Test yourself on honey bees, Mastermind style

For those of you who have never seen it, Mastermind is a British TV show in which four contestants are tested on both their general knowledge and a chosen specialist subject. Thanks to Di Drinkwater for her post ‘Bees on Mastermind‘, which alerted me to the recent appearance of beekeeper Gill Taylor on the show, with the specialist subject of ‘The honey bee and beekeeping’. Gill is based in Airedale, West Yorkshire, and manages her local association’s website: airedalebka.org.uk. Viewers in the UK can catch the episode on iPlayer during the next couple of weeks.


Here’s the questions asked – answers further down…

1. The cells of the bees’  honey comb are constructed in which distinctive geometric shape?

2. What term derived from the latin for ‘little basket’ is used for the haired structure on the hind leg of a honey bee carrying pollen?

3. What astrological name is widely given to the shifting swarm-like formations of male bees in flight as they pursue the honey bee queen?

4. What item of beekeeping equipment is used to pursue the bees in a hive and typically incorporates a fire box and bellows?

5. What name is generally given to the crescent shaped dance performed by worker bees during foraging that represents an intermediate phase between the round dance and the waggle dance?

6. To what genus does the honey bee belong that includes a widely investigated species called Mellifera?

7. For what purpose does a beekeeper use a baldock or crown of thorns cage?

8. What is the common name of the British climbing plant Hedera helix, which provides the honey bee with a nectar source late in the year?

9. What is the name of the protein that consists of 26 amino acids and is the principal constituent of the honey bee’s venom?

10. What is the common name of the disease caused by the fungus Ascophaera apis, that results in a bee larva being transformed into a mummy of fungal spores?

11. Which deadly parasitic mite of honey bees now endemic in the UK includes the common Destructor species?

12. The honey bee Apis mellifera ligustica resident in the United Kingdom originates in which European country?

13. In the early 1850s which American clergyman and beekeeper identified the bee space in a hive, which enabled him to develop removable frame beekeeping?

14 The black honey bee Apis mellifera mellifera has been legally protected on the Hebridean island of Oronsay and which neighbouring island?

15. What sticky substance – also called bee glue or bee gum – is collected by bees from tree or plant resins and used for constructing and sealing their hives?

16. What name shared with the gland in the worker bees’ abdomen is given to the pheromone that includes nerol and geraniol, used for orientation, marking and guidance?


  1. Hexagonal
  2. Corbicula
  3. Comet
  4. Smoker
  5. Gill passed – the answer is Sickle dance
  6. Apis
  7. To capture the queen
  8. Ivy
  9. Gill passed – the answer is Melittin
  10. Gill answered Sacbrood – the answer is Chalkbrood
  11. Varroa
  12. Italy
  13. Langstroth
  14. Gill passed – the answer is Colonsay
  15. Propolis
  16. Nasonov

How many did you get right? When put on the spot it’s surprisingly hard to speedily recall answers – even to a subject you know well – so I think Gill did brilliantly to get her score of 12. She looked so calm and composed too! I can imagine her steadily at work amongst her bees, unruffled by any angry workers pinging off her veil.

Who won the show? Can mere mortals beat a beekeeper? You’ll have to watch it and find out.

About Emily Scott

I am a UK beekeeper who has recently moved from London to windswept, wet Cornwall. I first started keeping bees in the Ealing Beekeepers Association’s local apiary in 2008, when I created this blog as a record for myself of my various beekeeping related disasters and - hopefully! - future successes.
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27 Responses to Test yourself on honey bees, Mastermind style

  1. The Apiarist says:

    My specialist subject is pedantry … I think your autocorrect has mixed up ‘linguista’ for ‘ligustica’ the Italian bee. On the OS maps of the area the island immediately adjacent (but connected at low tide by The Strand which can be walked across) to Colonsay is Oronsay. Oransay appears to be the local spelling. There are other islands called Oronsay off the Scottish coast, including one at Ullinish on Skye which also has a causeway passable at low tide.

    My specialist subject clearly isn’t beekeeping as I had no idea for Q.2 and got Q.9 wrong 8-(

    Best get back to the BBKA Study Notes 😉


    • Emily Scott says:

      Thank you for the specialist pedantry! Damn auto-correct. Will correct as soon as possible.

      I couldn’t immediately remember 2 but had heard it before – had never heard of the answer to 9.


  2. Mark says:

    I only got 9 but I guess that’s ok for a Yankee has-been 😀


  3. Hi Emily,

    Surely the answer to Q10 is Chalkbrood? ‘Sacbrood is a virus’ was always my understanding.

    PeterD in Western Australia


  4. Passed on the same two as Gill. Got ‘chalkbrood’ correct. Could not recall ‘comet’ but will protest that ‘astrological’ instead of ‘astronomical’ sent the memory down the wrong trails.

    Not a bad score but then we were comfortably in bed rather than on camera with an audience.


  5. 5 / 16. Hopeless. Fit only for planting a bee-friendly garden. And photographing them. RH


  6. theresagreen says:

    Anyone that remembers their own name under that kind of pressure has my admiration! I’m not a bee-keeper but knew a couple of answers, from reading your blog may have picked up another one or two, but otherwise pretty clueless. However, looking forward to watching the show now, especially as I’ll be able to answer the specialist questions!


  7. Erik says:

    I got 10, though guessed at a few of these. I think I’ve read just enough books by British Beekeepers to have a little insight. Thanks for the sharing the questions and stumping us. The Ivy is English Ivy, is it not? Or am I remembering that wrong?


  8. edbka says:

    Reblogged this on Ealing and District Beekeepers Association and commented:
    Ealing beekeeper Emily Scott challenges us to take Bee Mastermind!


  9. She did very well! I had never heard of sickle dance and I thought melanin was the pigment made in your skin when you were exposed to sunlight. Amelia


  10. beatingthebounds says:

    Only got 4*, must pay more attention at the back! I really should have known ‘smoker’.
    *1,8,11 and 12. 11 and 12 thanks to reading this blog, so I have learned something along the way. One of my friends in the village has bought one of those fancy new-fangled hives which supposedly make it easier to collect the honey. I might see if I can sneak some photos and an update!


  11. thebigbuzz says:

    Tricky! (And fascinating!)


  12. I did not do too well considering how much I read your blog. I did not know Italy as to where bees originate. Good for the American too. We are an inventive bunch. 😀


    • Emily Scott says:

      There were some tricky and obscure questions there! It’s only a particular subspecies of the western honey bee, called Apis mellifera ligustica, which comes from Italy. Honey bees first evolved in Africa; as they spread into Eurasia they evolved into several geographical subspecies, one of which is the Italian honey bee.


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