Brushy Mountain Bee Farm Brushy Mountain Bee Farm, Inc.

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Requeening & Spotting the Queen

I’ve gone back to my hive and seen that my queen has been released but what do I need to look for? Out of the thousands of bees that are in your hive, there is only one queen. Going on a hunt for her and trying to spot her is one of the hardest things a beekeeper can try to do. But if you don’t see her, how do you know if your hive is queen right? Eggs!

The queen is the largest bee in the colony coming in at less than an inch in size. She has an elongated abdomen and a smoother thorax. The queen is the most important member of the colony and is key to its survival. Yes a colony can survive without a queen for a while, but if it lacks the reproductive cycle, the hive will dwindle and die.

A young healthy queen will lay 1,000 to 2,000 eggs per day. Without a productive queen, the colony will not build up in population. If you go into your hive and the population just isn’t what it should be or if you do not find eggs, there is a problem with your queen.

If the queen dies, beekeepers have two options: let the colony requeen themselves or purchase a queen and introduce her to the colony. There are some tremendous risks letting your colony requeen themselves. They will raise out more than one queen and the queens that are born will fight off the other (only one queen per colony) in which both could die. The virgin queen must go on a mating flight that should span a couple of days. If weather restricts the mating flight, she will not be fertile enough. Birds and other predators that enjoy feeding on insects are always a danger. It is best acquiring a queen from a reputable dealer and introducing her to the colony.

After introducing a new queen and we know that the queen has been released, the first thing we check for when working the hive is to find eggs.
Eggs can be tough to see, especially through a veil. They are small, white grains, about the size of rice. A frame is set up so that the brood is centrally located with nectar or pollen stored around the edges. A good frame will show a complete brood cycle (eggs, larva and capped brood).

Never rush when you work your hives. The queen is a delicate insect that could be anywhere throughout the hive, so when working the frames, keep in mind that she might be there as you set it on the ground or mash frames together. Beekeepers must be vigil when working the hive but more often than not, the queen will become old and less fertile, needing to be replaced.

Some additional information to consider when looking for your queen:

  • Do not be discouraged to find a queen cell on the frame. A colony will always build these for emergency situations.

  • Newer queens must get accustomed to laying, therefore, you might temporarily find two eggs to a cell.

  • Feeding the colony will help stimulate the brood process. Use a feeding stimulant like Honey B Healthy to build up and strengthen colony.
It is important knowing that your hive is queen right. Try finding eggs and larva rather than searching for the queen to know that she is alive and properly doing her job. She is delicate and important, so be careful when working your hives.