Butterfly and Bee Garden

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Worker Bees on Capped Honey

Capped Brood vs Capped Honey: How to Tell the Difference and Why It Matters

New beekeepers starting with a new hive can find it challenging to understand what they are seeing in the cells of the combs within the hive. With experience, it becomes easier to understand the capped brood vs capped honey differences. Identifying a capped drone comb and a capped worker brood takes time.


But, gradually you will be able to recognize key details including queen cells, emerged bee cells, pollen, and heater bee cells with ease. In this article, we will take a closer look at this topic to make the learning process easier.


What is Capped Brood vs Capped Honey?


Capped Brood vs Capped HoneyWhat is the comparison between capped brood vs capped honey? The capped honey is what you’re looking for. When you got into beekeeping, it’s likely that you dreamed about capped honeycomb that you could easily harvest.


The capped honey can be found throughout the hive, but if it has a queen excluder, the honey will be stored in the upper boxes that the queen cannot access. This is the area where a beekeeper removes the frames to extract honey from the hive without causing too much disruption to the colony.


Capped Honey



wax that covers a honey cell is hard to missWorker bees forage from flowering plants to gain nectar which they bring back to the hive where it’s placed into cells. The nectar passes through the mouths of bees and it’s fanned with their wings to concentrate the nectar.


Most of the water is removed and when it becomes lower than 20%, the honey will not ferment or spoil. The cell of honey is capped with a waxy substance when full to improve storage.


Capped Brood


Capped brood cells are formed when the queen lays her eggs in a brood box or other location if a queen excluder is not in use. The workers deposit food in a cell and the bee larvae eat it to grow large enough to pupate.


brood cells have a distinctive papery material capThe worker bees cap the cell with a papery covering and the larvae spin a cocoon within the cell. When the new bee emerges it will eat through the cap and enter the hive. Upon closer inspection, the drone bee (male) looks different to the worker bee (female) cell.


A worker bee cell is flush with the comb and the drone bee cell is slightly raised. This makes perfect sense because drone bees are larger than worker bees.


How to Tell the Difference Between Capped Brood and Capped Honey


Aside from the basic differences shown above, brood cells tend to have a more textured look and they have a tanned color that is different from a capped honey cell. The brood frame will have a comb crown close to the top of the frame and on Langstroth frames this is the area reserved for storing honey.


A few rows of bee bread delineate the point where the honey section ends and the brood cells begin. So, with experience, you can quickly determine the difference between a capped brood and honey cell by the position alone.


Another key difference is that brood cells have a distinctive papery material cap compared to honey cells which are sealed with wax. Brood cells have a protruding and domed look and a honey cell is virtually flat in comparison.


The wax that covers a honey cell is hard to miss, it’s shiny and light and it may even appear to be white in color. Capped brood cells are duller and browner in color which is obvious if the light is good.


During a hive inspection, look for these visible differences in the wax. It may be possible to see eggs, pieces, particles, and even a bee contained within the beeswax. This is typically indicative that you’re looking at a brood cell. When you’re looking for capped honey you may see a couple of air bubbles trapped within the cells.


Wax capped honey is light and almost whiteWax capped honey is light and almost white and brood capped wax is dark brown or even reddish in color. Remember that the bees store the honey over the brood nest to ensure that it’s available to feed the young.


A lesser known characteristic of honey is that it’s used as an insulation material to keep the hive warm when the weather is colder outside. When the weather is hot this passive insulation material keeps the internal temperatures cooler.


The maintenance of a consistent internal hive temperature is vital to keep the hive comfortable and productive. Finally, it’s useful to note that capped honeycomb is heavier than capped brood, and with experience, the difference in weight is obvious when you’re handling them.


Why it Matters: Understanding the Importance of Brood and Honey in the Hive


Now that you have a better understanding of the capped brood and capped honeycomb differences it’s important to know why that information matters.


Remember that the honey is the reserve food storage that the worker bees collect and process to keep the colony fed when times are tough. There may be times when food is hard to come by and there is no opportunity to make honey.


The stored honey has a very low water content and storing it with a wax cap keeps it fresh for longer. This is how a hive can continue and even thrive during the colder winter months when flowering plants are in very short supply.


Why Honey is needed in the Hive


The honey food source can be used by all three types of bees in the colony including the queen, her workers, and the drones. During feeding, the queen receives honey and royal jelly to ensure that her reproductive system is working at maximum efficiency.


Capped Brood CellsThe larva of the colony is fed with honey and bee bread which is bee pollen packed with protein, vitamins, minerals, and sugar for energy. The nurse bees will vary the feeding of the larvae using these various food sources to mature the bees to adulthood.


The capped honey is ripe and ready to store or eat as needed. The bees will eat stored honey in winter when foraging for food is not possible. Honey is the ideal survival food for bees and humans alike. Honey has proteins, natural sugars, and carbohydrates that make it a superfood.


For a tiny bee, honey is pure energy in a liquid form that’s easy to consume during a hard working day. Worker bees tend to take snack breaks to recharge before they venture out of the hive to forage for more nectar and pollen.


Capped Brood vs Capped Honey– In Conclusion


We hope that this article will make the capped brood vs capped honey comparison easier for new beekeepers. Understanding and spotting the differences is a key skill that every new beekeeper needs to master. This will allow you to evaluate the condition of brood frames quickly and avoid disturbing the developing bees.


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