Glossary of beekeeping terms


Apiary = A bee yard.

Beehive = A box with movable frames, used for housing a colony of bees.

Beekeeper = One who keeps bees. An Apiarist.

Beeswax = A substance that is secreted by bees by special glands on the underside of the abdomen, deposited as thin scales, and used after mastication and mixture with the secretion of the salivary glands for constructing the honeycomb.

Brood = Immature bees not yet emerged from their cells; in other words, egg, larvae or pupae.

Capped brood = Immature bees whose cells have been sealed over with a brown wax cover by other worker bees.

Castes = The three types of bees that comprise the adult population of a honey bee colony: workers, drones, and queen

Cell = The hexagonal compartment of a honey comb.

Colony = The aggregate of worker bees, drones, queen, and developing brood living together as a family unit in a hive or other dwelling

Comb = The wax portion of a colony in which eggs are laid, and honey and pollen are stored shaped like hexagons.

Drifting = The movement of bees that have lost their location and enter hives other than their own home.

Drone = The male honeybee which comes from an unfertilized egg (and is therefore haploid) laid by a queen or less commonly, a laying worker.

Drone comb = Comb that is made up of cells larger than worker brood, usually in the range of 5.9 to 7.0mm in which drones are reared and honey and pollen are stored.

Drone brood = Brood, which matures into drones, reared in cells larger than worker brood. It is noticeably larger than worker brood and the cappings are distinctly dome shaped.

Drone layers = A drone laying queen (one with no sperm left to fertilize eggs) or laying workers.

Drone laying queen = A queen that can lay only unfertilized eggs, due to age, improper or late mating, disease or injury.

Dysentery = A condition of adult bees characterized by severe diarrhea (as evidenced by brown or yellow streaks on the front of the hive) and usually caused by long confinement (from either cold or beekeeper manipulation), starvation, low-quality food, or nosema infection.

Eggs = The first phase in the bee life cycle, usually laid by the queen, is the cylindrical egg 1/16in (1.6 mm) long; it is enclosed with a flexible shell or chorion. It resembles a small grain of rice.

Fertile queen = An inseminated queen.

Fertilized = Usually refers to eggs laid by a queen bee, they are fertilized with sperm stored in the queen's spermatheca, in the process of being laid. These develop into workers or queens.

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.

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

Frame = A rectangular structure of wood designed to hold honey comb, consisting of a top bar, two end bars, and a bottom bar.

Gloves = Leather, cloth or rubber gloves worn while inspecting bees.

Guard bees = Worker bees about three weeks old, which have their maximum amount of alarm pheromone and venom; they challenge all incoming bees and other intruders.

Hemolymph = The scientific name for bee blood.

Hive = A man-made home for a colony of bees.

Honey = A sweet stiky material produced by bees from the nectar of flowers, composed largely of a mixture of dextrose and levulose dissolved in about 17 percent water; contains small amounts of sucrose, mineral matter, vitamins,  and enzymes.

Hornets and wasps = Social insects belonging to the family Vespidae. Nest in paper or foliage material. Fairly aggressive, and carnivorous. Hornets  and Wasps are easy to distinguish by their larger size, shiny hairless body, and aggressiveness. Honey Bees are generally smaller, fuzzy brown, and basically docile in nature.

Italian bees = A common race of bees, Apis mellifera ligustica, with brown and yellow bands, from Italy; usually gentle and productive, but tend to rob.

Larva, open = The second developmental stage of a bee, starting the 4th day from when the egg is layed until it's capped on about the 9th or 10th day.

Larva, capped = The second developmental stage of a bee, ready to pupate or spin its cocoon (about the 10th day from the egg).

Leg baskets = Also called pollen baskets, a flattened depression surrounded by curved spines located on the outside of the tibiae of the bees' hind legs and adapted for carrying flower pollen and propolis.

Mandibles = The jaws of an insect; used by bees to form the honey comb and scrape pollen, in fighting and picking up hive debris.

Mating flight = The flight taken by a virgin queen while she mates in the air with several drones.

Migratory beekeeping = The moving of colonies of bees from one locality to another during a single season to take advantage of two or more honey flows or for pollination.

Nectar = A liquid rich in sugars, manufactured by plants and secreted by nectary glands in or near flowers; the raw material for honey.

Nest = A feral bee “house”. A colony that has built it's nest in the open limbs of a tree (open-air nest) or in a hollow of it.

Nucleus = A small colony of bees often used in queen rearing or the box in which the small colony of bees resides. The term refers to the fact that the essentials, bees, brood, food, a queen are there to grow into a colony, but it is not a full sized colony.

Nurse bees = Young bees, usually three to ten days old, which feed and take care of developing brood.

Parthenogenisis = The development of young from unfertilized eggs laid by virgin females (queen or worker); in bees, such eggs develop into drones.

Pollen = The dust-like male reproductive cells (gametophytes) of flowers, formed in the anthers, and important as a protein source for bees; pollen is essential for bees to rear brood.

Pollen basket = An anatomical structure on the bees legs where pollen and propolis is carried.

Proboscis = The mouthparts of the bee that form the sucking tube or tongue

Propolis = Plant resins collected, mixed with enzymes from bee saliva and used to fill in small spaces inside the hive and to coat and sterilize everything in the hive. It has antimicrobial properties.

Propolize = To fill with propolis.

Pupa = The third stage in the development of the bee during which it is inactive and sealed in its cocoon.

Queen = A fully developed female bee responsible for all the egg laying of a colony.

Queen cell = A special elongated cell in which the queen is reared; usually over an inch in length, it hangs vertically from the comb.

Requeen = To replace an existing queen by removing her and introducing a new queen.

Robbing = The act of bees stealing honey/nectar from the other colonies.

Royal jelly = A highly nutritious, milky white secretion of the hypopharyngeal gland of nurse bees; used to feed the queen and young larvae.

Spermatheca = A small sac connected with the oviduct (vagina) of the queen bee in, which is stored, the spermatozoa received in mating with drones.

Split = To divide a colony for the purpose of increasing the number of hives.

Sting = An organ belonging exclusively to female bees developed from egg laying mechanisms, used to defend the colony; modified into a piercing shaft through which venom is injected.

Surplus honey = Any extra honey removed by the beekeeper, over and above what the bees require for their own use, such as winter food stores.

Swarm = A temporary collection of bees, containing at least one queen that split apart from the mother colony to establish a new one; a natural method of propagation of honey bee colonies.

Swarming season = The time of year, usually late spring to early summer, when swarms usually issue.

Virgin queen = An unmated queen bee.

Wax glands = The eight glands located on the last 4 visible, ventral abdominal segments of young worker bees; they secrete beeswax flakes.

Wax scale or flake = A drop of liquid beeswax that hardens into a scale upon contact with air; in this form it is shaped into comb.

Worker bees = Infertile female bee whose reproductive organs are only partially developed, responsible for carrying out all the routine of the colony.

Worker comb = Comb measuring between 4.4mm and 5.4mm, in which workers are reared and honey and pollen are stored.