The Nucs and Crannies of Beekeeping

Interested in beekeeping? Looking to buy honeybees? You are not alone. Americans have spent a great deal of time at home since the pandemic began, and that has peaked interest in everything from backyard chickens to herb gardens, and of course, beekeeping. Honey production in the United States has grown to almost 162 million pounds annually. However, beekeeping is not just a weekend pastime. It takes education and commitment, but the rewards are (literally) golden.

Beekeeping vocabulary can sound puzzling to beginners. Honeybee packages? Nuc? Brood? Split what? Don’t worry, we’re experts here at The Bee Store. Here is a breakdown of some vocabulary you might come across and some direction on how the pieces fit together.

General Terms

  • Apiary/Apiarist: The science and art of raising honeybees is called apiculture. An apiarist is another term for a beekeeper, and an apiary is a term for the bee yard or area where your bees are kept.
  • Beehive: In beekeeping, the beehive is a man-made box with movable frames used for housing a colony of bees.
  • Beeswax: This is the substance from which bees build their combs. It is produced from the wax gland in the abdomen of the worker bee. Workers use these waxy scales for building material and can form hexagonally shaped comb cells with their jaws.
  • Comb: A comb is a sheet of several thousand hexagonal cells of beeswax used to store brood, pollen and honey. A colony starts with one, and as it grows, the bee colony builds more and more sheets of comb, side by side. They are spaced apart so that bees can crawl between them, and they provide excellent temperature control.  Without adequate honeycomb, the bees will die.
  • Honey: Honeybees collect nectar from flowers and pass it on from one bee to another. Each bee adds enzymes to break down the nectar while absorbing the water content until honey is stored in the comb cells. Bees produce honey as a food reserve during times when nectar is not available (e.g. winter or drought). Honey is the carbohydrate in a bee’s diet.

The Bees

  • Colony: The colony is the entirety of bees occupying a beehive including a queen, drones, workers, and brood in all stages. It is simply the entire bee family
  • Queen: The queen is a fully developed female bee responsible for egg laying of an entire colony.  Queens are born into the role, and there is only one per colony.
  • Drones: These are male bees. They are slightly bigger than worker bees, have bigger eyes, and no stinger. Their main purpose is mating with virgin queens. Drones need to be fed by worker bees. During the spring and summer, there are a few hundred drones in a colony, and in the late fall, their sisters drag them out of the hive to die.
  • Workers: Worker bees are female bees that are not the queen. Workers collect nectar, pollen, water, and propolis and carry out most other colony duties, including defending the colony with their stingers. Worker bees make up 99% of a healthy colony.
  • Brood: These are where it all begins. The brood consists of developing bees still in their cells including egg, larvae or pupae.


  • Bee brush: This is a soft brush, whisk, large feather, or handful of grass used to remove bees from combs.
  • Bottom board: This is the floor of the beehive.
  • Brood chamber: Also referred to as hive bodies, this is the part of the hive in which the brood is contained and may refer to one or more hive bodies and the combs within.
  • Brood nest: The brood nest is the part of the hive interior in which brood is reared. This occurs on frames of honeycomb often in the center of the hive.
  • Foundation/Comb Foundation: This consists of a man-made thin sheet of beeswax or wax-covered plastic bearing the impression of comb cells on both sides. It provides the center of the honeycomb. It is inserted into frames and provides bees with a basic guide as to where and how the beekeeper would like them to build the comb. By using the inserted sheet as a foundation, bees build comb within the frame that can be pulled out of the hive for comb inspection.
  • Frames: Beekeepers use frames for the ability to remove combs from the hive without destroying it. Wooden frames holding a sheet of foundation are inserted into each hive box. The frames with the comb inside can be removed for brood inspection or honey collection.
  • Hive tool: This is a flat metal device with a curved scraping surface and/or lifting hook at one end and a flat blade at the other. It is used to open hives, pry apart and scrape frames.
  • Inner cover: An inner hive cover is the cover sitting directly on top of the uppermost hive body. It has an oval shaped hole cut in the center and a groove cut in its outer border. This is placed up to allow for better air circulation in warmer climates. The inner cover is critical if using telescoping outer covers.
  • Nuc: Short for nucleus colony, this refers to a small colony of bees often used in queen rearing, or the box in which this small colony of bees resides. When starting out in beekeeping, Nucs are preferrable, as they are a fully functioning colony with a queen, brood, and bees of all ages.
  • Smoker: This is a metal container with attached bellows which burns organic fuels to generate smoke.  Smoke is important to keep bees calm and to disrupt pheromones.
  • Super: This is a box with frames in which bees store excess honey. It is usually placed above the brood nest.
  • Telescoping outer cover: This is basically the roof of your hive. It usually features a metal cladding that adds durability and rain-proofing. The cover has sides that fit down over the outside of the hive bodies, therefore “telescoping” over the top.

Once you understand beekeeping basics, you’ll want to know what to do next. Whether you are just starting your hobby colony or looking to take your apiary to the next level, your local experts at The Bee Store have the knowledge and supplies to help you succeed.

Since the pandemic began, The Bee Store has moved to an online platform for teaching classes.  We teach classes year round.  You can find our current 2022 schedule of classes here.  We also have recorded classes available for your convenience.

We strive to make you the best beekeeper you can be. We are passionate about what we do, and it shows in our customer service. Call us today at 571-398-0404 or browse our website to learn more about how to buy honeybees. We’re your one stop for beekeeping fun!

General Questions

Where can I buy equipment?

Your local source for honey, beekeeping supplies and equipment is The Bee Store, proudly located in Lake Ridge, Virginia. We provide quality beekeeping supplies and expert advice. We created The Bee Store as a resource for local beekeepers to be able to come to one spot to see the supplies and ask questions about apiculture. You can shop online at The Bee Store here, or come and see us in the Tackett’s Mill Shopping Center facing the lake.

Where can I buy honeybees? How much do bees cost?

For the most recent season, The Bee Store will not be selling bees. Despair not! If you want to know how to buy honeybees or you’re looking for honeybee packages, we’re happy to connect you with a seller. Click here for a list of bee sellers in Northern Virginia. You can ask these amazing sellers about honeybee prices, honey bee packages, where to buy bees near me, and more

Where can I learn more about honeybees?

The Bee Store wants to be your resource when it comes to anything dealing with bees. From our staff members that have grown up around beekeepers and are currently beekeeping to our classes that give you the tools and knowledge to grow your own hives, we have the expertise to get you there.