When you first take up beekeeping, you may be laser-focused on trying to find the queen bee. After all, she has the most important job, and most of us are aware that without the queen, your colony could be in deep trouble. While that is true, you really don’t have to be obsessed with finding her every time. If you are doing a hive inspection, seeing proof is as good as seeing her. By that, I mean seeing eggs or young larvae.
When you’re doing your inspections, also make sure to create some space as you are removing frames. I usually start by using my hive tool to wedge between the outer frame and the inside edge of my box on both ends of the frame. Then I use the hive tool to create some separation between the frame and the second frame on both ends. As I slowly lift out the frame, I make sure that I am creating enough separation from the next frame as well as not rolling the bees against the inside of the box.
Typically, the queen is not going to be on the outer frames, but it isn’t entirely impossible. Now that a frame has been removed, take a quick look while holding the frame over the hive to make sure the queen isn’t on it. We do this as a precaution just in case the queen is on the frame we are looking at, and she falls off. We’d rather she fall back into her hive than on the grass and risk us stepping on her.
I like to set the first frame down against the hive body. Now that you have a little more space to work, you can repeat the process by separating the next frame from the one next to it and then lifting the next frame up. Remember to always move at a slow and steady pace. Try not to jerk the frames as you separate and move them.
Take a quick glance at the face of the next frame to see if you spot the queen while you’re pulling up the current frame. Then look at both sides of the frame as you’re holding it over the hive. When you’re finished, I usually like to set it back in the box and move it close to the outside of the box to keep everything in the same order.
If you are able to find the queen, hey, that’s fantastic! However, you really just need to find the proof that she is there. Every time we take apart the hive and move things around, we do risk injuring or killing the queen. I don’t say this because I want to discourage you from performing a proper inspection. I do, however, want you to reconsider the importance of finding the queen if that is your sole purpose of taking the entire brood box apart.
If you want more tips and tricks on how to find your queen honeybee, go here.
It can be a fun challenge trying to find the queen. To help you practice, we have a video series called Find the Queen Fridays. We post brief videos of a frame of bees. Watch the video and see if you can find the moving queen bee! Hopefully, these videos will help some of you practice how to spot a queen on a live frame. Enjoy!