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Capped Brood vs Capped Honey: Key Differences

Capped Brood vs Capped Honey: Key Differences

When it comes to capped brood vs capped honey cells it is crucial for a beekeeper to know the difference.

In simple terms, a capped brood call is where the queen lays eggs, whereas capped honey cells are used for storing liquid honey. The ‘capped’ term means that the cell is sealed with a layer of wax to provide protection.

In the rest of this article, we will explore the details of both capped brood and capped honey so you can understand the differences easily.

Capped Brood 

So, what is capped brood?

It is where the queen lays eggs that later become larvae. Capped bee brood has tiny bee pupae- a baby bee- underneath- and it is usually distinctive and visible to the eye. 

You will notice that the caps on the bee brood are redder than the beeswax caps on honey cells. The capped honey wax feels slick and oily, while the caps on bee brood are more tough and leathery.

When you lift the frame of bee brood you will immediately notice that it weighs about half of a frame of honeycomb. Over time, the bee brood should be swapped out for new comb for the queen to lay her eggs.  

There have been instances of individuals confusing bee brood for honeycomb- but to the beekeeper who knows what to look for, it is easy to distinguish and differentiate. Brood is part of the bee’s habitat, while honey is their main food source- and potentially- a harvest for the beekeeper.

Capped Honey 

Capped honey cells could be confused with capped brood cells in the hive- but this is a mistake that you do not want to make.

When bees forage for nectar, it is returned to the hive and stashed in the waxy cells of the comb. It is passed around and fanned to remove moisture and prevent fermentation – which is why honey is so shelf-stable – and then each full beeswax cell of liquid honey is capped with more wax to keep it over time. Bees are industrious and clever creatures.

As for some distinctions, the cells containing brood protrude a bit- while the wax-capped honey cells do not. As mentioned, the brood is darker than honey- and the capped honeycomb will weigh substantially more than capped brood when you hold it in your hand.

Sure, capped honey can be throughout a hive, but primarily bees stow their honey in the honey supers on top of the queen excluder, which prevents access to the queen.

Beekeepers will remove the frames from the super to extract and harvest excess honey.

A pair of hands wearing beekeeping gloves holding a frame

Queen Cells 

Also, let’s not forget about the queen. There are queen cells in the hive which become capped when the queen is ready to fly the coop, so to speak.

That is, when the queen is ready to swarm or has already departed from the hive, you may notice the capped queen cells. Remember that anytime the queen exits or absconds, she takes most of your worker bees along, too.

Hive and Honey 

So, is brood being raised in the hives in your apiary? There are some easy ways to check and know what is going on in the hive.

When you inspect your hive, look carefully for the differences visible in the wax. Look for tiny particles, pieces, eggs, and even bees in the wax- this is indicative of brood.

When it comes to capped honey, you likely will only see an air bubble or two in the cells. Also, brood wax is darker, almost reddish in color, than capped honey. The wax capping honey is typically lighter, almost white.

Furthermore, bees store honey above the brood nest so that it is readily available when raising and feeding the young.  

Also, this band of honey helps to keep the hive warm by providing insulative qualities in cooler temperatures. In warmer seasons, this band may help maintain a cooler temperature inside the hive. It is important that the climate inside the hive remain consistent for the brood.

Identify the differences between capped brood and capped honey with these tips- you don’t want to confuse the two! Know that capped honeycomb is far heavier than capped brood, and this should be your first indication as to what you are handling.