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Helpful Tips to Find Your Queen
Finding a queen is probably one of the most frustrating aspects of beekeeping! You are literally trying to spot one bee amongst tens of thousands of other bees, all while they run around on a frame. While there is no easy answer, I do have a handful of tricks I use after finding thousands of queens over the past decade. Keep in mind however, you don’t have to find the queen unless you are requeening, or depending on the split method, splitting.
- Keep in mind where the queen typically is not going to be. She won’t usually be in supers full of nothing but honey, or on frames full of honey. She’s going to be where there is space for her to lay, and near or on frames of brood. I glance at frames full of honey in the brood nest, but only briefly, and 95% of the time, she won’t be there.
- Pay extra attention to the frames she is most likely to be- frames that aren’t 100% capped brood, or full of honey. She is often where there are open cells for her to lay.
- When I first open the hive, I pull 1-2 outside frames out, quickly look at them (they are usually honey, or empty), if I don’t see the queen on them, I stand them up on end against the hive out of my way. Next, I pull out the next frame, which is often brood, or right next to brood. Before I look at the frame in my hands, I look at the frame facing me still in the hive. I often see the queen as she turns and runs down towards the bottom of the frame. It’s really easy to see her on that frame facing you still in the hive when she does that!
- If I don’t see her on the facing frame still in the hive, I look at the frame in my hands. But, I don’t hold the frame so that it directly faces me. I hold the frame at an angle so I’m glancing across the surface of the frame. I think it is easier to see the queen looking along the surface, as she is a bit taller, and tends to stand out more.
- Don’t spend more than a minute or so per frame. Much longer than that, and the bees/hive will begin to run and move off the frames, making finding the queen almost impossible.
- Use the bare amount of smoke necessary. Smoke can often make the bees and queen run, and that makes finding her much harder.
- Be as gentle as possible. Jarring the frames makes them run as well.