How to find the queen in a bee hive. Tips and tricks to locate her

Introduction: In the intricate world of beekeeping, the queen bee holds a pivotal role. Locating the queen in a bee hive is not just a task; it’s a skill that every beekeeper should master. Whether you’re a novice beekeeper or an experienced apiarist, understanding how to find the queen is essential for the health and productivity of your bee colony. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore various tips and tricks to help you confidently “find the queen in a bee hive.”

Why is Finding the Queen Important?

Understanding the Queen’s Significance:

Finding the queen in a bee hive is crucial because she is the heart of the colony. The queen is responsible for laying eggs, ensuring the hive’s population growth, and maintaining genetic diversity. A healthy queen means a thriving colony.

Impact on Hive Health and Productivity:

When you can locate the queen, you can assess her condition and the overall hive’s health. A queen that is failing or diseased can lead to a decline in productivity and, eventually, the collapse of the colony.

Know Your Queen: Queen Bee Characteristics

Before embarking on the journey of finding the queen, it’s essential to understand her physical and behavioral characteristics.

Physical Attributes:

The queen bee stands out in the hive due to her unique features:

  • Size: She is larger than worker bees but smaller than drones.
  • Color: Queens are typically longer and more slender, with a distinct golden or reddish-brown abdomen.
  • Wings: Unlike worker bees, the queen’s wings extend beyond the tip of her abdomen.
Finding the queen is always difficult if she is not marked.

Behavioral Traits:

  • Egg-Laying: The primary role of the queen is to lay eggs. She can lay up to 2,000 eggs a day during peak season.
  • Scent Marking: The queen emits pheromones that help maintain hive cohesion and organization.
  • Being Followed: Worker bees often surround and attend to the queen, making it easier to spot her in a crowd.

The Art of Hive Inspection

Now that you understand the queen’s characteristics, it’s time to learn how to conduct a hive inspection to find her. Proper equipment and timing are crucial.

Proper Equipment and Attire:

Before opening the hive, ensure you have the following equipment and attire:

  • Beekeeping suit with veil and gloves
  • Smoker and smoker fuel
  • Hive tool for prying apart frames
  • Queen marking kit (optional)

Timing Matters:

Choose a sunny, warm day for hive inspections. Bees are less active when the weather is cold or rainy, making it challenging to locate the queen. Aim for mid-morning when bees are out foraging but not yet too active.

Queen Marking Techniques

Marking the queen can be a helpful tool for easier identification during future inspections.

Benefits of Marking:

  • Quick and easy identification
  • Tracking the queen’s age
  • Monitoring her movement and activity

How to Safely Mark the Queen:

  1. Gently capture the queen using a queen marking cage.
  2. Carefully mark her thorax with a color-coded marker, following standard marking conventions.
  3. Release her back into the hive once the paint has dried.

Use of Queen Excluders

A queen excluder is a metal or plastic grid placed between the brood chamber and honey supers. It prevents the queen from entering the honey supers while allowing worker bees to pass through.

The exclusion device requires very careful technical handling.

Purpose and Installation:

  • Ensures that honey supers remain free of brood and eggs
  • Keeps the queen in the brood chamber

Pros and Cons:

While queen excluders have benefits, they can also pose challenges, such as potential worker bee congestion. Beekeepers should carefully consider whether to use them in their hives.

Spotting the Queen: Practical Tips

When conducting a hive inspection, follow these practical tips to increase your chances of finding the queen.

Scanning Frame by Frame:

Inspect each frame systematically. Look for the queen on both sides of the frames, especially in areas with brood or clusters of bees.

Following the Brood Pattern:

Queens often stay close to brood frames since their primary duty is egg-laying. Observe the brood pattern and the bees’ behavior in those areas.

Advanced Techniques for Finding the Queen

For those who are up for a challenge, here are some advanced techniques to aid in locating the queen.

Queen Caging:

Use a queen marking cage to temporarily isolate the queen for easier identification and inspection.

Utilizing a Beekeeping Buddy:

Having a second pair of eyes can significantly improve your chances of finding the queen. Work with a fellow beekeeper to search the frames together.

When the Queen is Missing

Sometimes, the queen can be elusive. If you can’t find her during an inspection, consider the following:

Reasons for Absence:

  • She might be on a mating flight.
  • The hive could be in the process of supersedure.
  • The queen might be ill or failing.

Solutions and Next Steps:

Depending on the situation, you may need to take different actions, such as waiting for her return, introducing a new queen, or conducting a more thorough search.

Protecting the Queen During Inspections

While searching for the queen, it’s vital to handle her with care to prevent injuries.

Gentle Handling:

Avoid rough or sudden movements that could harm the queen or provoke aggression from other bees.

Avoiding Queen Injuries:

Be cautious when handling frames and avoid squeezing or crushing the queen accidentally.

Introducing a New Queen to the Hive

Sometimes, introducing a new queen becomes necessary to maintain hive productivity and health.

When to Introduce a New Queen:

  • If the existing queen is failing or diseased
  • After queen loss due to swarming

Step-by-Step Guide: (For a more detailed guide on introducing a queen, you can refer to our article here.)


In the world of beekeeping, knowing how to find the queen in a bee hive is a valuable skill. It allows you to monitor the hive’s health, productivity, and the well-being of the queen herself. With the tips and tricks outlined in this guide, you can confidently navigate your beehive inspections and ensure the continued success of your beekeeping journey. Remember, a happy and healthy queen leads to a thriving colony.