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Bee Vocabulary

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On this Bee journey, I realized since I would be writing a lot about my bees, that it would be helpful to give out some vocabulary definitions.

Apiary – An Apiary or Bee Yard is the location where Honey Bee colonies are kept in Bee Hives by a beekeeper.

Bearding – When bees congregate on the outside of the hive, usually on the front side. Done to keep the temperature inside the hive down, usually on hot days or when the hive is overcrowded with bees and/or honey stores.

Bee Bread – A mix of pollen, honey and royal jelly prepared by the nurse bees for feeding the bee larvae, the drones and the queen. 

Bee Space – A space between 6 and 8 mm permitting free passage for bees. Bees will use wax and/or propolis to close up any gap beyond a comb that is smaller than 6mm, attaching the comb to the adjacent surface. Gaps wider than 8mm will be utilised by the bees for building extra comb, mostly for drone cells, but also for honey.

Beeswax or Bee Wax – Beeswax is the substance from which bees build their combs. It is produced by the worker bees. Tiny wax scales are secreted from the bees’ body, i.e. from their wax gland in the abdomen. The workers use these wax scales as building material, forming hexagonally shaped comb cells with their jaws.

Bottom Board – The floor of a bee hive.

Brood Eggs – larvae and pupae of all castes in the bee colony; developing bees. 

Brood Box – Brood boxes The box or boxes of a bee hive containing the brood of the colony, usually the bottom box(es) of a hive. Also been referred to as the brood chamber.

Brood capping – When the mature larvae are ready to moult into pupae worker bees cover the cell with brood capping, made from wax and bee hair. The cappings are usually brown.

Brood chamber or Brood Nest – The part of the hive in which the brood is reared; may include one or more hive bodies and the combs within. Also been referred to as the brood box(es).

Burr comb – Small pieces of comb outside of the normal space in the frame where beekeepers want the bees to build the comb. In particular when stacking boxes on top of each other, not maintaining the bee space between the top of frames in the lower box and the bottom of frames in the top box, leads to the building of burr comb.

Capped Brood – See Pupae.

Cappings – Commonly the thin layer of beeswax found over cells of ripe honey. The worker bees seal comb cells filled with honey to preserve it. On new comb the cappings are usually white.

Castes – The three types of bees in the colony: queen, drones and worker bees.

Comb – A sheet of usually several thousand hexagonal cells made of beeswax used to store brood, pollen and honey. For increased strength and more efficient brood temperature control the adjacent cells are constructed back-to-back  on both sides of the sheet. Starting with one, as the bee colony grows it builds more and more sheets of comb, side by side, spaced appart just wide enough to let bees crawl in between, minimising the heat loss to the surroundings.

Drawn comb – After the beekeeper has inserted a frame with foundation into the hive the bees start drawing out the comb by extending the impressed hexagonal comb cells, usually to a depth of 12-15 mm, on both sides of the sheet. The term distinguishes frames containing such drawn out comb from frames with only foundation.

Drone – Drones are male bees and have no sting. They are broader built than worker bees or the queen and have much bigger eyes. Drones don’t perform any colony duties and need to be fed by worker bees. Their main purpose is impregnating a virgin queen. There are a few hundred drones in a colony during spring and summer, reduced to half a dozen during autumn and winter. Drones improve wellbeing of a colony; colonies from which drones have been removed during the brood-rearing period don’t do as well as those with the natural proportion of drones.

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

Field Bees or Foragers – Worker bees which are usually three or more weeks old and work outside to collect nectar, pollen, water and propolis. They are also called foragers and are the ones more likely to sting.

Flight Path – Refers to the direction bees fly when leaving their colony and usually in opposite direction returning to their colony. By choice bees don’t circle around their hive when they leave for foraging flights or when they return. If the entrance of the hive is facing east, they will begin their journey by going east, and approach from the east when landing. This being the case don’t point the hive entrance where people are most likely to pass. Point it somewhere where people rarely walk by to reduce chance meetings with startled passers-by.

Foundation or  Comb Foundation – A man-made thin sheet of beeswax bearing the impression of comb cells on both sides. It provides the mid-rib or centre of a honeycomb. It is inserted into frames by the beekeeper and provides the bees with some guidance where and how the beekeeper would like them to build the comb. By using the inserted sheet as a building foundation the bees build straight comb within the frame which can be easily pulled out of the hive for comb inspection. In the wild bees build their comb without any guidance, adapting to the surroundings.

Frames – The purpose of using frames is being able to remove combs out of the hive without destroying them. Wooden frames, holding a sheet of foundation, are commonly used by beekeepers and inserted into each hive box. The bees draw out the comb within the perimeters of each frame. The frames with the comb inside can be removed for brood inspection and honey collection.

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.

Hive Tool – A flat metal device with a lifting hook at one end and a flat blade at the other; used to open hives, pry apart and scrape frames.

Honey Flow or Nectar Flow – An abundant source of nectar from trees and plants being collected by bees.

Honey Super- See Super.

Langstroth Hive – The Langstroth hive is the standard beehive in many parts of the world, however within the term ‘Langstroth standard’ there are about ninety sub species, some of which are totally incompatible with each other.

Larvae – In a bee colony larvae are also referred to as “open brood” or “unsealed brood” because the cells are uncapped. The number of days the developing bee spends as a larva varies (worker 6 days, drone 6.5 days, queen 5.5 days). Larvae are white and lay in a curled “C” shape at the bottom of their wax cell. When the larvae are ready to moult into pupae they change into an upright position in the cell and worker bees cover the cell with brood capping.

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

Nectar – A liquid rich in sugars, produced by plants and secreted by nectary glands in their flowers. Honey Bees collect nectar as the raw material for producing honey.

Nuc or Nucleus Hive – A man-made enclosure in which a small starter colony of bees is kept until it has grown to a larger colony. A nucleus hive usually contains 4 – 5 frames.

Nurse bees – Young bees, usually three to ten days old. Nurse bees feed and take care of developing brood, feed the drones and the queen.

Pollen – Pollen is also collected by the bees from flowers and stored in comb cells as food reserve. Pollen is the protein in the bees’ diet.

Propolis – Propolis is a mixture produced by the bees from tree resins and other botanical sources. It is used to close all unwanted narrow gaps, cracks or holes of the enclosure/hive to prevent diseases and parasites from entering the hive and to inhibit fungal and bacterial growth. More info 

Pupae – Pupae are referred to as “capped brood” or “sealed brood” because the cells are capped. Beneath the brood capping larvae moult into pupae. The pupae remain under the brood capping until they moult into an adult bee and chew their way out of the cell.  Similar to the larval stage, pupal developmental time varies (worker 12 days, drone 14.5 days, queen 8 days).

Queen – The queen bee is the only reproductive female in the colony. Her head and thorax are similar in size to that of the worker but has a longer and plumper abdomen than a worker. The queen also has a stinger but its barbs are reduced. That’s why she does not die when she uses it.

Queen cage – A special cage in which queens are shipped and/or introduced to a colony, usually with 4 to 7 nurse bees, called attendants. The cage is closed with a candy plug which is chewed open by the bees in the colony where the caged queen is inserted.

Queen cell – A special cell resembling a peanut shell, purpose built by the bees in which a queen is reared. A queen cell is usually 30-40mm in length and hangs vertically from the comb.

Queen Excluder – A perforated sheet of plastic, or a wire or bamboo screen placed between two hive supers to separate the brood chamber and the honey super. It prevents the queen (and drones) from passing through, but allows the workers to go through.

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

Royal jelly – Royal jelly is a protein-rich, milky white secretion of the hypopharyngeal gland of nurse bees, used to feed the queen, all young bee larvae for the first two days of their existence and the queen larva until it pupates.

Scout bees  -Worker bees searching for a new source of pollen, nectar, propolis, water, or a new home for a swarm of bees.

Sealed Brood – See Pupae.

Sealed Honey or capped honey – Honey which has fully ripened by bees and covered with cappings of wax.

Small Hive Beetle (SHB) – The Small Hive Beetle Aethina tumida, more precisely the hive beetle larvae, can destroy an entire bee colony and cause severe damage to the beehive, including the honey. The beetle is native to Africa and has recently been spreading to other continents. We have these in Georgia. The larvae contribute to hive death and damage stored hive materials. They feed on live brood and honey and their excrement contaminates the honey, causing fermentation.

Smoker -A metal container with attached bellows which burns organic fuels to generate smoke; used to control aggressive behavior of bees during colony inspections.

Super – A hive body or box. Placed above the bottom brood box to either increase the brood chamber or store honey. When used above a Queen Excluder it is referred to as “Honey Super”. 

Swarm – A Swarm is a congregation of a few thousand honey bees. It is that part of a Bee Colony that has split from their colony and has left their nest/hive in order to multiply; bees without any nest material (without combs). The primary swarm is the first swarm to leave the parent colony, usually with the old queen. Sometimes, within a week after the primary swarm, one or two secondary swarms leave the colony, each with a virgin queen. Sometimes a primary swarm, in particular a very large one, contains the old queen and one of her daughter virgin queens, causing unrest in the swarm until the swarm separates in two; such a two-headed swarm can only be captured in two separate swarm boxes as they will not settle in one hive.

Swarming season – The time of year when bee swarms usually emerge; usually spring to early summer.

Unsealed brood – Eggs and young larvae up to the stage when the cells are capped over with brood cappings.

Virgin queen – An unmated queen bee.

Worker Bee, worker – Worker bees are non-reproductive female bees and have a sting. Workers collect nectar, pollen, water and propolis and rear brood and carry out most other colony duties. Worker bees make up the vast majority of bees in a normal and healthy colony.

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