviors to ensure the colony’s survival and productivity.

2.4. Drone

  • The Drone’s Role: Drones are the male bees in the colony. They have a single role: to mate with virgin queens from other hives. Drones do not participate in hive tasks like foraging or nursing brood.
  • Drone Characteristics: Drones are larger than worker bees and have prominent eyes to aid in finding queens during mating flights. They do not possess a stinger.
  • The Life of a Drone: Drones are typically produced during the spring and summer when the colony is strong. They are expelled from the hive during times of resource scarcity or as winter approaches.
  • Significance in Bee Breeding: Drones play a crucial role in honey bee genetics, contributing to genetic diversity and influencing the traits of future generations of bees.

Life Stages of Bees

3.1. Egg

  • The Egg Laying Process: The queen bee lays eggs in cells within the hive. These eggs develop into the various castes of bees, including workers, drones, and future queens.
  • Egg Development: Bee eggs undergo a process of maturation within the cell, eventually hatching into larvae.
  • Role of Eggs in the Hive: Eggs are the starting point of the bee life cycle and are essential for colony growth and survival.
  • Egg Inspection: Beekeepers may inspect eggs during hive inspections to assess the queen’s egg-laying pattern and overall colony health.

3.2. Larva

  • Larval Development: After hatching from eggs, bee larvae are fed by worker bees. They undergo significant growth and development during this stage.
  • Nurse Bees and Larvae: Worker bees known as nurse bees care for and feed the larvae, providing them with a specialized diet of royal jelly initially and later transitioning to honey and pollen.
  • Larval Nutrition: Larvae receive different types of food depending on their caste. Worker larvae are fed a diet that stunts their development, while queen larvae are exclusively fed royal jelly, promoting rapid growth.
  • Capping the Larvae: After a period of larval development, the cell is capped with wax. This signals the transition to the pupal stage.

3.3. Pupa

  • Pupal Transformation: Within the capped cell, the larva metamorphoses into a pupa. During this stage, many physical changes occur, leading to the formation of an adult bee.
  • Pupation and Metamorphosis: The pupal stage involves the development of adult body structures, including wings, legs, and reproductive organs.
  • Pupa Protection: The capped cell provides protection for the developing pupa. Worker bees carefully monitor and maintain hive temperature to ensure proper development.
  • Signs of a Healthy Pupa: Beekeepers inspect capped cells for signs of healthy pupae, which include a uniform and pearly appearance.

3.4. Emergence

  • The Emergence Process: Once the pupal development is complete, the new adult bee emerges from its cell by chewing through the wax cap.
  • The New Adult Bee: Newly emerged bees are initially soft and pale but quickly harden and darken as they come into contact with the hive environment.
  • Behavior of Newly Emerged Bees: Newly emerged bees perform various hive tasks, such as cleaning cells, tending to brood, and later transitioning to roles like foraging and guarding the hive.
  • Integration into the Colony: The acceptance and integration of newly emerged bees into the colony are essential for hive cohesion and productivity.

Bee Behavior and Activities

4.1. Foraging

  • Foraging Overview: Foraging is a critical activity where worker bees collect nectar, pollen, water, and other resources from the environment.
  • Factors Influencing Foraging: Several factors, including resource availability, hive needs, and bee age, influence a bee’s decision to forage.
  • Foraging Behavior: Bees engage in intricate foraging behaviors, such as the waggle dance, which communicates forage locations to other colony members.
  • Foraging Challenges: Bees face challenges like predation, harsh weather conditions, and resource competition while foraging.

4.2. Nectar Collection

  • Nectar Sources: Bees collect nectar from flowers, which serves as the primary carbohydrate source for the colony.
  • Nectar Processing: Worker bees transform nectar into honey through a process that involves regurgitation, enzymatic activity, and hive storage.
  • Storage of Nectar: Nectar is stored in comb cells and eventually capped with wax to become ripe honey.
  • Bee Products from Nectar: Honey is not the only product derived from nectar; beeswax and royal jelly are also produced using nectar-based ingredients.

4.3. Pollination

  • The Importance of Pollination: Bees are vital pollinators of many flowering plants, including numerous crops. Pollination contributes to fruit and seed production.
  • How Bees Pollinate: Bees unintentionally transfer pollen from one flower to another while foraging for nectar. This facilitates fertilization and plant reproduction.
  • Pollination and Agriculture: The agricultural industry relies heavily on honey bee pollination for crop production, making bees essential to food security.
  • Challenges to Pollinators: Threats like habitat loss, pesticide exposure, and diseases pose significant challenges to pollinators and the ecosystems they support.

4.4. Trophallaxis

  • Trophallaxis Defined: Trophallaxis is a complex social behavior involving the exchange of food, primarily regurgitated nectar or honey, between colony members.
  • Trophallaxis and Colony Communication: Trophallaxis serves as a means of communication within the colony, conveying information about forage sources, nutritional needs, and colony health.
  • Trophallaxis in the Hive: Bees engage in trophallaxis within the hive, sharing food with nestmates, including worker bees, larvae, and the queen.
  • Significance in Bee Health: Trophallaxis plays a crucial role in ensuring that all colony members receive adequate nutrition and contributes to hive hygiene and disease resistance.

Bee Products

5.1. Honey

  • The Honey-Making Process: Bees collect nectar from flowers, transform it enzymatically, and store it in comb cells. The evaporation of water from nectar results in honey.
  • Types of Honey: Different nectar sources produce various types of honey, each with distinct flavors, colors, and characteristics.
  • Harvesting Honey: Beekeepers harvest honey from frames within the hive, carefully extracting and processing it for consumption or sale.
  • Honey Uses: Honey is a versatile product used in culinary applications, medicine, and various other industries.

5.2. Beeswax

  • Beeswax Formation: Worker bees secrete beeswax from glands on their abdomens. It is used in comb construction and other hive-related activities.
  • Beeswax Uses: Beeswax has numerous applications, including candle-making, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and even as a food additive.
  • Beeswax Harvesting: Beekeepers may collect beeswax by melting and purifying cappings and old comb from the hive.
  • Beeswax in Beekeeping: Beeswax comb serves as a foundation for brood rearing and honey storage within the hive.

5.3. Propolis

  • What is Propolis?: Propolis is a resinous substance collected from tree buds and used by bees to seal and sterilize the hive.
  • Propolis Collection: Bees actively gather propolis, mixing it with beeswax and other secretions to create a protective and adhesive substance.
  • Uses of Propolis: Propolis has antimicrobial properties and is used by bees to maintain hive hygiene. It also has potential health benefits for humans.
  • Health Benefits: Propolis is studied for its potential medicinal properties, including antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant effects.

5.4. Royal Jelly

  • Royal Jelly Production: Worker bees produce royal jelly in specialized glands and feed it to queen larvae.
  • Royal Jelly Characteristics: Royal jelly is rich in proteins, vitamins, and other nutrients. It contributes to the rapid growth and development of queen bees.
  • Royal Jelly in Bee Colonies: Besides feeding queen larvae, royal jelly may have roles in caste determination and hive nutrition.
  • Royal Jelly in Human Health: Royal jelly is marketed as a dietary supplement with potential health benefits, although scientific evidence is limited.

5.5. Pollen

  • Bee-Collected Pollen: Bees gather pollen from flowers, storing it in specialized pollen baskets on their hind legs.
  • Pollen Collection: Pollen is mixed with nectar to form “bee bread,” a protein-rich food source for bees.
  • Bee Bread: Bee bread is fed to developing larvae and provides essential nutrients for their growth.
  • Nutritional Value: Pollen is rich in proteins, vitamins, and minerals, making it a valuable component of the bee diet and a potential health food for humans.

Hive Management

6.1. Bee Space

  • Understanding Bee Space: Bee space refers to the gap or airspace bees require within the hive for movement and construction.
  • Importance in Hive Design: Beekeepers design hives with specific bee space measurements to encourage proper comb construction and hive functionality.
  • Maintaining Bee Space: Beekeepers must ensure that frames and hive components maintain correct bee space to prevent comb irregularities.
  • Bee Space Innovations: Innovations in hive design aim to optimize bee space and enhance beekeeping practices.

6.2. Brood Chamber

  • The Brood Chamber’s Role: The brood chamber is the hive section where the queen lays eggs, and bee larvae develop.
  • Brood Chamber Components: It includes frames with cells for brood rearing, pollen storage, and honey storage.
  • Brood Chamber Management: Beekeepers monitor and manage the brood chamber to ensure proper brood development and hive health.
  • Brood Chamber Maintenance: Regular maintenance, including frame rotation and disease control, is crucial for colony success.

6.4. Supersedure

  • Supersedure Defined: Supersedure is the natural process of replacing an old or failing queen with a new one within the hive.
  • Reasons for Supersedure: Supersedure can occur due to a declining queen’s egg-laying ability or age.
  • Supersedure Process: Worker bees identify a suitable larva, feed it royal jelly, and create a special cell for the developing queen.
  • Beekeeper Intervention: Beekeepers may also perform supersedure by introducing a new queen when needed.

6.4. Swarming

  • Swarming Behavior: Swarming is a colony’s natural way of reproducing. A portion of the colony, including the old queen, leaves to establish a new hive.
  • Causes of Swarming: Swarming can be triggered by overcrowding, a healthy colony, or environmental factors.
  • Swarming Prevention: Beekeepers often aim to prevent swarming by providing adequate space and managing colony health.
  • Swarm Management: If a swarm occurs, beekeepers can capture and relocate it to establish a new hive.

6.5. Queen Excluder

  • Queen Excluder Purpose: A queen excluder is a device placed between hive components to restrict the queen’s access to certain areas, like honey supers.
  • Types of Queen Excluders: Various excluder designs use specific spacing to allow worker bees to pass but not the larger queen.
  • Using a Queen Excluder: Beekeepers use queen excluders during honey production to keep honeycomb free of brood.
  • Pros and Cons of Excluders: Queen excluders have advantages for honey extraction but require careful monitoring to ensure the queen is not trapped outside the brood chamber.

Diseases and Pests

7.1. Varroa Destructor

  • Introduction: Varroa destructor is one of the most devastating parasitic mites affecting honey bee colonies.
  • Life Cycle: Detail the life stages of Varroa destructor and how it reproduces.
  • Effects on Bees: Explain how Varroa infestations weaken bees and transmit diseases.
  • Control Methods: Discuss various methods beekeepers use to manage Varroa mites.

7.2. Nosema

  • Overview: Nosema is a common gut parasite in bees caused by microsporidia.
  • Symptoms: Describe the symptoms of Nosema infection in bees.
  • Transmission: Explain how Nosema is spread within a colony.
  • Treatment and Prevention: Discuss strategies for controlling and preventing Nosema infections.

7.3. American Foulbrood

  1. Introduction: American Foulbrood (AFB) is a severe bacterial disease affecting bee brood.
  2. Causative Agent: Explain that AFB is caused by the bacterium Paenibacillus larvae.
  3. Symptoms: Describe the characteristic symptoms of AFB in bee larvae.
  4. Control and Eradication: Discuss the importance of reporting and quarantining AFB-infected hives.

7.4. Chalkbrood

  • Overview: Chalkbrood is a fungal disease that affects bee brood.
  • Causative Fungus: Explain that chalkbrood is caused by the fungus Ascosphaera apis.
  • Symptoms: Describe the appearance and symptoms of chalkbrood-infected brood.
  • Management: Discuss measures beekeepers can take to control chalkbrood outbreaks.

7.5. Wax Moths

  • Introduction: Wax moths are common pests of bee colonies.
  • Species: Describe the two main species, the greater wax moth and the lesser wax moth.
  • Damage: Explain how wax moths damage beehives and comb.
  • Control: Discuss methods for preventing and managing wax moth infestations.

Beekeeping Equipment

8.1. Smoker

  • Purpose: Explain how smokers are used to calm bees during hive inspections.
  • Components: Describe the components of a bee smoker, including the bellows and fuel chamber.
  • Operation: Detail how to light and use a smoker effectively.
  • Safety: Discuss safety precautions when working with smokers.

8.2. Hive Tool

  1. Role: Explain the various uses of hive tools in beekeeping, such as prying apart hive components and scraping frames.
  2. Types: Discuss different types of hive tools and their specific applications.
  3. Maintenance: Offer tips on cleaning and maintaining hive tools.

8.3. Bee Suit

  • Importance: Describe why bee suits are essential for beekeepers’ protection.
  • Components: Detail the components of a bee suit, including the veil, jacket, and gloves.
  • Types: Explain the different types of bee suits available.
  • Proper Usage: Discuss how to put on and care for a bee suit.

8.4. Extractor

  • Function: Explain how honey extractors are used to remove honey from frames.
  • Types: Describe different types of honey extractors, such as radial and tangential.
  • Operation: Detail the process of using a honey extractor.
  • Cleaning and Maintenance: Discuss the importance of cleaning and maintaining honey extractors.

8.5. Uncapping Knife

  • Role: Explain the purpose of an uncapping knife in honey extraction.
  • Types: Describe various types of uncapping knives, including electric and manual.
  • Uncapping Process: Detail the steps involved in uncapping honeycomb.


Beekeeping is a fascinating and environmentally important endeavor that demands a deep understanding of the terminology and practices involved. This comprehensive guide has provided an extensive overview of the technical terms used in beekeeping, covering everything from hive components to bee behavior and hive management. Armed with this knowledge, beekeepers, both seasoned and novice, can navigate the world of beekeeping with confidence, ultimately contributing to the well-being of these essential pollinators and the production of honey and other bee-derived products.

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