Whilst it is accepted that if you can see very young eggs and that the bees are bringing in pollen you can pretty-much guarantee that you have a queen and that she is Laying.
However, there are those occasions when you need to find the queen. When we need to create an artificial swarm we don't want to move the queen and the queen cells into the new hive. If we want to mark and clip the queen you've GOT to find her.
To help us all and make life simple three WBG members give their tricks and tips...
Finding a queen - John Everett
With routine inspections you do not need to see her majesty just the evidence that she is in the
make an artificial swarm
If you find queen cells and want to you must find the queen, she goes into the 'swarm' - the colony on the original site with one frame of brood without a queen celland the supers go on top. Flying bees come back to the original site so you have a 'swarm'.
If you have a real swarm.
A prime swarm may have eggs in a few days because you have a previously mated queen with luck she might even be marked.
A cast or second swarm MUST have a virgin which might not start egg laying for five weeks, but how do you find her?
Look at the hive entrance - with a laying queen workers work enthusiastically and bring in pollen (protein) for their larvae and nurse bees. Colonies with no queen or queens that have not started to lay are apathetic.
Use the minimum of smoke or none at all so the bees remain in situ on the comb without panicking and chasing around.
Look for polished cells, the queen lays eggs in polished cells and workers prepare them for the onset of egg laying.
Look for eggs - If the eggs have just been laid the eggy frame is often the most likely one to find the queen.
- When you lift a frame out look at the dark first - the side next to other frames.
- Scan the frame and look at different coloured bees.
- The queen is often a different colour to her workers.
- If you have a cluster of bees on frame stroke it with your finger - she may be underneath.
- Queens have red legs.
- The top of the queen's thorax is a different shape to that of a worker.
- Young queens scurry about - focus in on fast moving bees.
- When/if you do spot her - mark her - it saves time and you can then know how old your queen is if you keep records.
- I find it hardest to see black queens with black bees - yellow Italians stand out best.
Finding the Queen - Mark Mills
When you lift the crown board the queen would usally be amongst the cluster of bees. This usally work best on the spring build up or in the autumn when there's more of a defined cluster.
The queen can be found on the frame with the youngest eggs. Eggs that and vertical are one day eggs, 45o 2 day eggs 90o 3 day eggs.
Failing that before we bring out the guns.
Shaking all the bees off the frames into the hive and leaving 6 frames paired together spaced far apart. The queen will always go towards the dark, so after a while go back and you will find the queen between one of the sandwiches of frames.
And if all else fails – the bee shaker box.
Nail a queen-excluder to the bottom of an empty brood box and empty the bees through it like a giant sieve.
The queen won't go through the queen-excluder and will be left in the box with the drones.
Finding the Queen - Paul Gray
However, how to spot and mark the queen. My personal method is to choose a warm windless midday when there are less bees in the hive. Equipment is the plastic tube with a plunger and grille queen catcher, I use very little to no smoke at all, but if the bees are agitated I will probably call it a day. I also ensure the marker pen is handy.
Take out the first frame have a quick look both sides and lay it over the furthest half of the brood chamber, I believe this restricts the light and helps to keep the bees happy and calm. Gently remove the next frame and check the dark side first, checking slowly and methodically around the outer perimeter and work towards the centre, then check the edges of the frame and the other side in a similar way. If the bees are clustered on top of each other, gently blow on them and they will move over allowing you a clearer view. If the queen is not spotted replace the frame and move onto the next one in a similar way. When you reach the middle frame, re-position the first frame over the frames already checked and carry on till all have been checked. If the queen has not been spotted work backwards to the beginning. If queen is really elusive and providing they are calm I may decide to go through the hive once more.
If the queen is found then place the catcher over the queen and using the plunger gently move her up to the grill. Some of the workers may be trapped at the same time but that shouldn't be a problem. There you can mark her with pen but allow it to dry before placing her back on the same frame that you found her. I will normally gently smoke both her and the frame to mask any other smells and ensure that she is accepted by the bees. Once found I always mark my queens as it is so much easier to spot her on subsequent inspections.