How to Spot a Queen Bee (and I don't mean Beyonce!)
As a beekeeper one of your most important tasks during hive inspections is to make sure you have a queen bee in the house and that she is alive and well. Finding one individual bee among tens of thousands of bees is easier said than done. Here are a few tips that may help if you are new to the game...
WHEN AND WHERE
- If you have a hive jam packed with bees then the best time to inspect is mid-day when most of the foragers are out working. The less bees = better your chances of finding her.
- Many beekeepers will advise you to start on one side of the hive and work your way through frame by frame. This isn't wrong but often times you will find her right in the middle of the brood (the bee nursery) since that is where she is busy doing her one and only job of laying eggs. I personally like to go right to the middle of the most densely populated area of the hive, pull one frame out, thoroughly inspect and then move outward from there until I find her.
- Do you think you could recognize Beyonce in a crowd? Of course you would! That's because she looks special and so does your queen bee. One thing they have in common is a big 'ol booty. Your queen is also longer than all of her daughters and she's got long lovely legs just like Queen Bey.
- Similarly to Beyonce your queen bee has moves unlike the others. As Tara from Two Hives Honey once told me "Worker bees look like they are moshing while the queen looks like she is waltzing". Take a birds eye view and look for that star on the dance floor.
- You know what else Bey has in common with your queen? A bunch of groupies! When looking for your queen you may notice she is surrounded by workers all watching her every move. Those are her attendants and they will often make a circle around her so keep an eye out for a cluster of bees.
- Unless you absolutely need to see your queen bee, either to replace her or make sure she is your queen and there hasn't been a swarm, then you can easily settle for finding fresh eggs. Go straight to the brood chamber, find a frame of pearly white larvae and then look along the edges to see the tiny small freshly laid eggs. They look like a miniature grains of rice standing up on their end and if you can find those then your queen is alive and laying.
- In the event you need to find her to replace her or make a split and you are having a hard time then call a fellow beekeeper. Just like the bees we are all in this together so help each other out!
- If you want to improve your queen-spotting skills then check out Hilary Kearney's @girlnextdoorhoney new book titled Queenspotting. The book has "48 fold-out visual puzzles — vivid up-close photos of the queen hidden among her many subjects" for you to hone your queen-eyes.
Best of luck and happy beekeeping!