Examining Each Frame for the Queen Bee
Part of the Beekeeping For Dummies Cheat Sheet (UK Edition)
Use only a very little smoke when you open the hive. Too much smoke makes the bees run about and the queen may move from comb to comb or onto the wall of the hive. Withdraw frames gently and quietly. You’re looking for a bee that is bigger than the workers with a longer abdomen. She will most likely, but not always, be a different colour than the workers, often more orange with a red tinge to her legs. Don’t spend too long on frames of stores. She is more likely to be on brood. Look carefully on frames of brood, especially where you see eggs she is probably here – laying eggs.
As you withdraw each frame from the brood chamber look down the face of the comb. The queen stands taller than the workers. Also look at the next frame. You may spot her on the comb you have just exposed but by the time you come to withdraw it she will have moved on away from the light.
Look first around the margins of the frame in case she is just moving around the edge away from the light. Then carefully scrutinise the first side, look again around the edges before reversing it to search the other side, again looking around the margins first.
Return the frame to the brood chamber and take out the next one for examination and so on until you have found the queen or been right through the brood chamber. Don’t go through the frames more than three times because the bees will be too disturbed by then. Close the hive and try again another day.
The queen can get into the supers occasionally, so if you can’t find her it’s worth a quick check to see you haven’t any brood in them.