Glossary & FAQs

Glossary & Frequently Asked Questions

Balling the Queen, What is?

[Colony] “workers will kill the reigning queen by “balling” her, colloquially known as the “cuddle death”; clustering tightly around her until she dies from overheating. This overheating method is also used to kill large predatory wasps that enter the hive in search of food and may be used against a foreign queen attempting to take over an existing colony. Balling is often a problem for beekeepers attempting to introduce a replacement queen.” from Wikipedia: “Queen Bee”.

You can see a fascinating YouTube video of bees balling a queen below:

Bee Beard

Have you seen pictures of people wearing bee beards (Click here for Google images: bee beard)? These are not swarms, per se, but a clump of bees just happy to be hanging with the queen. These silly humans accomplish this feat by wearing one or more caged queens around their necks. The queen produces a ‘queen substance’ which is an odorous pheromone that says, “Here I am. I’m the queen. We’re partying!”, and the worker bees are attracted to and mollified by her presence. I wonder if that is Paris Hilton’s secret. At any rate, when the queen or Ms. Hilton grow old and lose their ability to produce ‘queen substance’, their retinue creates a new queen.

Beekeeping: How do I get started?

  • Join a beekeeping club. You will find very friendly and helpful people there.
  • There are several good books. If you actually become a beekeeper, you will want more than one book. But if you want to buy one first book, I would recommend one of the following two books below. Where, you ask, can you find these books. Why in the BeeHacker Shop (click here). Where else?
    • “Plan bee: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Hardest Working Creatures on the Planet” by Susan Brackney, ISBN 978-0-399-53598-7, paperback. Buy this book if you want a good 20,000 foot view of bees and beekeeping. It even has a questionnaire to determine if you are cut out to be a beekeeper. This book answers the question of why one becomes a beekeeper.
    • “Beekeeping for DUMMIES” by Howland Blackiston. This is the first – and probably the last – DUMMIES book I will ever buy because of that insulting title. In spite of that, the book is great. Buy this book if you want a good close up view of bees and beekeeping. It answers the what and how: it is a very complete reference book for beekeepers. I refer to it often.

Colony Collapse Disorder: What’s Wrong with the Bees?

“Imagine if one of every three cows died. The National Guard would be out.” So says Dennis vanEngelsdorp, Acting State Apiarist for Pennsylvania’s Department of Agriculture, who in 2008 watched the same percentage of bees vanish in North America. The percentages have not improved in the last two years.

The following 2008 video remains an entertaining, educational, and compelling lecture. It is one of hundreds of similarly stimulating Creative Commons lectures from

Harmonic, What is it?

When something vibrates, like a guitar string or a bee’s wing beat, it vibrates at more than one frequency. If I hit a middle A on a piano (the first A above a middle C), I hear a fundamental frequency of 440 vibrations or cycles per second (CPS or Hertz). However, to a lesser extent, I also hear 880, 1320, and more tones, each to a lesser extent. Each of these lesser tones are harmonics. If the fundamental is f, the harmonics are 2f, 3f, 4f, and so on. Harmonics are part of what makes each instrument rich and diverse in sound.

For more information see Harmonic in Wikipedia.


Bees are very clean. If they cannot toss something out – like a dead mouse – they will cover it with an antibiotic, antiviral and antifungal bee-glue made from plant resin call propolis. Cracks are plastered over and walls are covered to provide a sterile home. The name comes from the Greek words ‘pro’, translating as ‘before’, and ‘Polis’, roughly meaning ‘city’ – the whole word translates as ‘defender of the city’. Propolis has been used in folk medicine since 3000 BC in Egypt to the modern day worldwide.

Sonogram, What is it?

Most sounds consists of many fundamental frequencies (tones) at varying amplitudes (volume). If I were to plot sound over time (horizontal or X axis) and display frequency along the vertical or Y axis, I would have a visual representation of a sound. I can also show amplitude as color or brightness.

Sonogram is synonymous with spectrogram, voice print, or voice gram. For more information on sonograms, see Spectrogram in Wikipedia.

Swarm, What is it?

Everyone knows what a swarm is – and most of them are wrong. Most people imagine a swarm of bees to be a cloud of angry, dangerous insects. That could not be further from the truth. A true bee swarm is a new born baby. I mean that literally. A swarm is how a colony super-organism reproduces itself as a new super-organism. It is the queen leaving the hive with a large percentage of the colony to establish a new colony in a new location. The bees may be less aggressive than normal because they have stuffed themselves with honey that they will need for making wax and they lack the security of the hive. So it is as gentle as…a new born baby.