• “The Beekeepers Handbook, 4th Edition”, by Dianna Sammataro and
Alphonse Avitabile.

• “Homegrown Honey Bees, An Absolute Beginners Guide”, by Aletha


Absconding – When bees abandon a hive, typically due to some unfavorable condition, and ride off into the sunset.

Alarm Odor – When a bee stings, she releases an odor called an alarm pheromone to alert others to the danger. This alarm pheromone smells like bananas and attracts other bees to come to the defense of the hive.

Apiary – The location of your hives, AKA “bee-yard”.

Bee Escape – A device that allows bees to only pass in one direction, used to remove bees out of a honey super.

Bee Suit – Coveralls, usually white, that fit over normal clothing, with or without an attached veil.

Bottom Board – The floor of a beehive.

Brood – Immature stages of the bees that have not yet emerged from their cells (eggs, larvae, and pupae).

Brood Nest – The area of the hive used for rearing brood. Honey cells are generally capped with a golden, pale yellow wax. Brood cells will have a darker, orangey-brown cap. The cells also tend to be a darker brown color; honey storage cells are a lighter yellow.

Burr Comb – Comb that’s somewhere you don’t want it to be.

Capped Brood – Larval cells that have been capped over with a brown covering. Once the cells are capped, the larvae spin their cocoons and turn into pupae, the third stage of complete metamorphosis.

Cell – The hexagonal unit compartment of a comb.

Cleansing Flight – Yes, bees need to poop too.

Deep – A hive body that holds standard, full-depth frames. The usual depth is between 9 1/2″ to 9 5/8″.

Division Board – A thin vertical board of the same dimensions as a frame; also called a dummy or follower board. Used to reduce the size of the brood chamber, or to fill gaps in a hive body.

Division Board Feeder – A plastic or wood container, hung inside the hive and filled with syrup to feed the bees.

Drawn Comb – Honeycombs having the cell walls fully built up by the bees from the original foundation.

Drone – The male bees.

Entrance Reducer – A piece of wood notched with different size holes to regulate the size of the hive entrance. Reducers help prevent mice from entering the hive, as well as help with robbing attacks.

Extractor – A centrifuge device used to extract honey from frames.

Feeders – Various types of devices and containers for feeding bees sugar syrup.

Field Bees or Foragers – Worker bees, usually at least 16 days old, that work in the field to collect pollen, nectar (or rob honey from other hives), honeydew, water, and propolis.

Frame – Four pieces of wood or a preformed piece of plastic that form a rectangle, designed to hold a plastic or wax foundation comb. The top bar is longer than the bottom bar so that it rests in the recess on the top of the hive body.

Hive – A home for bees provided by humans, that is, a hive box.

Hive Body – A box, usually wood, that creates the side of a Langstroth hive. The top bar of the frames rests on a recess in the top of the front and rear sides of the box. A complete hive has one or more frame-filled hive bodies, resting on a bottom board, and covered with a migratory or telescoping cover.

Hive Stand – A structure that serves as the base support for a hive. Such a stand keeps the bottom board off the damp ground.

Hive Stand – A structure that serves as the base support for your hives. Hives can weigh well over 100 lbs. each, so the hive stand needs to be sturdy. You do not want to rest your bottom board right on the ground.

Hive Tool – A metal device with a curved scraping surface at one end and a flat blade at the other. Used to separate hive furniture (bodies, frames) when inspecting bees. Also used to scrape excess comb (“burr comb”) from frames, and to remove frames from the hive body.

Honey Bound – Describes a colony that has run out of adequate brood nest space due to cells filled with honey.

Honey-flow – Loosely, a time of year when there is a plentiful supply of nectar that bees can collect. Its signs include fresh, white wax and combs filled with liquid. It is a time when bees produce and store surplus honey.

Inner Cover – A lightweight cover with an oblong hole in its center; used under a standard telescoping outer cover on a beehive.

Larva (pl. Larvae) – The second stage in the development of an insect, such as the honey bee, that has complete metamorphosis. It is comparable to the caterpillar stage of a moth or butterfly.

Medium – A hive body that holds medium-depth frames. The usual depth is 6 5/8″.

Migratory Beekeeping – The moving of bee colonies from one locality to another during a single season to pollinate different crops or to take advantage of more than one honey-flow.

Nurse Bees – Young worker bees with fully functional food glands whose duty is to feed larvae and the queen and to perform particular hive duties. Generally, nurse bees are 3 to 10 days old.

Orientation Flights – The training flights of young bees, usually by large numbers at a time. Orienting bees can be observed hovering in front of the hive.

Outer Cover – The top cover that fits over a hive to protect it from the weather. The two most common covers are migratory and telescoping.

Package – A special wire-screened, wood-framed shipping box containing a number of bees (2-5 lb.), with or without a queen.

Pheromone – A chemical substance that is released externally by one insect or animal and stimulates a response in other insects (or animals) of the same species.

Pollen Baskets – A flattened depression surrounded by curved spines located on the outside of the tibiae of the bee’s third set of legs. It is used to carry pollen gathered from flowers back to the hive where the pollen pellets are deposited into cells and packed together as the bees ram their heads against the pellets. This same basket is also used by bees to collect and transport propolis back to the hive.

Pollen Patty – A cake or patty made of pollen pellets and sugar syrup. These patties are fed to stimulate brood rearing.

Pollen Substitute – A food material used to substitute wholly for pollen in the bees’ diet; commonly made from soy flour and other products.

Pupa (pl. Pupae) – The third stage in the development of an inset that is encapsulated in a cocoon. In this stage, the organs of the larva are replaced by those that will be used as an adult.

Queen Cage – A small box made of wire screen and wood or plastic, used in shipping queens or introducing a new queen to the colony.

Queen Cell – A special elongated cell suspended vertically from honeycomb and resembling a peanut shell in which a queen bee is being raised. It is usually an inch or more in length when fully developed and capped.

Queen Cup – A cup-shaped cell produced by bees and suspended vertically from the honeycomb that may eventually develop into a queen cell. These cups can also be obtained commercially or produced by individuals using a wax mold. Commercial cups are made either of beeswax or plastic. These cups become queen cells when a queen deposits an egg in them or when a queen breeder transfers a young larva in the cup. These cups are also suspended in a vertical position.

Queen Excluder – A device made of wire, wood, and wire, plastic or punched plastic, having openings of about 0.16″ to 0.17″. This permits workers to pass through but excludes queens and drones. It is used to confine the queen to a specific part of the hive, usually the brood chamber.

Queenless – Adjective describing a hive that does not have a laying queen present.

Queenright – Adjective describing a hive that does have a laying queen.

Rabbet – A narrow ledge cut into the top ends of hive bodies on which the frames hang. Some rabbets are cut so that resting frames will be at the right bee space to the top of the box; others are lower, requiring a metal strip to correct the bee space.

Robbing – Applied to bees stealing honey/nectar from other colonies. Shallow Super – A hive body that holds shallow depth frames. The usual depth is 5 3/4″.

Smoker – A metal container with attached bellows that burns organic fuels to generate smoke; used to control the defensive behavior of bees during routine colony inspections or honey extraction.

Splitting – Making two or more colonies out of one.

Sting – An organ of defense of workers and queen bees. It is an egg-laying device (or ovipositor), modified to form a piercing shaft, through which painful organic venom is delivered.

Super – A piece of hive furniture in which bees store surplus honey; so-called because it is placed over or above the brood chamber.

Systemic Reaction – A reaction from a bee sting(s) that can be life-threatening and require immediate medical attention. Such a reaction is far more serious than stings that elicit pain at the site of the string, and symptoms include: urticaria (hives), throat tightness, difficulty breathing, and a drop in blood pressure. An EpiPen is often used when someone has a systemic reaction, followed by a trip to the hospital.

Top Bar – The top, horizontal part of a frame, not to be confused with “top-bar hives”.

Unsealed Brood or Open Brood – Immature or larval bees not yet capped over with wax; the term can include cells containing eggs.

Varroa destructor – The scientific name for the varroa mite, a destructive parasitic mite (eight legs), that feeds on brood but is carried by adult bees.

Wax Moth – The common name for Galleria mellonella, a moth whose larvae eat comb, pollen, and bee pupae.

Worker Bee – A female bee whose organs for reproduction are only partially developed. Workers are responsible for carrying on all the routine tasks of a bee colony.

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