Bee About It Blog

How To Spot A Queen Bee

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...


  • 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!

    The Queen Bee in the Land of milk + honey


    Two years ago, Bee Amour partnered with milk + honey spa to create an urban apiary focused on raising bees and educating others on the importance and craft of beekeeping. Now, we not only have more than a dozen thriving hives, which I manage, but an ever-growing appreciation of these powerful little insects! While our apiary is rather young, my relationship with the Alissa, the owner of milk + honey, goes back to 2005 when I worked for the spa. I am continuously inspired by her entrepreneurial wisdom and ability to build and grow a successful business here in Austin. Much like a bee hive, milk + honey spa is managed mostly by smart females with one strong and tenacious queen bee leading the way. She recently took the time to answer my questions about being a female business owner and how she holds her monarchy together. Check out our conversation below and stay tuned for more interviews with women entrepreneurs in Austin!


    Anna: As you know a queen bee has one crucial job and that is laying eggs which essentially is the lifeline of the hive. I know over the years you have worn many hats for your business. Can you identified a single essential skill or role you fulfill that keeps milk + honey thriving?

    Alissa: Well, I suppose when you put it that way, I am very good at laying eggs. Between five spas and salons, our product line, and three kids at home, I am laying eggs all over the place!

    But in all seriousness, I don’t think there is a just one skill or role. I believe it is a lot of different things. First, I have an amazing team who cares about milk + honey as much as I do. Second, my team and I never stop learning and we never assume that we know everything we need to know. Third, I am constantly seeking incremental improvements. I think my team has learned to never be satisfied with the “status quo.” We are always looking for ways to make our client’s experience better, make our employee’s experience better, and become more efficient and excellent at what we do.

    Anna: Although there are some men in management roles at milk and honey, it seems you are surrounded mostly by hard working intelligent women. Is this a conscious choice and what do you think are the greatest benefits to having a majority female-run business?

    Alissa: It was not a conscious choice. While I love supporting the success of other women, I do believe the most successful teams and work environments are diverse, and in our case, that means having men on the team. We always hire the best person for the job and right now, with the exception of my husband, Shon, all of our managers and leaders in the company are women. Our team has evolved over time to strike a great balance of being compassionate and empathetic, while also holding people accountable for their actions, which is certainly a great benefit to having so many strong, but kind women on our team.

    Anna: We've had our apiary for almost two years now. We've lost some hives and cultivated a few new ones all the while learning more about bees as we go. I know running a business is very similar with ups, downs and sometimes a steep learning curve. What is one of the greatest lessons you've learned with growing milk + honey and how do you handle the stress that comes with those ebbs and flows? 

    Alissa: Being an entrepreneur is often like riding a roller coaster. There are ups and downs and sharp, surprising turns. I’ve learned over the years to relax a little and enjoy the ride — it’s much better than white-knuckling it all the time. That said, being the founder/leader of a business is a huge responsibility. I have over 300 people depending on milk + honey for their income and the magnitude of that is not lost on me when I am making important decisions for the business. But, overall, as the business has matured — as have I — the highs and lows are not as steep, the turns are not as sharp, and it’s much more enjoyable.

    Anna: When we started our apiary, you had a normal amount of fear around the bees. Do you think that collaborating with Bee Amour and seeing a hive in real life has helped to soften that apprehension?

    Alissa: I wouldn’t say I was apprehensive of bees — just highly allergic since a yellow jacket sting once landed me in the emergency room. But as I’ve educated myself about honeybees and their fascinating lives, I am increasingly protective of them. I have seen my young children react in extreme fear and even crying when a bee is buzzing around us outside. Through educating them about bees, all the great things they do, and how they will really only sting you if they feel threatened themselves, my kids are much calmer and more relaxed. But I still have to keep an EpiPen in my purse. :)

    Anna: Do you have a favorite recipe or use for honey?

    Alissa: I love the subtle, nuanced flavor of different honeys, so, to be honest, my favorite way to have it is savored by the spoonful. I do add a little to savory marinades for salmon, chicken, and occasionally when we eat beef. 

    After talking with Alissa it is no surprise that milk + honey spa is one of the most successful and well known spas in Austin.  How could it not be with such a power-house woman at the helm?!  I highly recommend going in for a treatment next time you are needing a little tlc!