English for beekeepers

Wednesday word file: frass

Frass refers to debris left by insects. Although the word is sometimes used by beekeepers to refer to fecal droppings, frass also refers to the material left behind by boring or chewing insects. A good example is the sawdust left by carpenter bees or termites. More often than not the debris left by insects is a mixture of chewing debris, excrement, and insect body parts.

“He called an exterminator after finding piles of frass in the crawlspace.”


  • Rusty!

    We may have a problem with our new hive and bee fecal matter. I read a post earlier where you said bee poop inside the hive is bad bad bad.

    We bought our bee package from someone we will never deal with again. We went to pick them up on day 2 of the four available days. The feeder can was empty, the bees were chilled (from being left outside) and they had been in the box for 4 days already.

    After we installed them these little ladies pooped everywhere! I dont mind that they pooped on the car,my clothes, the top of the hive etc. But the inside has poop all over. Even on some of the of the top bars.

    Is this because of the packaged state and finally being free? They cluster on these cold spring days and buzz around the few days it gets warm and they do drink syrup when it gets above 50.



    • Raul,

      I’ve never had a package defecate in the hive like that. That they pooped outside on the hive, clothes, cars, etc. is a good sign, but inside the hive sounds troublesome. You might consider having them checked for Nosema apis. Did the shipping cage contain feces? Also, is the rate of defecation slowing down? Also, is the poop runny or does it hold its shape? Also, is it brown or more yellow? Where did the bees come from? Somewhere south, I assume, but where? I’m a little worried about this package.

      • When we first got them it was runny and dark brown. Now it is more of a yellow and holds it shape.

        The package was horrifying. It looked gross. We got them from St. Mary’s Idaho which is still considered north Idaho. I guess I don’t actually know where he got them from. I figured it would be his own bees he was selling but I really don’t know.

        I am new to bees and unfortunately was too excited and exhausted (I worked an overnight shift prior to driving down to get them) to ask pertinent questions. The packages were nailed together in groups of four but they were all dirty looking.

        • Raul,

          It sounds like it’s improving. Maybe they just had honey bee dysentery from being cooped up too long. Yellow and holding its shape is good news. However, packages should never be sold like that. Sounds like the guy’s a flake.

          Most packages come from the south because you can get them earlier that way. Up here, drones are barely flying yet so you can’t get mated queens. Whatever the case, I’d look for a different supplier.

  • Yeah we found another one that makes packages from survivor stock. They are basically mutts.

    Only thing is, they are from Oregon and pick them up in Spokane. But! We are willing to do so. We are eventually going to try and do 2 of each of the three main hives. Top bar, langstroth, and warre.

      • To me the hive arguments are silly. The Langstroth serves it’s purpose as a honey production facility. The top bar lets the bees go “wild” and I am not sure about Warre.

        Listening to and reading all the hive arguments reminds me of people arguing about Chevy, Ford and Dodge. There really is no difference….. unless you want a real truck then you buy a Ford! 😉

          • Toyotas are and always have been a great truck. Especially the little T100’s. They don’t make it into the argument often because everyone knows they are better…… I wonder what the beekeeping equivalent is?

  • “Word file” or wordphile? Or a word that has been filed in the wordphile file?
    Rusty, I love your sense of humor. Even your typos are hilarious. Like the one caption differentiating varroa and some wingless, harmless fly based on eight legs versus “sex legs”. Ha ha!
    I am loving your site.

    • Sean,

      Glad to hear I amuse you. The suffix -phile means “to love or be extremely attracted to.” Think bibliophile. My rendition was meant as a double entendre: word file and word lover. Whatever. Some people got it, some didn’t.

      • Oh, I see now — I think. I thought your use of the phrase “word file” in the title of this post, rather than the neologism “wordphile” that I have seen you use in other posts, was unintentional. It is still funny, though, even though it is not a typo. This is the first time I got the joke!

        (If you by chance originally drafted your post as .doc or .docx file, that would make it even funnier. Triple entendre!)

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