A few months have passed since I last railed about English for beekeepers. But in a recent letter to the editor of the American Bee Journal, honey bee researcher Sue Cobey took up the cause. Briefly, she discussed the difference between queen rearing (queen propagation) and queen breeding (genetic evaluation and selection). She also mentioned hatching vs emerging (eggs hatch and adult bees emerge) and the misspelling of honey bee as one word. These are some of my favorite targets, too. Yay Sue.
What is a honey flow?
But then, a blog post by another beekeeper caught my eye: a discussion of the honey flow. Now I ask you, does honey flow from flowers? Of course not. What flows from flowers is nectar. Honey bees make honey from nectar by adding enzymes and dehydrating. So during the time of the year when the flowers are secreting and the bees are collecting like crazy, we are in the midst of a nectar flow. The honey will come later.
The term honey flow is confusing and short changes the massive amount of work—and perhaps a little magic—that the bees perform. It gives the impression that honey, fully formed, oozes out of flowers into the mouths of bees. What a silly idea.
We need to communicate
Language is a primary means of communication, but we are not communicating effectively when we use meaningless or misleading words and phrases. I’m fully aware that most beekeepers who use poor terminology do so because everyone else does. But still, it always puts a frisson of doubt in my mind. Do they know what they’re talking about?
But even if they and their beekeeping friends understand each other, will a non-beekeeper or even a new beekeeper understand the meaning? Maybe the public would be more impressed by honey bees if we didn’t make it sound like bees were collecting a pre-fab product.
What about the pollen flow?
Then there’s the term “pollen flow.” I am guilty of using this one, but I promise to switch as soon as I find a better alternative. However, after looking in the dictionary, I realize that “pollen flow” makes more sense than “honey flow.” The word “flow” can mean an outpouring or a copious supply of something. So, according to that definition, you really can have a pollen flow—a copious outpouring of pollen from flowers.
Using that definition, though, “honey flow” is even worse than I thought. You never, under any circumstances, have a copious outpouring of honey from flowers. Nectar? Yes. Honey? No. Flowers produce nectar and bees produce honey.
Some super terminology
The term “super” used to be the word that riled me the most, but it no longer has first place. More and more beekeepers understand the difference, and I can see the change in comments and emails. Some writers have gone through the effort of spelling things out, such as super(structure) and nuc(leus), and I think that has made a big difference in the proper use of those words. I cheer for those writers who are part of the solution instead of part of the problem.
So which word has moved into first place on the driving-me-nuts list? Well, it shouldn’t surprise you because it simply moved up from second place. Hive. OMG. Hive. Just yesterday someone said they installed a hive in their new hive. Huh?
While some of the folks at UC Davis have been chopping away at this one, no one seems to be getting anywhere. A hive is a man-made shelter for a colony of bees. It’s the box, not the bees, that have the name. An open-air colony can live its whole life without a hive. But I’m preaching to the choir, right? You already know that.
A few more months
Okay, that’s enough preaching for now. I’ll get down from my high horse and try to keep quiet for a few months (although it’s unbearably hard for me). Until then, read English for Beekeepers if you haven’t already. It’s one of my favorite posts.
Honey Bee Suite