English for beekeepers

Beekeeping vocabulary: the best beekeepers get the words right

Beekeeping is a complex and nuanced craft. You cannot teach others about it by using the same ten words for everything.

This may be the last ABJ article I ever write. Why? I have a premonition that an article about English in a beekeeping journal won’t go over well with the readership. It might be a fireable offense, like writing about cupcakes in a wrestling rag. Nevertheless, I’m not easily deterred.

This article first appeared in American Bee Journal, Volume 161 No. 7, July 2021, pp. 757-760.

Humans communicate through language. We learn, discuss, and teach by using words we understand, words with meanings we agree on. Every hobby, trade, and field of inquiry has its own vocabulary that allows the participants to discuss the minutiae of their interest.

Beekeepers should be no different. We have dictionary-length lists of specialty words that allow us to communicate with each other. But far too often, we use the same words for multiple things and wonder why newbies are slow to catch on. A case in point is the word hive.

A hive in a hive

If you research the history of the word hive, you can find it defined as “a man-made housing for a colony of bees.” That’s a straightforward, easy-to-understand definition with no confusion. If you use that definition, you will never have a hive in a hive unless, for some obscure reason, you put a small bee house inside a larger one.

Beekeepers today call everything a hive. The box, the colony, a swarm in a tree — all of these are hives. Longtime beekeepers will tell you clarification is unnecessary, that the meaning is clear. Sure, I get that. But when we’re teaching, mentoring, lecturing, or answering questions — when we’re attempting to impart any kind of knowledge — we owe it to our audience to use words they can understand without confusion.

Hives don’t die

Students live in dorms, soldiers live in barracks, and families live in houses, apartments, or tents. Unless it’s a rental property, we seldom ask if the house for sale down the street includes the family. When your pig dies, you don’t say your pigpen died. When your rabbit dies, you don’t say your hutch died. So when your colony dies, why do you say your hive died? Most likely, that wooden box is doing fine.

I have an internal battle with sarcasm every time someone tells me their hive died. I want to ask how they knew, what the symptoms were, and how they disposed of it. The same is true for hives that swarm. Swarming hives make me think of the Wizard of Oz, and I imagine wooden Langstroths swirling in the winds of a tornado, heading for the nearest wicked witch.

A hive is a hive whether or not it contains bees.
A hive is a hive whether or not it contains bees.

Keep it clear with unique words

Just like everyone else, I began beekeeping thinking hive was the word. It wasn’t until I began writing and mentoring that I realized how confusing it could be. Of all my own bad beekeeping habits, the sloppy use of hive has been the hardest to break. I answer beekeeping questions every day, yet I always need to edit my work and delete inept uses of that word. Although I’m getting better, it’s ingrained and nearly impossible to break. The reward is in responses from others, things like “Oh! Now I understand!”

I’m not the arbiter of bee terminology, so I can understand anyone using definitions that are different. That’s fine. But if you’re going to use the word hive for most things bee, at least give your newbie friends a heads-up. Explain that when you say hive, you may mean the box, the colony, the box-colony combination, a swarm, the act of putting bees in a box, or the red welt on your arm. In other words, be crystal clear.

A nuc for a nuc

The word nuc suffers from exactly the same problem as the word hive. We can buy a box for a nuc, which we call a nuc, and then we put the nascent colony inside, also called a nuc, and then together they make a third thing — bees and box combined — also known as a nuc. If we could only conserve species with the same zeal we conserve words.

Inexplicably, the thing inside the nuc becomes a hive once you put it into a hive. So when we take a nuc from a nuc and hive it, it becomes a hive in a hive.

But I have other issues with the word nuc. Not surprisingly, the word is shorthand for nucleus. When I google nucleus, I see that a nucleus is “the central and most important part of an object, movement, or group, forming the basis for its activity and growth.” That definition works perfectly for beekeepers because a nucleus contains the heart of a bee colony: a brood nest, nurse bees, and a queen. Simple and clear.

But every single day I see this word spelled NUC as if it were an acronym or Nuke as if it might explode. I often wonder what people think the acronym represents or how one might detonate the thing. I got an email recently asking about a N.U.C. It reminded me of that old television show, “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” Imagine, “The Drone from N.U.C.”

Does it hatch or emerge?

American Bee Journal clarifies the use of some beekeeping terms. If you go to their website, click on Contact, and scroll down to Writer’s Guidelines, you will find a section called, “Language use relevant to writing about bees.” Although the list doesn’t mention hives, it clarifies hatch vs. emerge: “Eggs hatch, adult bees emerge.”

You may wonder if that’s important, but as I’ve tried to illustrate, it’s messy to use the same word for multiple things. Hatching occurs when an egg releases the young larva, but emergence occurs at the end of the pupal stage when the cocoon releases an adult bee. If you use these words correctly, you don’t need to explain further. If the bee hatched, you know it went from egg to larva; if it emerged, it went from pupa to adult. No clarification is necessary.

Nevertheless, if you feel strongly about using the same word for both, try switching to eclose. Conveniently, eclose describes either of those situations, or it can describe an egg releasing a nymph — the thing varroa mites do so well.

Technically, eclose means to come out of the egg or the pupa case. So when using eclose, you need some context to know exactly what’s happening, and it sounds pretentious. But some like it. Eclose is one of those words that reminds me of a specific beekeeper — the only one I know who uses it.

The stuff that oozes out of flowers is nectar. It doesn’t become honey until it’s processed by honey bees.
The stuff that oozes out of flowers is nectar. It doesn’t become honey until it’s processed by honey bees.

Respect your audience

Beekeepers aside, the proper use of words is generally respected in society. It shows regard for the listener, the one who is spending his time — and maybe his money — listening to you.

I’ll never forget interviewing for a job I really needed. During the interview, I used the word criteria incorrectly. I hesitated a moment and then said, “I meant criterion.” About a week into the job, the boss called me into his office and said, “Do you know why I hired you?” I had no clue and said so. “It’s because you corrected your own English,” he said. “It shows respect for your audience.”

I’ve thought about that a lot over the years. Sometimes we think we’re smart or cool or popular, but that’s not why newbies come to us. They come because they want clear and uncluttered explanations using words they can understand. At the very least, we as mentors, teachers, or lecturers owe concise language to the people who depend on us.

Learning the lexicon

Throughout my formal education, I always noticed that once you mastered the vocabulary of a subject, the rest was easy. When you can define the words and know how they relate to others, you’re very close to grasping the entire subject.

The same is true for sports, art, trades, and hobbies. In beekeeping, if you can explain the meaning of spiracle, trachea, tracheole, and hemolymph, you are close to having a functional understanding of the bee respiratory system. You can also see why tracheal mites are a problem and how they enter a bee. A world of knowledge is yours once you absorb just a few essential words. It seems like magic.

Flexible definitions

Beginners are often brutalized by imprecise vocabulary. Flexible definitions lead to mushy, unclear thinking, and unclear thinking leads to miscommunication. I always remember a new beekeeper I met during a field day. She was upset because all her bees were bearding on the front of her hive and refused to go inside. She said they’d been behaving badly all weekend, ever since she reversed her brood boxes, something her mentor advised.

After asking some questions, I discovered she had reversed her boxes by turning the entire hive 180 degrees, making the front the back and the back the front. The poor bees were having a hard time finding the new front door, which was now just inches from the back of her house.

Another beekeeper I know misinterpreted the same advice. This guy reversed his boxes by putting the honey supers under the brood nest, confusing the bees no end. I can’t blame the newbies. Mentors should not give instructions without explaining the terminology. Even simple words like “reversing” can be interpreted in multiple troublesome ways.

Vocabulary of beekeepers: A queen honey bee is not royalty, she’s an egg-laying machine. The word queen describes her relationship to the other bees and her job description.
A queen honey bee is not royalty, she’s an egg-laying machine. The word queen describes her relationship to the other bees and her job description.

How to bug me

Since I’m on the subject of beekeeping words that mess with my blood pressure, I’ll mention some others that trip the sarcasm in me.

Honey flow

As much as we might wish it, honey does not flow from flowers. The stuff that flows from flowers is nectar. Honey bees turn nectar into honey by doing things to it, things like spitting and mixing and drying. The term honey flow trivializes the role of the honey bee, making it sound like the honey is out there, fully formed, just waiting to be collected. I much prefer nectar flow.


Africanized is not a synonym for ill-tempered. A honey bee can have a nasty temperament with no African genetics whatsoever. If a bee colony possesses genes that make it truly Africanized, the word is fine, but calling any hot hive Africanized isn’t helpful and it may scare people unnecessarily. If you don’t know for sure, don’t call it.


I can understand Europeans capitalizing the word queen out of habit. But here in the US where we rebelled from the monarchy quite a while back, why do we think the word should be capitalized? In a beehive, a queen is not a title, but a job description like lawyer, janitor, or carpenter. You can also think of it as a relationship like mother, sister, or aunt, none of which are capitalized.

Now, if you name your queen, say Queen Melissa, the word is governed by a different rule, one that allows a capital letter. However, if you name your queen, you have an entirely different set of personal baggage, especially problematic at pinching time. Naming livestock reminds me of a neighbor who assigned sweet names to her beef cattle. Once slaughtered, her animals entered the freezer wrapped in white paper and labeled like this: DaisyBelle, Round Roast, October 2019. Sorry, but the thought of eating DaisyBelle does nothing for my appetite.

Latin names

I understand that no one studies Latin these days, but learning a few Latin plurals won’t hurt you, especially when you use those words daily. For many common words, you simply add an e to the end of the word, the way you add an s in English.

One larva becomes two larvae and one pupa becomes two pupae. And don’t forget that one corbicula becomes two corbiculae and one antenna becomes two antennae. These plural words get a long e sound as in lar-vee, pyoo-pee, cor-bi-kyoo-lee, and an-teh-nee. You can spend decades struggling with these words or spend five minutes to learn them.

Queen cells

People use the terms queen cell, supersedure cell, and swarm cell interchangeably. Sometimes the purpose of these cells is obvious. For example, when dozens of them are lined up at the bottom of the brood frames in May, calling them swarm cells is a good bet. Several cells scattered on the face of the brood frames in August are likely supersedure cells.

But if you can’t determine the purpose, just call them queen cells. There’s no point in assigning a purpose to them if you don’t know what the purpose is. Using the wrong word just adds confusion to any discussion.


Be judicious with abbreviations, especially when you don’t know your audience. No one likes to struggle with a bunch of letters while the speaker rumbles on without you. It won’t diminish your authority to just say or write the words, especially the first few times.

My favorite abbreviation is SBB. I saw it used in a publication (not this one) where it referred to “screened bottom boards.” Two months later, the same publication ran an article where the writer used SBB to mean “solid bottom board.” Apparently, if you use an SBB instead of an SBB, you’ll be all set.

Super irritating

Of course, the all-time most irritating word in all of beedom is super. Super is short for superstructure. You can’t have a superstructure (which means “above the structure”) unless you first have a structure.

Brood boxes are the basic structure of the hive and contain the brood; supers go above the brood boxes and hold the honey. Supers are not integral to the structure of the hive, which means they can be added or removed without compromising either the hive or the colony that lives within.

The name super is determined by its function, not by its size or shape. When you call every bee box you own a super, you have limited ways to communicate what you really mean, and newbies have a hard time understanding. If you stop to think about what the word superstructure implies, you can’t possibly get it wrong.

Ask ten beekeepers

If you plan to keep bees in a vacuum, no one cares what you call anything. But if you plan to teach, mentor, present, or write to beekeepers, especially new ones, try to use language that is clear and concise.

I often hear newbies say, “Ask ten beekeepers and get twelve answers.” I don’t think that’s quite true. Instead, I think most of those ten beekeepers are saying the same thing, but they’re speaking in code. Since no one understands what they mean, it sounds like twelve different answers. Who wouldn’t be confused?

Honey Bee Suite

Beekeeping words: All bees have two antennae. Honey bees also have two corbiculae, whereas many solitary bees have a single scopa or multiple scopae, depending on the species.
All bees have two antennae. Honey bees also have two corbiculae, whereas many solitary bees have a single scopa or multiple scopae, depending on the species.


  • I couldn’t agree more, Rusty. You have highlighted some of my pet linguistic peeves in the bee world. It is irritating to hear or read some of these errors from knowledgeable beekeepers. I live in hope that your article starts something significant.

  • Thank you for this! As an absolute beginner, I can tell you how much precision in language helps. Thank you for taking the time to thoughtfully educate!

  • I love when you write about words. I hope your ABJ audience feels the same way.
    Also, you need to hit us (me) over the head more about the nuc, because it still feels like the baby hive needs its own word more than the small colony.

  • That’s funny, I always thought that SBB meant “Schweizerische Bundesbahnen,” or Swiss Federal Railways. 😉

  • Rusty….. GOOD STUFF, but you must realize that being “precise” in words is hard work! Beekeeping is hard physical work….so we are exhausted and can get a little sloppy with words.

    On a personal note, there are few things I find more frustrating and exhausting when working in a new area than imprecise, sloppy language. You’ll be writing more in ABJ…I and others can use “good stuff.”

  • Spot on! And thanks for the vocab lesson. I finally learned what those words I hear all the time in podcasts actually mean!

    I taught art in high school and when my principal came to observe me he called me out for using “jargon.” I was dumbfounded. Those words were all art vocabulary pertinent to the lesson and I had long before taught my students what they meant and we used them regularly in class. Specifics matter if you want clarity and understanding.

  • This article is wonderful. While I’m not a new keeper, I find there are terms that I use, in ways that I hear other beekeepers use them. I hate to admit it, but I just copy them. Your article cleared up some of those…even after I’m four years into beekeeping. OMG. Actually, when I talk to folks about what we beekeepers do, I find I have to spend way too much time explaining the terminology – Super, for example. How could I not know that meant superstructure?! So your article made me smile – loved the reversing story. It made me realize that teaching in beekeeping requires lots of visuals so that the terminology is “shown” in pix and movies ….and visuals are much easier to grasp. So glad that you wrote this. I’ve missed reading your column lately. Thank you so much. Happy Thanksgiving to you!

    • Merrell,

      Happy Thanksgiving to you, too. Whenever I try to learn something new, I like to start with the terminology. It’s really true, that once you know what the words mean, the rest (usually) is a piece of cake…or pumpkin pie, perhaps.

  • Well done, Rusty, it really needed saying! I have the misfortune to have once been a proofreader and so those who have kept bees for thirty or forty years but still cannot manage the larva/larvae dichotomy (never mind criterion/criteria) drive me nuts!

  • A great article! Personally, I cringe when people talk about ‘the girls’, which may be technically correct, but is far too sentimental for my taste. But there are some technical words that are not only useful but have interesting origins. In the UK we talk about ‘nadiring’ (putting a super underneath the brood box in the winter) which comes from the word ‘nadir’, the lowest point. And ‘eke’, which comes from old English to ‘eke out’ or extend something.

  • Thank you for this. Many of my pet hates here, especially the confusing use of the word ‘hive’. So much confusion because people use that word instead of ‘colony’.

    Not vocabulary as such, but I will never understood why some people put the plural of bee as bee’s, instead of the correct word – bees. Every time I see it I tear a bit more of my hair out. 😉

  • Yes, 100 times. How can we communicate effectively, with members of the general public as well as with newbees, if we don’t use the correct vocabulary.

    And similarly, I keep seeing people on social media write the plural of bee as bee’s, instead of the correct form – bees. I don’t know how that started but it’s…not good.

  • Nice article.

    Personally, I do not try and get all hung up on the language although I do try to design talks to fit the audience… and I encourage students to do the same. A lot of the language of beekeeping can be quite regional… so what terms folks use in one place are not used in another. Invariably the language confuses the novice but allows old beekeepers like myself to chuckle when folks use terms that are quite inappropriate. As a plus, some folks who have little experience but talk a good game, expose themselves in how they use the language of beekeeping.

    Another good example I have run into lately is the confusion in the use of the terms AI vs II. I run into a lot of novice beekeepers who use the first term (and then argue as to why the second is inappropriate) but never an accomplished queen-rearing person use anything but the latter.

    Finally on your description of reversing. Typically for me, this was done in the spring of the year and to a lesser extent in the fall after a long dearth. Often overlooked is cleaning off the bottom board was a critical part of this process in the southern US to reduce problems with wax moths. Your description (ie honey on the bottom board) was a manipulation used by some beekeeper to remedy the problem of a honey cap. This was typically done in the late spring and the beekeeper would scratch the two center comb capping and place a box of new frames and foundation on the top. The basic idea was the bees would then move the honey upward and draw the foundation at the top of the hive at the same time. It was basically thought to reduce problems of swarming associated with a honey cap.

    ET Ash. now officially retired from beekeeping… at least for a little while.

    • Gene,

      The AI vs II is a good one to add to the list. And thanks for the notes on reversing. I was never much into it, so it’s good to hear some of the thoughts behind it.

  • Thanks for this, Rusty.

    I regularly complain when a scripted news report abuses the English language with the result that what was said was not what was meant. My wife accuses me of being pedantic as it was “obvious” what was actually meant without appreciating that such inaccuracies will not always be obvious and, therefore, I cannot trust anything else in the report.

    A particular bugbear of mine is the oft-quoted statistic that an individual bee’s life expectancy is 6 weeks, but we are rarely told when that life begins.

    The subject of asking 10 beekeepers a question and getting 12 answers can be due to local conditions. I have colonies in my Scottish back garden and at an apiary 6 miles away. There are significant differences in conditions between these two sites. Members of my local club have reported this past beekeeping year as anything from disastrous to amazingly successful!

    • Dave,

      Yes and yes! “I cannot trust anything else in the report” That is me exactly! When people use false, unclear, or poorly worded sentences, I dismiss everything else they say because if some of it isn’t true (or doesn’t appear to be true) how can I trust the rest of it?

      Your second point is extremely important. It should be “active life expectancy” because they usually mean from emergence from the pupal cocoon until death. Honey bees are in the brood stage for about three weeks, whereas some bees are in the brood stage for 9 or 10 months (such as many mason bees) and there are bees that don’t emerge for several years, especially if the weather is bad. But once they emerge, they all have an active lifespan of about 4 to 6 weeks. So, yes, it’s important to clarify.

      The third point aggravates me as well. I always think that each beekeeper should be able to think of several possibilities for every question, so if ten beekeepers can only come up with twelve answers, something is seriously wrong. If everyone agrees, no one is thinking.

  • Thank you for this edifying article, Rusty! As a relatively new beekeeper, I have indeed experienced some of the confusions you point to.

    As much as I learn by reading books and websites, I have been working on learning to “read” my sticky boards. I see that there are signs like footprints in a snowy field that can give me clues about what us going on inside the hive. But my learning curve is slow. Are there books or articles out there that can help me better interpret what I am seeing? Beyond just counting varroa mite fall?

    Thanks so much!

    Missi Goss
    Bainbridge Island, WA

  • LOVE IT!

    A new beekeeper posted a question in a Facebook group about switching super boxes on the bottom of the hive. Those responding were completely confused on what she was trying to accomplish. It turned out she thought “super” meant the big box, you know like super-sized.
    Then in another group, the new beekeeper insisted EVERY box above the bottom box is called “super” regardless of what size it is or whether its intent is for brood or honey. I explained, supers are actually honey supers and even sent links to beekeeping definitions. Nope, she was certain every box above the bottom is a super and that’s what she is going to call them. I told her she can call them whatever she wants, but she’s going to confuse everyone she talks to. 😀

    • Lynne,

      I keep learning new things. I hadn’t thought of “super” meaning “big” as in “supersize me” but it makes so much sense. All by itself, that could be super confusing.

      As for those who stubbornly refuse to listen to reason, they are the ones who do the most damage when they start to teach. And teach, they do.

      Thanks for the enlightenment.

    • It is quite an interesting question to ask where the boundary is for supers? As to size, a lot of commercial honey-raising folks use deep boxes for supers, so as far as I know, in that crowd there are NO distinctions in regards to the size of the box. As far as ‘reversing’ this can be done with any size box and does look a bit unusual when the beekeeper (like myself) would move a medium depth (sometimes called an Illinois super) to the bottom board and a deep above. For myself, this configuration works out really well since I would locate a frame feeder in the deep and could add syrup by doing nothing more than moving the lid over a wee bit. For a lot of southern beekeepers, cleaning off the bottom board was an important part of reversing since the debris that accumulated on the bottom board and no bees in the bottom box encouraged wax moth problems and of course nowadays small hive beetle.

  • Nothing external causes sarcasm. Sarcasm it an inherent trait and you have been blessed and cursed with it. Our grandson has none in him. His little sister was born with it. (In spades) She sure didn’t get it from me, that’s for sure. (That’s sarcasm) I too have been irritated by imprecise language, though it really isn’t a big deal. A colony refers to the inhabitants. A “Hive” is the whole deal combined. (We have a hive of bees, that refers to the boxes, the inhabitants and all the rest) , to me at least. The boxes are not, per se, a hive. They are where the colony lives. Our “girls” did well this year. Think they are in for the winter. A little note. Let your broccoli flower in the fall. They work it like crazy on semi warm days and there is little else available. Hope you and yours are well.

  • How about “comb”?!!

    Mike Palmer uses it to signify either the actual cell structure or the whole frame.

    That drives me crazy!

    Happy beekeeping everyone, whatever your style might be

    From snowy Canada

  • The quality of your writing is one of the things I enjoy about your website. Many of us will stick with you here whether ABJ agrees or not.
    We told our children when they were young that there are two types of words – words you know, and words you have to look up. Whenever you take up a new hobby (and that’s how most of us start out with bees) you find there is a third type – words you think you know, but which have a totally different meaning in this new context. I think that’s part of the miscommunication problem. Much of what you describe here is yet another type – words that are misused, and the misusers expect everyone to understand them anyway.

    I am certainly guilty of incorrect usage as I continue to learn about bees. Way back in elementary school, although “emerge” was the usual term when discussing caterpillars, it just seemed like a fancy word for “hatch”. In fact, I’m pretty sure the two words were used interchangeably. This is just one example of something I’m trying to correct. Hive vs. colony, and the names of box sizes vs. their purpose, are distinctions that are more obvious to me, and grate on my nerves when they’re used wrong.

    On a more humorous note, when I started attending a bee club (and before I had any bees) I didn’t know the difference between frames, foundation, and comb. Even better, the club sponsored a workshop that included an intricate, 10-15 minute demonstration on wiring a frame. I had no idea what he was wiring or why. It didn’t help that there was a pile of other hive equipment on the front of the workbench, and he was doing the actual work behind it while describing out loud the clever tool he had developed for a particularly fiddly bit of the process.

    • Wiring seems like one of those things that doesn’t need to be taught too soon. Many beekeepers these days have never wired a frame and may never wire one. It’s like training today’s new drivers on a standard transmission. My husband jokes that most kids today couldn’t steal our cars even if they had the keys.

  • Great article! Thanks you for sharing this information regarding the post of honey and even looking forward to the latest one. For further information you can visit apisindia.com.

  • Thank you, Rusty! This is a great article, and hopefully, not your last.

    I’m one of those folks who proof-reads billboards (seriously, who forgot capitalization and grammar?) and I appreciate English and it’s nuances. And fol-der-rols –yes, I just started a sentence with “and”. You’re a great writer, please remember, ok?

  • Africanized: ‘…but calling any hot hive Africanized isn’t helpful and it may scare people unnecessarily.’ Is the hive hot or the bees?

    • We have done some work with Africanized bees at the Texas A&M Bee Lab. We of course ID these using DNA analysis. It was interesting to me to see how many thought their bees were Africanized when they were not…. quite typically turned out to be a certain European/European cross. Secondly how difficult it was in locating Africanized bees for the project. Thirdly when we did find some Africanized bees they were really not that hostile to work. As to your comments, Brian, I try to inform people not to loosely use this term for exactly the reason you suggest.

  • Definitely not your last article, I suspect. Thankfully, beekeeping editors are made of stouter stuff than that, though sometimes I do pity Jerry for the hate mail he must receive because of some of my drivel. Anyway, great article; I always enjoy reading your stuff.

  • Great! Going to have to clean up a tad before I give my next lecture.
    I had to look up “scopa” and found that it is an Italian card came. I had better luck with “Scopae”.

  • Rusty, This article is GREAT…and I am positive it will not be your last one. It should be mandatory for anyone teaching about bees. I, too, am very literal and the swapping of word and mnemonic meanings is very aggravating.

    Only other observation…LONG ago…in my Latin classes, the plurals generally took on a “long a” sound…alumna became alumnae (alumnaaa) and pupa became pupae (pupaaaa), etc. Also learned that “veni” could be pronounced as “veni” with a “v” sound or “weni” with a “w” sound….both spelled veni. Guess like tomato and potato…can be said differently but watch the meanings!!

    Thanks for your articles and for sharing your expertise. I enjoy them every time they arrive!

    • Sharon,

      Yes, I was taught the long “a” sound as well. But now, nearly all the references use the long “e” sound. It’s been massively difficult for me to switch.

      • The long-e-ers are just wrong then, aren’t they. Also, I’m old and cranky and I’m not gonna bother to switch.

  • I too am a big proponent of everyone speaking the same beekeeping language. Can you imagine how confusing the world would be if parents didn’t correct their child’s babbling by encouraging the use of accepted words? The ability to speak coherently is what separates an infant from a more mature individual. The same distinction holds true for “newbees” vs. established, serious beekeepers. An inexperienced beekeeper, much like a babbling baby, MAYBE has an excuse to call a frame a “rack” or a package of bees a “swarm of bees” or a queen excluder a “queen reducer”. But a more experienced beekeeper has no excuse to continue using “baby talk”. It’s particularly maddening for me when the “bee professionals” (those people who sell bees and honey or teach about bees) continue to talk and write about their craft as if they were children.

    Certainly, though, there should be some allowance for regionalism and colloquialism when speaking informally about bees. Referring to worker/forager bees as “girls” isn’t all that offensive to me. When I hear a new beekeeper say something like “these guys are bringing in a lot of pollen”, the quickest way for me to make a minor correction in terminology is NOT to say “no, they’re female bees with underdeveloped ovaries”. I simply state, “they’re not guys, they’re girls”.

    • Dave,

      You make an excellent point, but it grates on me nevertheless…like when someone half my age calls me “honey.”

      • It’s like when someone calls my ferrets “rodents”. They’re not rodents; they’re rodentivores. I’m not “honey”; I’m a honeyvore!

      • Ha! I live in the South. Everyone calls EVERYONE “honey”.

        I usually refer to mine by name — each hive has a common name for all the females 🙂 — to differentiate between colony behaviors, but I do generalize as “girls”. After all, as Dave points out, most of them are female bees with underdeveloped ovaries, e.g., pre-teen girls. There’s only one woman in the house.

        Drones, in this view, are teenage boys until the day they die.

        • Hmm, you’re right. I lived in the southeast for a few years but I guess I forgot about all that “honey” stuff. Here it’s reserved for those who’ve more-or-less “lost it” to senility. And the term “girls” usually refers to the very young or the very old.

  • Rusty, your piece about bees and grammar is very good, but people do study Latin these days, especially my virologist grandson and his younger brother. As a student of language, literature, and humanities, I look up the etymology of every new word that I learn, because as a writer I peel back the letters to get to the essence. And, I do not patronize my readers.

  • Can you tell us the nutritional value of sugar for your bees? You should be feeding pollen patties in the spring and winter patties after the first frost in the fall. Why after the first frost? The first frost gets rid of small hive beetles. I’ve only been “messing with bees since 1960”. Feed sugar in the spring when your girls are going gangbusters making comb and they have another food supply.

    • Tom,

      Sugar has nearly zero nutritional value other than as a source of energy. Oftentimes, that’s all the bees need.

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