If you started your beekeeping journey, you already know that a hive without a queen bee is either a dead hive or one that is packing up to move out in search of a queen bee to serve. This is one reason why regular hive inspections are so important.
If the queen dies and is not replaced your bees will only stick around if there is a queen cell they are tending and therefore know that a new queen is close by. However, it is more likely that they will swarm, and you will be left bee-less.
Identifying your queen is important; but do you know what she looks like or even where to look for her?
How to Find Your Queen
The queen bee looks different from the other bees in the hive. Serious beekeepers often mark their queens by either painting them or by clipping their wings.
This is so that she stands out during future inspections, saving them time during inspections and decreasing the time that the bees are exposed to the stress of an inspection.
Where to Look
To start with, you need to know where to look for her. When you do your inspection, the easiest way to locate her is by simply looking at where most bees are congregating in the hive.
The queen is always the center of attention in the hive. The worker bees always stay close to her inside the hive because she is the only bee who can lay fertilized eggs, thereby ensuring the future survival of the colony.
The queen will always be close to the newest brood cells.
If you look at the colony as a whole, the picture they present will point directly to the queen.
While the worker bees all normally congregate around the queen, they show what could pass as submission by moving out of her way as she passes by. As soon as she has passed, they will all move back in over the path she just created.
The queen is always fed and looked after by the workers. Her only job is to lay eggs. She moves slower and looks lazy compared to the other bees.
What Does the Queen Look Like?
The queen bee is much larger than the workers. Be warned though not to assume that if you see a large bee, this is the queen.
Drones (males) are also large. At a glance, it is easy to mistake them for a queen.
The way to tell if you are looking at a queen or at a drone is to look for a soft fuzzy growth of hairs that occur on the bodies of drones. The drone looks fluffy, but the queen does not. The drones are also rounder than the queen.
The Appearance of the Queen’s Back
Worker bees have fuzzy backs with very clear stripey markings on them, the queen bee’s back is hairless, smooth, and even shiny.
Shape of Abdomen
The queen bee has a long, pointed abdomen. The honeybees and drones have a blunt abdomen around their stinger whereas the queen’s abdomen comes to a sharper point.
The queen bee’s legs are longer than those of the worker bees and are lighter in color than those of the workers.
Positioning of legs
Worker’s and drone’s legs are always very directly positioned under their bodies. The queen’s legs are positioned more on her sides making her appear closer to the surface she and the other bees are standing on.
Checking the stinger of a bee is a little trickier as you will have to handle the bee and check the stinger under a magnifying glass.
Whereas the workers and drones all have sharp barbs on their stingers, the queen’s stinger is smooth and does not have barbs.
Wing to Abdomen Ratio
The queen’s abdomen extends past the tip of her wings. Because of this, it will look like she has very short wings.
Always make sure your queen is present during inspections. Your honey supply is dependent on her presence.
I hope this information will make spotting your queen easier.
Di-Anne Devenish Seebregts was raised in an environment where daily life consisted of hiking, environmental conservation, growing fruit and vegetables, and raising poultry for meat and eggs.
She combined her passion for the writing word with her love of the pride that comes with not relying on others. She raised three children (who are now adults) to value the environment, and understand the value of being self-sufficient.
Find out more about Di-Anne on our About Us page.