Biological definitions

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[A] Nectar flow: The nectar flow is the period when forage (pollen, nectar) is available to bees. During this period, the nectar production is higher than the nectar consumption resulting in a surplus beyond the colony’s needs - the bees are able to convert nectar into honey and store it in honey combs [1]. It is important that the beekeeper is familiar with the major nectar flow periods (vegetation, quality of nectar sources) in the apiary surroundings, including their starts to optimize colony management and honey production [2] [3].

  • Start of the nectar flow: The beginning of the active foraging state of a colony. This event is set by the time melliferous plants in the surrounding area start blooming and provide nectar to the bees.
  • End of nectar flow: The event when major and minor forage sources ceased blooming and the bees have to feed on their stored honey in the hive.
  • Mass nectar flow: If a major nectar flow is in bloom, bees are able to collect the nectar in high abundances. This event rarely occurs in nature but rather occurs in “man-made” gardens or agricultural lands with lower diversity.

[B] Swarming: Colony reproduction in honey bees is called swarming. A certain pheromone concentration triggers this behavior which is mostly correlated to a strong colony growth-the workers start rearing new queens. The first (prime) swarm is headed by the colony’s own queen and leaves the nest a few days before the new queens emerge from the cells. The prime swarm settles in a new area and, if successful, establishes a new bee colony. In cases where the original swarm is still large, a newly emerged queen leaves the nest with an afterswarm (cast). The original, or parent colony that remains in the nest, or any cast is led by a queen who has genes inherited from the previous queen and from a different father-drone [3]. Often swarming activity is undesirable for beekeepers, as the reduced population size has a negative impact on the productivity of the colony.

[C] Queenless/Queenright: A queenright bee colony comprises of bee brood, adult bees (female worker bees and in the brood rearing season male drones) and one reproductive honey bee queen. Queenless colonies do not have a queen. Reasons for the absence are the death of the queen in the hive or during her mating flights, or by removal of the queen by the beekeeper. If fertilized eggs and young larvae are present, or are provided by the beekeeper, the colony is able to rear a new queen. If the colony has no open brood available, or if the beekeeper does not provide a new queen (“requeen”), the colony will die [3].

[D] Broodless: A honey bee colony is broodless, if there is no brood (eggs, larvae, or pupae) in the colony. Natural broodless states occur in healthy bee colonies, are country depending and emerge during dearth periods (winter, dry season, rainy season…) or concern colonies who have recently swarmed and have no mated queen yet. Besides, broodless states can also occur unnaturally during the active brood rearing cycles of honey bees. Most of the time unnatural broodless states or nearly broodless states are related to the manipulation of the beekeeper, for example by using substances for varroa mite control (formic acid). Cases that are not related to the mentioned scenarios most often have a pathological origin Either way, broodless states should be investigated [3]

[E] Absconding: „Absconding comprises the departure of all adult bees of a colony from their nest, leaving behind whatever brood and stores are in it. Absconding may be due to a shortage of food, to disturbance, or to other adverse circumstances [3]. Absconding occurs more often in tropical honey bee species.

[F] Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD): CCD is a phenomenon that occurs if a bee colony breaks down for unknown reasons and was originally observed in America, where beekeepers complained about a large-scale loss of their managed honey bees. Within the last few years, the phenomenon spread over to other continents and today, is seen as a global risk for honey bees [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] CCD has several specific symptoms: the rapid loss of adult worker bees (brood and immature honey bees are still found in the nest), the absence of bodies in or around the affected hives, the delayed infestation of hive pests (e.g. kleptoparasites such as small hive beetles, wax moths, …) [10] [11].

[G] Death: Colony death has a variety of reasons and reach from diseases or pests affecting the colony, over starvation to high exposure of pesticides. Depending on the cause of death, the appearance of a dead colony also differs. For example, in CCD, there are almost no dead bees around the hive, while it is the case if the colony was affected by a pest or pathogen. In the latter case, the sister bees clean their hive from sick bees to counteract the threatening organisms. In comparison, poisoned bees, for example through pesticides, are abundantly found in the hive.

[H] Colonisation: Empty hives got occupied by a (feral) bee swarm. Beekeepers in many parts of the world, especially in tropical regions depend on the natural colonisation of bees in provided hives. Those “bait beehives” are positioned on routes known for bees using them during swarming or migration activities [12]

Possibilities for smart bee management (Precision Beekeeping)


  1. GOV (2015). Bee BehaviourDuring ForagingApiary; Factsheet #111.Government of British Columbia, Ministry of Agriculture and Lands (accessed on 18.11.2019).
  2. Bayir, R. and Albayrak, A. (2016). The monitoring of nectar flow period of honey bees using wireless sensor networks. International Journal of Distributed Sensor Networks, 12 (11): 1-8.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Crane, E. (1990). Bees and beekeeping: science, practice, and world resources. Ithaca, N.Y.: Comstock Pub. Associates.
  4. Dainat, B., Vanengelsdorp, D., & Neumann, P. (2012). Colony collapse disorder in Europe. Environmental Microbiology Reports, 4(1), 123–125.
  5. van der Zee, Pisa, Andonov, Brodschneider, Charrière, Chlebo, Coffey, Crailsheim, Dahle, Gajda, Gray, Drazic, Higes, Kauko, Kence, Kence, Kezic, Kiprijanovska, Kralj, Kristiansen, Martin Hernandez, Mutinelli, Nguyen, Otten, Özkırım, Pernal, Peterson, Ramsay, Santrac, Soroker, Topolska, Uzunov, Vejsnæs, Wei, Wilkins (2012) Managed honey bee colony losses in Canada, China, Europe, Israel and Turkey, for the winters of 2008-9 and 2009-10. Journal of Apicultural Research 51: 100-114.
  6. van der Zee, Brodschneider, Brusbardis, Charrière, Chlebo, Coffey, Dahle, Drazic, Kauko, Kretavicius, Kristiansen, Mutinelli, Otten, Peterson, Raudmets, Santrac, Seppälä, Soroker, Topolska, Vejsnæs, Gray (2014) Results of international standardised beekeeper surveys of colony losses for winter 2012-2013: analysis of winter loss rates and mixed effects modelling of risk factors for winter loss. Journal of Apicultural Research 53: 19-34.
  7. Brodschneider, Gray, van der Zee, Adjlane, Brusbardis, Charrière, Chlebo, Coffey, Crailsheim, Dahle, Danihlík; Danneels, de Graaf, Dražić, Fedoriak, Forsythe; Golubovski, Gregorc, Grzęda, Hubbuck, İvgin Tunca, Kauko, Kilpinen, Kretavicius, Kristiansen, Martikkala, Martín-Hernández, Mutinelli, Peterson, Otten, Ozkirim, Raudmets, Simon-Delso, Soroker, Topolska; Vallon; Vejsnæs, Woehl (2016) Preliminary analysis of loss rates of honey bee colonies during winter 2015/16 from the COLOSS survey. Journal of Apicultural Research, 55: 375-378.
  8. Brodschneider, Gray, Adjlane, Ballis, Brusbardis, Charrière, Chlebo, Coffey, Dahle, de Graaf, Dražić, Evans, Fedoriak, Forsythe, Gregorc, Grzęda, Hetzroni, Kauko, Kristiansen, Martikkala, Martín-Hernández, Medina-Flores, Mutinelli, Raudmets, Ryzhikov, Simon-Delso, Stevanovic, Uzunov, Vejsnæs, Woehl, Zammit-Mangion, Danihlík (2018) Multi-country loss rates of honey bee colonies during winter 2016/17 from the COLOSS survey. Journal of Apicultural Research, 57(3), 452-457.
  9. Gray, Brodschneider, Adjlane, Ballis, Brusbardis, Charrière, Chlebo, Coffey, Cornelissen, da Costa, Csáki, Dahle, Danihlík, Dražić, Evans, Fedoriak, Forsythe, de Graaf, Gregorc, Johannesen, Kauko, Kristiansen, Martikkala, Martín-Hernández, Medina-Flores, Mutinelli, Patalano, Petrov, Raudmets, Ryzhikov, Simon-Delso, Stevanovic, Topolska, Uzunov, Vejsnaes, Williams, Zammit-Mangion & Soroker (2019) Loss rates of honey bee colonies during winter2017/18 in 36 countries participating in theCOLOSS survey, including effects of forage sources. Journal of Apicultural Research, 58:4, 479-485.
  10. Oldroyd BP (2007) What's Killing American Honey Bees? PLoS Biol 5(6): e168.
  11. vanEngelsdorp D, Evans JD, Saegerman C, Mullin C, Haubruge E, Nguyen BK, et al. (2009) Colony Collapse Disorder: A Descriptive Study. PLoS ONE 4(8): e6481.
  12. Nuru, A., Amssalu, B, Hepburn, H R and Radloff, S E (2002) Swarming and migration in the honey bees (Apis mellifera) of Ethiopia, Journal of Apicultural Research, 41: (2) 35-41.