To Find a Queen Bee

Posts

A Giant Colony Of Honeybees

Once in a while, when everything is going right a beehive can grow to ridiculous proportions.  If the colony has a young, strong-laying queen, lots of space, a perfect flow of honey and pollen, and little competition from other colonies, there is no telling how large a colony can grow!  We have seen and heard stories of some of our customers’ colonies growing up to five and six stories high with honey throughout.

While exciting to behold, a giant colony is not always desirable and can sometimes be too much of a good thing, especially for small-scale beekeepers.  Why?  First, such a large colony, even if completely gentle, can be damaging for one’s relations with neighbors!  What makes a large colony so successful in honey production is that its high overall population leads to a large number of bees coming and going to forage.  While a few bees coming and going out of someone’s back yard can seem like part of the natural environment, unfortunately, clouds of bees in one’s backyard has the potential to become a public relations disaster.  Large foraging populations inevitably lead to bees landing in swimming pools, fecal droppings on neighbors’ cars, greater risks of accidental stings, and of course the possibility of giant swarming events.  The conscientious beekeeper should always minimize these concerns as much as possible.

Smaller colonies, while still able to produce honey, have several advantages over larger colonies.  First, they can be kept more discreetly.  Second, they make for easier management because they weigh less and take up less equipment.  Also, for routine inspections and finding the queen, a small colony will always be easier to inspect.

 

 

Wildflower Meadows Queen Rearing Process and Mating

To Find A Queen Bee

Finding a lone queen bee in a large booming beehive of possibly a hundred thousand bees can be a challenge of epic proportions.  Even in a small colony, the queen sometimes seems to be nowhere to be found.  The good news is that the vast majority of beekeeping does not require a direct search for a queen.  Most beekeepers learn to read the condition of a queen by focusing on her brood and its distribution, rather than by searching for the queen directly.

Occasionally however, when it is time to replace her, a queen bee needs to be found.   In our queen bee rearing yards we typically search for queens all day long.   After a while, our beekeepers quickly learn the essential tricks of the trade:

  • It is a time saver – in the long run – to immediately check the lid as soon as it is opened
  • It is best to first remove a side frame to clear space for handling the other frames
  • The percentage play is the middle of brood nest, so it is more efficient to work from the inside out
  • The less smoke the better, since smoke makes the bees (and the queen) scatter from the high probability zone
  • As a frame is being pulled, quickly scan the sides of the frames next to the one being removed; sometimes this is a quick find
  • It is best to start from the outside of the frame working to the center so the queen doesn’t sneak away from the scope of vision
  • The pros look for the shape of the queen rather than the mark
  • The distinctive pattern of a queen with workers surrounding her in a circle is an instant give-away, and is usually as easy to find as the queen herself
  • For large colonies with multiple stories, it is a time-saver to insert a queen excluder between the boxes four days before searching.  Four days later the queen will be isolated in the box that contains newly laid eggs