Glossary of beekeeping terms

National brood box with roof and floor

The Hive




 Honeycomb without foundation

Structure of hexagonal cells made of wax built by bees from the wax glands on their lower abdomen.  (Note: no frame or foundation in this natural comb)



Man-made ‘starter’ comb made synthetically or by collecting used wax from beekeepers.  You can see the wire supports used to strengthen the foundation.


 Frame with foundation

The wooden rectangular frame in which foundation is secured.  (The frame here is from a super)

Brood box

 National brood box with roof and floor

A large hive box containing the core of the colony where the brood is raised (seen here with a roof and floor).



A small hive box (half the height of a brood box) placed on top of the brood box in orthodox beekeeping practice.


 National brood boxes and roof

The most common type of hive in the UK.  For pictures go to Different bee hives



A small box half the width of a brood box but as deep, for raising or transporting a new colony.



Painted Warre hive

Natural Beekeeping Trust’s Warre hive

A hive commonly used for natural beekeeping. To find out more go to Comparison of natural beekeeping hives

The Bees





One queen per colony.  She lays all the eggs.  Leaves the colony once to mate with drones.  She has a longer body than her workers and drones.


  The female bees responsible for nursing new brood, looking after the queen, foraging for nectar, pollen and water – doing most of the work!



The male bees, much fewer in number than workers.  Recognizable by their rounded bottoms!



A colony refers to the collection of bees populating a single hive – the hive is the wooden box they inhabit.



Before bees hatch from their cells.  They go through the stages of egg, larvae and pupae.  Kept in the centre of the colony.



How the colony reproduces.  The old queen leaves with approximately two thirds of the colony to find a new home.  The remaining colony (left with all the brood and food stores) has to hatch a new (virgin) queen.  She leaves the hive to mate with drones from other colonies and returns to lay eggs for the rest of her life.







Bee bread


Fermented pollen mixed with honey, fed to the brood.

Royal jelly


Bee ‘milk’ fed to (what will become the) queen.  It is the same bee milk that feeds the workers but there is a greater proportion of sugar in the royal jelly.  This determines the hormonal differences between the two bees.



Sticky, waterproofing substance used to seal the hive.  Made from resin, balsam and gums collected from plants.





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