A-Z of Beekeeping

A to Z

Simple A-Z of beekeeping (certainly not comprehensive)

Abdomen – main body of the bee, behind the thorax.

Acarine – small parasitic mite that infests the airways of the honeybee.

Alarm pheromones – released with the sting; it recruits more bees from within the hive to defend.

American foul brood – caused by spore-forming paenibacillus larvae – deadly disease, it is a notifiable disease to National bee unit and there is no known cure.

Antennae – thin sensory appendages on the heads of insects that detect smell.

Apiary – a collection of beehives.

Apicentric beekeeping – natural beekeeping, cause minimum disruption to lifecycle of bees.

Apis mellifera – honeybee.

Arnhart glands – gland that produces pheromones, found on the feet of bees.

Asian Hornet – large wasp invasive non-native species – enemy of the bee.


BeeBase – beekeeping resource provided by the National Bee Unit, a place to register your bees National bee unit.

Bee brush – a soft brush used to brush bees away from frames.

Beekeeper – Someone who keeps bees.

Bee space – the space between frames in which bees can work.

Beeswax – major component of honeycomb it is secreted from the underside of the worker bees and moulded into honeycomb – it can be used to make many things, candles and is an ingredient in furniture polish, cosmetics and ointments to name a few.

Black bee – species of honeybee that was devastated in Britain in early 20th century. It is claimed there are still small pockets of Britain in which it can be found.

Brood – the immature stage of bees (eggs, larvae and pupae).

Brood chamber – where young bees are raised, nectar and pollen can also be stored here by the bees.

Buckfast bee – a hybrid bee developed at Buckfast Abbey in Devon.


Capped cells – a dome of wax bees build over cells that have either honey or pupating grubs within.

Carniolan bees – a subspecies of honeybee originating in central Europe.

Cells wax – is hexagonal in shape and constructed by the bees for storing honey or rearing larvae.

Chalk brood – fungal disease that infests the gut of the larva then goes on to consume the larva causing it to appear white and chalky.

Colony – honeybees live in large families called colonies with a queen, workers and drones.

Colony collapse disorder – cause not fully known, possibilities are environmental change related stresses, mites, pesticides known as neonicotinoids.

Comb – see honeycomb.

Compound eye – used for general distance sight.

Crown board – movable flat board placed on top of the hive under the roof.


Dadant – a French American beekeeper considered to be one of the founding fathers of ‘modern’ beekeeping.

Deformed wing virus – usually caused by heavy infestation of varroa mite.

Drone – male bee, drones have no sting.


Eyes – the honeybee has two large compound eyes and 3 small simple eyes called ocelli.

European foul brood – Melissococcus plutonius bacterium that infects the mid-gut of bee larvae before the cell is capped – it is a notifiable disease to National bee unit.

European hornet – largest eusocial wasp in Europe. They are carnivorous and eat large insects, primarily wasps, large moths, and large bees.

Extraction – extracting honey from honeycomb.


Fanning – flapping of wings to regulate temperature in the hive or distribute pheromones.

Feeder – a container filled with sugar syrup for the purpose of feeding bees.

Fondant – a substance similar to fondant icing fed to bees when natural food is scarce.

Foundation – a wax sheet that has been embossed with a hexagonal pattern. Bees build their comb upon it.

Frame – a structural element in a hive that holds the foundation/comb.


Guard bee – a bee that guards the hive from predators such as wasps and hornets.


Haemolymph – bee blood.

Hefting – lifting the hive to determine the weight.

Hive – a container for housing honeybees.

Hive tool – implement to aid beekeeper for levering and separating frames etc within the hive.

Honey – ripened nectar.

Honey flow – time in the year when nectar in flowers is at its

Honeycomb – hexagonal cells which are used within the beehive for storage, it is constructed of beeswax.


Imidacloprid – one of the neonicotinoid insecticides restricted by the EU.

Isle of Wight disease – acarine mite infestation first observed on the Isle of Wight in 1904 thought to have wiped out the black bee – the Buckfast bee was developed to combat the disease.

Italian bee – a bee from Italy generally thought to have a good temperament and rarely swarms.


Jelly – see royal jelly.


Langstroth hive – a type of hive common in America.


Marker pheromone – for marking food and water sources, hive locations, gathering swarms. Pheromone produced by the Arnhart glands.

Mead – alcohol made with honey.

Mellifera – honey bearer.

Moult – a bee larvae moults its skin 6 times before it emerges as a bee.

Mouse guard – a grid which allows bees in and out of the hive whilst keeping mice out

Microsporidia – spore-forming unicellular parasite


National Bee Unit – telephone +44 0300 3030094

National hive – a hive widely used in Britain.

Nasonov gland – gland that produces pheromones.

Neonicitonoid neuro-active insecticides – use is linked adverse ecological effects, including honeybee colony collapse disorder (CCD). Because of this use has been restricted / banned in some countries.

Nectar – sweet substance produced by flowers.

Nosema-  microsporidian that invades the intestinal tracts of adult bees.

Nosema disease – a type of dysentery.

Nuc/nucleus – a box with 4 or more frames of brood, some honey, a queen and some workers, bees are usually bought in a nuc.

Nurse bees – a worker bee that rears brood in the colony.


Ocelli – eyes which are used in poor light conditions within
the hive.

Open mesh floor – a fine mesh floor used to help control varroa mites, they can fall through but are unable to return to the hive.


Pheromones – a chemical substance produced and released into the environment by an animal, especially a mammal or an insect, affecting the behaviour or physiology of others of its species.

Pollen – microscopic grains discharged from the male part of a flower or from a male cone and fed to bee larvae; essential bee food.

Pollen baskets – located on hind leg of the bee in which pollen is transported back to the hive.

Proboscis – long tube the bee uses like a straw to feed and

Propolis resin – from trees, used by bees to seal cracks in the hive, has been found to show antiseptic properties.


Queen – the only bee in the hive that lays eggs, she can lay fertile (worker) or infertile eggs (drone).

Queen cell an elongated cell made by worker bees that contain larvae that become queens. The larvae are fed royal jelly.

Queen Mandibular pheromone – The queen bee exerts her influence over the hive by means of this. It acts as a mating attractant for the drones, and suppresses the reproductive systems of the workers, ensuring that the queen is the only reproductive female in the hive. It is also passed between bees during Trophillaxis.

Queen marking – to aid visibility the queen is marked by the beekeeper with a brightly coloured dot of non-harming ink.


Records – as bees are considered to be food-producing species, beekeepers must keep records for each hive.

Robbing when other insects steel honey from the hive.

Royal jelly fed to larvae that would normally develop into workers, which instead become queens.


Sac brood – viral disease that causes larvae to die before their
final moult.

Skep – a wicker dome shaped basket used to collect bees.

Small hive beetle – a small, dark-coloured beetle that lives in beehives not yet found in the UK.

Smoker – a receptacle used to puff smoke into a hive to move the bees.

Spiracles – tiny holes along the sides of the bee’s thorax and abdomen through which the bee breathes.

Sugar syrup – mix of water and granulated sugar fed to bees by the beekeeper in times of shortage of nectar.

Super – top box on a hive the bees use to store nectar.

Supersedure – when a new queen replaces the old queen without swarming.

Sting -used as a form of defence, it is barbed and cannot be used repeatedly. Only the worker bees and queen bee have a sting.

Swarming – the queen leaves the hive taking with her worker bees (approximately half the colony) to set up home elsewhere. The natural way for colony reproduction.


Thorax – middle part of the bees body, attached to the head and abdomen.

Top bar beehives – a type of beehive which allows bees to form their own comb without frames and foundation.

Tracheal mite – see acarine.

Trophillaxis – transfer of food through mouth-to-mouth also transferring pheromones.


Varroa – parasitic mites that feed on the bodily fluids of adult, pupal and larval bees.

Venom – administered via the sting it causes local inflammation and acts as an anticoagulant.

Vitellogenin – egg yolk protein precursor, as female bees rarely lay eggs they have no need for this so they have developed it into food storage reservoirs within their bodies and heads and also use it to to synthesise royal jelly.


Waggle dance – a figure of eight dance performed by honeybees to communicate location of nectar sources to other members of the colony.

Wasp – carnivorous insect, similar in shape of the bee.

Wax – substance secreted from the wax gland of the bee from which she constructs comb and caps cells.

Wax moth – do not attack the bees but feed on the wax.

WBC hive – a hive designed by William Broughton Carr.

Worker – female bee, works tirelessly for the colony. Typically lives for only 6 weeks during the summer months when hives are collecting nectar and pollen.