Finding the Queen
When you inspect your hives, there are times when you need to locate the queen. Other times, you just want to know if she’s there. If you see eggs on the frame, you know she’s been there within 3 days. If you find larvae that is uncapped, she may have been there 9 days ago.
Learning how to spot the queen is tricky and you get better with experience. If your queen is marked, it’s much easier to locate her but even with a mark, there’s no telling where she might be.
Start on the Outside
When we do hive inspections, we always start from the outside and work your way in. This gives you wiggle room and more space to push frames. As mentioned on the hive inspection page, queens are usually in middle near the brood and eggs, but they may also be on the outer frames from time to time. As you inspect the outer frames and move towards the inner frames, inspect the amount of brood or eggs present. She is usually close to the eggs. If you have plenty of eggs on the outer frames, it’s very possible that she may be near.
Gently set each frame down on the side of the hive when you are finished. Remember it’s possible you may have missed her so you want to be gentle.
When you scan a frame, don’t look at each individual bee but scan the entire frame. Look for an anomaly on the frame; something that doesn’t quite belong. Your eyes will be naturally pulled towards it. As the queen usually walks around on the frame and the other bees make way for her. Often bees will stay around her in a circle so look for that pattern. Remember to check on both sides of the frame and also check the side of the boxes. When I check my mating boxes, which are only 3 frames, I often find her on the sides.
If you don’t find her on your first pass, we check each frame as we put them back into the hive. If we still don’t find her, we’ll leave her alone and check another day. You don’t want to disturb the bees for too long.