It's beekeeping season! In 2014, the USDA tracked an estimated 2.7 million honeybee colonies in the United States, and colonies maintained by humans are on the rise. A backyard apiary (noun; a place where beehives are kept) is the perfect way to bring a little nature to your home. But if you're just starting out and don't know the difference between royal jelly capsules and the queen herself, this handy vocab guide to beekeeping for beginners will help you get started.
Beekeeping Hive Terms
A Package: The most common way to buy bees, a package consists of a young queen and a box of workers. A typical package will contain between two to four pounds of bees, a queen bee, and a food source, usually sugar water or syrup. The queen should be packaged in a cage to separate her from the worker bees.
A Nuc: Short for "nucleus colony," a nuc is just what it sounds like. A partially-developed colony with a brood nest and queen, these bees have already taken the first steps toward building the infrastructure necessary to continue reproduction and continue their population. This option is quite a bit more expensive, however, due to the difficulties of suppliers raising the colony and the careful transportation to the hive's new home.
A Super: The box that acts as the heart of the hive, each super is fitted with removable frames where bees can build wax or store honey.
Brood: The term brood refers to immature bees that have not yet emerged from the comb. Before developing into winged bees, the brood will pass through several stages: egg, larvae, and pupae.
Bee Byproduct Lingo:
Bee Pollen: A pellet of flower pollen packed by worker bees to be used as food by young honey bees, bee pollen can be used as a protein-rich additive for smoothies or as a topping for yogurt or oatmeal.
Raw Honey: Unheated, unpasteurized, and unprocessed, raw honey is the purest form of honey collected straight from the hive by extractor. Note: most supermarket honey is categorized as "commercial honey," which has been pasteurized for easier filtering, safety, and to look more appealing on shelves. While pasteurization may slow down the crystallization process, it also kills yeast and can affect the taste and aroma of honey. Raw honey, on the other hand, allows delicate flavors to come through.
Royal Jelly: A secretion from glands in the heads of worker bees that is used to nourish bee larvae. Pure royal jelly is a mixture of water, proteins, sugars, and trace vitamins and minerals. While all bees are fed royal jelly during their first few days of life, future queen bees will continue to be fed the substance throughout their development. A well-managed hive can produce up to 500 grams of royal jelly per season, which can then be capsulized. Royal jelly capsules are often used as dietary supplements.
This is by no means a comprehensive list. For more information on beekeeping equipment for beginners, check out this blog post. There's a whole world of beekeeping lingo out there to get acquainted with, and it can be a little intimidating at first. If you need help getting started, contact a local meetup group for beekeepers in your area. The community is usually very friendly and welcoming.