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A Beekeeping Dictionary

This beekeeping dictionary contains terms frequently used by beekeepers and melittologists. The words are taken from various disciplines including beekeeping, entomology, environmental science, biology, chemistry, and botany. Use the comment section below if you would like to add another word.


abdomen: the posterior segment of the bee containing the honey stomach, stomach, intestines, reproductive organs, and stinger.

ABJ: abbr. American Beekeeping Journal.

abscond: to entirely abandon the hive.

absconding swarm: a swarm composed of an entire colony of bees that has abandoned its hive due to disease, predators, or a real or perceived threat.

acaricide: a chemical designed to kill arachnids such as mites.

acarine disease: the condition caused by an infestation of tracheal mites, Acarapis Woodi.

acid board (fume board): a hive cover designed to hold bee repellent. The saturated board is placed over honey supers to drive bees out of the supers before harvesting.

acute exposure: a single exposure to a substance or a short-term exposure, usually lasting less than 24 hours.

AFB: abbr. American foul brood.

afterswarm: a secondary or tertiary swarm that issues after the first (primary) swarm of the season. These swarms are usually smaller than the primary swarm and may contain one or more virgin queens.

AHB: abbr. Africanized honey bee.

AI: abbr. active ingredient.

alighting board (landing board): a horizontal surface just below the hive entrance where bees may land or congregate.

ambrosia: see bee bread.

amino acid: an organic compound composed of an amine group and a carboxyl group. The amino acids are the “building blocks” of proteins.

Amm: abbr: Apis mellifera mellifera; the European black bee.

anemophilous: pollinated by the wind.

antenna (pl. antennae): one of the two long, thin sensory organs on the bee’s head involved in taste and smell.

anther: a sac-like component of a flower where pollen grains are produced; part of the stamen.

apiarist: beekeeper.

apiary: a place where bee hives are kept and managed.

Apis mellifera: The scientific name of the European honey bee. For derivation see: Latin for beekeepers.

APU: abbr. Apis production unit (worker bee).


bee bread: pollen mixed with nectar and bee secretions and stored in the comb for later use as brood food.

bee glue: propolis.

bee-haver: A derogatory epithet for a person who owns bees but who lacks essential beekeeping skills and knowledge.

beekeeper: a person who keeps bees.

bee moth: a general term used for either of two species of wax moths.

bee nest: a place where bees raise their young. It may be large and contain many individuals, as in honey bees or bumble bees. Or the nest may be small and contain just a few eggs, as in most of the solitary bees. Nests may be built in hollow cavities either above and below ground, depending on the species.

bee tree: a hollow tree containing one or more colonies of bees.

bee yard: an apiary.

beeswax: a substance secreted by four pairs of ventral glands in the bee abdomen that is molded to form combs and cappings.

biodiversity: The relative abundance and variety of plant and animal species and ecosystems within a particular habitat.

bivoltine: insects having two generations per year, usually one that is completed in summer and one that overwinters

brood: all immature bees in a hive, including the eggs, larvae, and pupae; eggs and larvae are in open cells, pupae are in wax-covered cells

brood chamber: the place in the hive where the brood is being raised.

brood comb: any comb in the hive in which brood is found; multiple combs of brood make up the brood chamber

brood food: glandular secretions of nurse bees that are used to feed larvae and, to a lesser extent, to feed the queen, drones, and foragers

brood nest: the area in a hive devoted to brood rearing. Nest shape is roughly spherical, but in cold areas it may be taller and less wide (to limit heat loss) and in warm areas is may be wider and less tall (to encourage heat loss).


capped brood: brood that is covered with a wax capping; usually comprised of bees in the late larval stage and pupal stage.

capped honey: honey that has been dehydrated to the proper moisture content and covered with wax

cappings: wax coverings used by the bees to seal either pupae or honey, however the term usually refers to the cappings which cover honey

cavity tree: a tree that contains one or more hollowed out holes in the main trunk. The holes (or cavities) are potential nesting sites for honey bees and some wasp species.

cell: a hexagonal compartment in a honey bee comb used for rearing of brood and storage of pollen and honey

central nervous system: the part of the nervous system which includes the brain and main ganglia.

chocolate brood: capped brood [origin: southeastern U.S.].

chorion: the membrane covering a bee egg.

clearcut: an area of forest land from which all the trees have been harvested. Clearcuts can provide a rich source of wildflowers and nesting opportunities for native bee species.

cluster: a group of bees clinging together to maintain temperatures inside the hive. The cluster expands as the seasonal temperature increases.

cocoon: the protective covering around the pupae

cold way: when frames in the brood box are perpendicular to the hive opening

coleoptera: an order of insects that includes the beetles, weevils and fireflies

colony: a community of bees composed of one queen and many workers. In the spring and summer it also includes drones. See hive.

comb: an interconnected group of wax cells

competition: struggle among bees and other insects for limited resources such as nesting sites, nesting materials, nectar, pollen, and water.

complete metamorphosis: the four stage development process of an insect that includes egg, larva, pupa, and adult

corbicula (pl. corbiculae): a widened portion of the rear legs of female honey bees covered by curved spines where pollen is stored for transport, also known as pollen baskets.

corridor: a band of vegetation, especially one containing flowering plants, which serves to connect patches of habitat, which would otherwise become fragmented. Corridors allow gene flow between populations of bees and help prevent inbreeding.

chronic exposure: continuous or repeated exposure over a long period of time (greater than 24 hours or much longer)

cross pollination: fertilization by transfer of pollen from the anthers of one flower to the stigma of another

cuticle: the waxy outer layer of an insect


dearth: a lack of availability usually referring to nectar or pollen

diatomaceous earth: a porous sedimentary deposit formed from the remains of diatoms, a type of hard-shelled algae. Dried diatomaceous earth is roughly 80-90% silica, 2-4% alumina, and 0.5-2% iron. It is frequently used by honey packers to filter raw honey and remove pollen, insect parts, dust, and wax bits.

dioecious: species of plants where the male and female reproductive organs are on separate individuals. Pollen from a male plant must be moved to the pistil of female plant in order to accomplish fertilization.

diploid: having two set of homologous chromosomes.

drone: a male haploid bee that develops from an unfertilized egg.

Dufour’s gland: A gland in the abdomen that, in solitary bees, secretes a substance used for lining and waterproofing nest cell walls. The chemical composition and purpose of the secretion varies with the species.


ecology: the study of plants and animals in relation to their physical and biological surroundings.

EHB: European honey bee

eke: a very shallow super designed to provide extra room for things such as feeders, treatments, upper entrances, and absorbent or insulating material. The word comes from the verb “to eke” as in “I need to eke out some extra space.”

endangered species: a plant or animal species that is declining to the extent that it may become extinct if it is not protected by law or regulation.

endemic species: a species whose natural occurrence is confined to a certain region and whose distribution is relatively limited.

endotoxin: a toxin secreted by certain bacteria that is released into the surrounding environment only when it dies.

enzyme: a protein with specific characteristics that allow it to aid certain chemical reactions

exine: the outer covering of pollen grains, often containing sporopollenin

exocrine: a gland that secretes externally through a duct


flow: the presence of large amounts of nectar or pollen, usually used in reference to a particular plant species, as in “a good maple flow”

foraging: the collection by bees of water, nectar, pollen, and propolis from their environment

forb: a non-woody (herbaceous) broad-leaved (not a grass, sedge, or rush) flowering plant. The term usually refers to species growing in fields, prairies, or meadows.

foundation: a commercial product made from beeswax that is used as a starter substrate for bees to build comb. Although not necessary, its use results in evenly-spaced and parallel comb

frame: a rectangular structure, with or without foundation, in which bees build comb. Frames allow combs to be removed for inspection or harvest without damaging the colony

fructose: a monosaccharide (simple sugar) frequently found in honey

fungicide: a chemical designed to kill fungus or mold


guttation: The exudation of water from leaves as a result of root pressure.


haploid: having only one set of chromosomes

hemolymph: The circulatory fluid of invertebrate animals that is comparable to blood

herbicide: a chemical designed to kill plants

high-fructose corn syrup: corn syrup that has undergone  enzymatic processing to convert its glucose into fructose and then has been mixed with pure glucose to produce a desired level of sweetness

hive: usually refers to a man-made structure that houses bees, but may also be a synonym for a bee colony

hive stand: a structure used to hold a hive above ground level

hive tool: a metal tool of various types used for beekeeping; may be used for scraping, prying, lifting, and cleaning.

honey stomach: an enlargement of the esophagus that is used to collect and transport nectar

honey: nectar that has been dehydrated by the bees so that it contains no more than 17-18% water

honeydew: a sweet liquid excreted by aphids, leafhoppers, and some scale insects that is collected by bees, especially in the absence of a good source of nectar.

hydathode: a specialized leaf structure through which water is discharged from the interior of the leaf to its surface

hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF):  an organic compound derived from the dehydration of sugars; HMF can form in both honey and high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) when heated and is toxic to bees

hymenoptera:  an order of insects that includes sawflies, wasps, bees, termites, and ants

hypopharyngeal: in honey bees, a pair of exocrine glands in the head segment which secrete a protein-rich substance used to feed certain categories of bees, including larvae.

hypopus: a nymph stage in certain parasitic mites having well-developed claws for hanging on to a host. As a “hitch-hiker” the mite is able to move to a new feeding location or nest site. This adaptation is found in the mason bee parasite known as the “hairy-footed mite” or “pollen mite.”


IAPV: abbr. Israeli acute paralysis virus; one of the many bee viruses carried by Varroa mites.

IGR: abbr. insect growth regulator; an insecticide that works by disrupting the growth or development of an insect by mimicking natural hormones

II: abbr. instrumental insemination

insecticide: a chemical designed to kill insects

instar: a stage of larval development between two molts; the first instar occurs after the first molt

integument: an insect’s covering or “skin”


larva: an immature, grub-like bee intermediate between egg and pupal stages. For derivation see: Latin for beekeepers.

lepidoptera: an order of insects that includes moths and butterflies

lumen: the interior space of a tubular structure


mandibles: the jaws of an insect

mast tree: a tree that produces hard or soft edible fruit, such as nuts and berries. A “mast year” is a particularly productive year that yields many flowers and fruits, which benefit bees and other wildlife

melittology: the study of bees

mesosoma: the middle section of a bee’s body, which supports both the legs and wings. The mesosoma is roughly equivalent to the thorax, except it includes the first abdominal segment, referred to as the propodeum.

metabolite: a substance that is the product of biological changes to another chemical, such as those from pesticides

metasoma: the third section of a bee’s body, roughly equivalent to the abdomen, but lacking the first abdominal segment (propodeum) which is fused to the thorax

miticide: see acaricide

monoculture: the agricultural practice of  growing one single crop over a wide area

monolectic: a pollinator that visits only one species of plan


nadir: (used as a verb) to add a bee box under the others, as in Warre beekeeping

nectar: a sweet solution secreted by the glands of plants

nematicide: a chemical designed to kill roundworms

neonicotinoid: a class of insecticides which act on the central nervous system of insects and are chemically similar to nicotine

Nosema apis: a microsporidian parasite of honey bees that lives in the intestines and destroys the epithelial cells of the midgut. It affects honey bee nutrition and shortens the life of worker bees.

nuc: a shortened form of “nucleus hive,” a small brood box designed to contain 2, 3, 4, or 5 frames. These are often used to start new colonies.

nurse bee: a young worker bee that produces brood food and feeds the larvae


oligolectic: a pollinator that visits only a small number of plant species

orientation flight: short flights around the hive taken by young bees in order to prepare for foraging.

over-wintering: the process of survival during the winter months, during which the bee lives on stores collected during the spring and summer. Bees do not hibernate but actively maintain colony temperatures by clustering.


panicle: a type of inflorescence with a pyramidal, loosely branched flower cluster

papillate: a surface covered with small bumps that are often open (porous) at the top. Certain species of bees have papillate wings, a character that can aid in identification.

parthenogenesis: development from unfertilized eggs. In honey bees the drones (males) result from parthenogenesis

pellet: the contents of a pollen basket (corbicula)

pesticides: a chemical designed to kill a pest

phenology: the study of periodic plant and animal life cycles and how these are influenced by seasonal and interannual variations in climate

pheromone: a chemical substance released by an animal to induce a response in another animal of the same species

pistil: the female ovule-bearing part of a flower composed of stigma, style, and ovary

pollen: a powder-like substance produced by the anthers of flowering plants and containing the male gametes

pollen basket: see corbicula

pollen bee: a general term for any bee other than a honey bee.

pollen patty: a mixture of sugar syrup (or honey) and pollen (or pollen substitute) used as a winter source of protein and amino acids

pollen pellet: the ball of pollen carried in a pollen basket (corbicula) on a bee’s hind leg.

pollen substitute: a high-protein powder used as a protein supplement in lieu of pollen; may contain soy flour, brewer’s yeast, and other products

pollen trap: a device for removing pollen pellets from the corbiculae of incoming bees.

pollenkitt: a sticky substance adhering to the outside surface (exine) of a pollen grain, which aids bees in the collection of pollen

pollination: the movement of pollen from the anthers of one flower to the stigma of a compatible flower

pollinator: an agent that transfers pollen from one flower to another

polyfloral:made from many different flower types, as polyfloral pollen

polylectic: pollinators that visit many different plant species

prepupa: a stage between the last larval instar and the true pupal stage

proboscis: the “tongue” of a bee used to suck nectar and water

propodeum: the first abdominal segment. It is fused to the thorax and is separated from the rest of the abdomen by a so-called “wasp waist”

propolis: plant resins that are collected by bees and used to seal cracks and soften rough edges in the hive. Also called “bee glue” propolis is high in antimicrobial substances

protein: an organic compound made of amino acids arranged in a linear chain in an order specified by a gene’s DNA sequence

pupa: the stage of development immediately preceding the adult stage. A pupa is sealed under a wax capping where it spins a cocoon and completes development. For derivation see: Latin for beekeepers.

pygidium: an abdominal plate of some female mining bees with a pointed tip. The pygidium is used for compacting soil particles in the nest cells and to apply water-proofing secretions from the Dufour’s gland to the cell walls. Also called the “pygidial plate.”


queen: a fully developed female honey bee. Once mated, the queen stores sperm for as long as three or four years and lays eggs at varying rates throughout the year. Normally, there is just one queen per hive.

queenless: a colony without a mated queen

queenright: a colony with a fully functioning mated queen

quilt: in Warre beekeeping, a box placed above the topmost top bars which contains natural materials such as sawdust, woodchips, straw, or dry leaves that absorb excess hive moisture


refuge: a kink in the main tunnel of some mining bees, such as Andrena armata, where the female can rest out of view of the tunnel entrance.

re-queen: a process in which a beekeeper removes the queen from a colony and replace her with a different one

robber bee: bees which enter weak or dying colonies to steal honey.

robber fly: a type of fly that preys on other invertebrates, including bees. They sometimes mimic the appearance of bees they prey on.

royal jelly: a glandular secretion originating in the head segments of nurse bees and used to feed the larvae.


SBB: abbr. screened bottom board. Also, solid bottom board.

spermatheca: an organ in the queen abdomen in which sperm is stored.

stamen: the male (pollen-bearing) part of the flower consisting of the anther and the filament.

steady bee: hover fly [origin: southeastern U.S.].

sublethal dose/concentration: a dose or concentration that induces no statistically significant mortality in the experimental population

sublethal effect: a physiological or behavioral change found in individuals that survive an exposure to a pesticide

supersedure: a process in which a colony replaces its queen with a different one

swarm: the reproduction of an entire colony that occurs when a colony splits into two parts. The old part is left with a new queen, and the part the splits off takes the old queen

synergistic: co-operative, working together, interacting, mutually stimulating. Synergistic toxicity occurs when two pesticides acting together are more toxic that either one acting separately.

systemic pesticide: a pesticide that is absorbed and circulated by a plant or animal so that the plant or animal is toxic to pests that feed on it.


thorax: the middle region of a bee body that supports the wings and legs

trachael mite (Acarapis woodi): parasites that live in the trachea

trachea: a breathing apparatus consisting of branching tubes that conduct oxygen to the inner tissues of the bee

transgenic: an organism that has had genes from another organism inserted into its chromosomes

trophallaxis: direct food transfer between bees


uncapped brood: eggs and larvae not covered by wax

univoltine: insects having one generation per year

Varroa mites (Varroa destructor): parasites that feed on the hemolymph of bees and reproduce on the pupae

viscin: a clear, tasteless, sticky substance made from the sap of flowering plants. In some plants, pollen is held together in clumps or strings with viscin.

walkaway split: a new colony started by putting a few frames of brood, honey, and pollen into a nuc or brood box and allowing the bees to raise their own queen. The brood must contain eggs or very young larvae in order for the bees to succeed at raising a viable queen, and drones must be available in drone congregation areas for her to mate.

warm way: when frames in the brood box are parallel to the hive opening

worker: an infertile, diploid female bee adapted to perform a variety of functions in the colony depending on her age and the colony’s needs

xenobiotic: chemical substances that are foreign to a biological system



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