bees around a hive


Corny puns aside, beekeeping has its own language that can be confusing to the uninitiated newbie. When you first start researching bees and apiaries (see, there’s a new word right there),  you may need to look up quite a few of the words you come across, don’t worry that is completely normal we all had to do it.

Here to help you out is our Bee Lingo guide — while it is not an exhaustive list, it contains the most helpful words to know as you begin your bee adventure.


Beekeeper Apiary
bearding bees
bee on comb

Apiary: Also known as the bee yard, apiaries are where hives are kept for beekeeping.

Bearding: When bees gather on the outside of the hive near the entrance, they are bearding. They do this to keep the hive cooler on a hot day, or when the hive is too crowded inside.

Beehive: A structure where a colony of bees live — it’s a human-made enclosure that has several different design types to choose from.

Bottom Board: The floor of the beehive (really, why don’t we just say “the floor of the beehive?”)

Brood: Developing bees, including eggs, larvae, and pupae

Colony: Also known as the bee family, this is the entire group of bees in a beehive, including the queen, drones, workers, and brood.

Comb: Also called honeycomb, comb is a sheet comprised of hexagonal cells used to store honey, pollen or brood.

Drone: Drones are males bees that have no sting, who need to be fed by worker bees, and whose only job is to impregnate the virgin queen. As medieval as that sounds, drones actually contribute to the well being of the colony, so I shall refrain from making jokes.

Flight Path: The direction in which bees travel when they leave and return to the hive.

Frames: Human-made structures on which the bees create comb — they are easily removed from the hive for inspection and honey collection.

Guard Bees: 3-week-old worker bees that “guard” and challenge any perceived intruders.

Beekeeper frame
queen bee

Hive Tool: A useful beekeeping tool that is a flat metal bar with a lifting hook on one and and a blade at the other – beekeepers use it to pry open the lid and separate and lift frames during inspection and honey collection.

Larvae: Also referred to as “open” or “unsealed” brood, larvae are white and “C” shaped, laying at the bottom of their cell until it’s time for them to pupate — at that time, they become upright, and worker bees cover the cell with “brood capping.”

Nectar: A sugar-rich liquid produced by plants and used by bees as the raw ingredient for making honey.

Nuc: Also called a “nucleus colony,” a nuc is a human-made enclosure used to keep and ship a small or starter colony of bees until it grows into a larger colony. You’ll see this frequently on mail-order sites.

Nurse Bees: 3-10-day old bees whose job it is to feed and take care of the developing brood drones, and queen.

Pollen: Pollen is the bee’s protein and is found in plants and stored in cells.

Pupae: Also known as “capped” or “sealed” brood because the cells in which they live are sealed over. The pupae remain in there until they molt into an adult bee and chew their way through the seal to emerge.

Queen: The only bee in the colony capable of reproducing fertilized worker bee eggs. Colonies with a queen are “queen right” and colonies whose queen has died are “queenless.”

Scout Bees: These are worker bees whose job it is to search for food, water, or a new home for a swarming hive.

Smoker: A metal container with bellows used to produce smoke to control potentially aggressive bees when inspecting the hive.

Super: A box inside a type of beehive used to store honey or increase brood chamber.

Swarm: Swarms are parts of a bee colony that split off and abscond from the hive in order to multiply, typically consisting of a few thousand bees.

Worker Bee: Worker bees are non-reproductive bees (typically the most numerous in the colony) who have a sting and whose job it is to collect nectar, pollen, water, and rear the brood. It’s a thankless job.

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