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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I need tips on how to find an unmarked Queen.
I only have 1 hive with a marked Queen...it is wonderful...she pops right out when you look at her frame!

My other hives...not so much. I am really useless at this:( My frames and walls of the hives are packed solid with bees...some have more than one layer. I stare at those frames and see the Queen. Is there a trick I am missing? Am I the only person who has trouble with this?
I am sooo frustrated as we want to try raising some Queens and I don't think a certain Queen simply because you can find her is very good selection criteria!

Any and all help would be appreciated.

I can tell the difference between a worker, drone and Marked Queen... I can recognize a fuzzy young bee as compared to a wizened old one....but I can't find an unmarked Queen:(

Thanks.
 

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It takes a bit of practice but it's worth it. I don't spend a lot of time looking at individual bees. I look for a group of bees that seem to be paying attention to something. Often, it's the queen. I also look for runners. Boy, queen's can run fast sometimes. But most of the time, I just scan the frames and suddenly...there she is. Once you get used to how a queen looks UNMARKED, it's easier in the future. By all accounts, I'm not the worlds best spotter of queens but that's what works for me.
 

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I gave up looking for mine, I just look for signs of fresh eggs and very young larva. But my eyes have gotten a workout this week. Catching hundreds of queens.
 

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This procedure is for after you fail and you feel you have to find the queen. Causes major disruption to you and the bees so do not do lightly! The answer is it is not easy and the most experienced beek sometimes can't find a runny hiding queen. If you really really need to find her, set down a bottom board with an empty box and take a frame of brood and AFTER you can't find the queen carefully brush or wiggle shake the bees off the frame and after making sure she is absolutely not one of the seven bees left on that frame, put the frame of brood in the empty box. Continue checking and clearing brood frames and placing them in the empty. When you have a box full of bee less brood and frames and in original order, place a queen excluder over it and set the now empty brood box on top of the excluder and continue looking for the queen as you wiggle shake and brush frames into the empty over the excluder.

set the bee less frames in another box and get all the bees in that empty box or flying. Many will settle on the other brood box full of beefless frames. Now carefully look at the box and bottom board you just emptied and shake those bees into the box over the excluder. Most of the bees will have gone down to the brood in the excluded box and gently with verified cool smoke encourage the remaining bees to go down. At some point probably running like a demon you will see your queen. Do with her what you intended and put things back together.

When I am forced to this dog and pony show, I am usually looking for her to split off from the main hive with two frames of wet brood and lots of extra bees. So if that is your intention have a couple frames set to the very outside of one of the excluded boxes for fast reference. Then I notch some frames in the queenless original colony and set the queen and her nuc in a double screened two or threeway divided box that I set back on a strong colony to be heated by the folks downstairs. If it is still cool, I wrap the whole congregation until it warms up.

The length of that reply should have scared you into getting better at finding queens! Like most skills it takes time to learn and as I said, some queens do a wonderful job of hiding and running.
 

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It can be daunting with a big hive.

1. I run deeps and split the hive into three stacks - one brood, second brood, and a stack of honey supers. Place them on a solid piece of plywood with a complete rim. Queens will move downward as you remove frames to inspect.

2. Wait for ?ten minutes and observe the bees. Two stacks will be fanning and the third is content. The super with the content bees will contain the queen.

3. Queen will generally be on a frame containing eggs and some empty cells.

4. Then use cover cloths to keep sides of frame dark other than frame you are removing. This keeps queen from moving about.

5. Do a visual scan of one side, then bottom of frame and then other side. Hold frame about 18 inches away from your face so you can scan. Look for the circle of nurse bees attending to bigger queen.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
What's your procedure when looking for her? Look through the top box, then the next, and the next, working from top to bottom?
I usually start with the top box...2nd frame in, then put it aside, then check the outside frame, the 3rd frame and work my way across. I look on the far side of the frame 1st then the closer side, then the edges, then again and again. Then I take off the top box nod usually sit it on the lid and drape paper over the top. Then I start on the next box.

I was able to see an observation hive last summer. In it the bees formed a circle facing the Queen...I thought that is all I had to do...ha! Was I wrong.
Then I hired a pro beek to come to my place to check the hives and show me how to find a Queen. She opened 4 of my hives and only saw 1 Queen...that was a pro certified Master Beekeeper. I was no better for the visit..nor was my wallet.
It is frustrating as I feel the Queen must be right there and no matter how long I stare and scan or if I gently use my finger to thin out the bees that rascally Queen eludes me.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
This procedure is for after you fail and you feel you have to find the queen. Causes major disruption to you and the bees so do not do lightly! The answer is it is not easy and the most experienced beek sometimes can't find a runny hiding queen. If you really really need to find her, set down a bottom board with an empty box and take a frame of brood and AFTER you can't find the queen carefully brush or wiggle shake the bees off the frame and after making sure she is absolutely not one of the seven bees left on that frame, put the frame of brood in the empty box. Continue checking and clearing brood frames and placing them in the empty. When you have a box full of bee less brood and frames and in original order, place a queen excluder over it and set the now empty brood box on top of the excluder and continue looking for the queen as you wiggle shake and brush frames into the empty over the excluder.

set the bee less frames in another box and get all the bees in that empty box or flying. Many will settle on the other brood box full of beefless frames. Now carefully look at the box and bottom board you just emptied and shake those bees into the box over the excluder. Most of the bees will have gone down to the brood in the excluded box and gently with verified cool smoke encourage the remaining bees to go down. At some point probably running like a demon you will see your queen. Do with her what you intended and put things back together.

When I am forced to this dog and pony show, I am usually looking for her to split off from the main hive with two frames of wet brood and lots of extra bees. So if that is your intention have a couple frames set to the very outside of one of the excluded boxes for fast reference. Then I notch some frames in the queenless original colony and set the queen and her nuc in a double screened two or threeway divided box that I set back on a strong colony to be heated by the folks downstairs. If it is still cool, I wrap the whole congregation until it warms up.

The length of that reply should have scared you into getting better at finding queens! Like most skills it takes time to learn and as I said, some queens do a wonderful job of hiding and running.
Yes..I read and re read line by line visualizer where the boxes were and where the excluder were. I then visualize a bunch of bees sitting on the bottom board of the last empty box (hopefully I closed the entrance or they could all run out!) that need to shake into a box with an excluder on the bottom.

By now selection based on availability isn't sounding so unrealistic:)

I was hoping to get a Queen to put into one of those Jenter kits. If I can't do that I will keep practicing and graft young larvae directly from the cells of hives I like.

Question....what happens if you graft unmatched eggs instead of day old larvae?

You have no idea how much I appreciate the time folks take to share their experience. I feel better knowing I am not alone with this issue but really wish folks that sell packages, nucs and Queens for significant coin would mark the Queens.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
It can be daunting with a big hive.

1. I run deeps and split the hive into three stacks - one brood, second brood, and a stack of honey supers. Place them on a solid piece of plywood with a complete rim. Queens will move downward as you remove frames to inspect.

2. Wait for ?ten minutes and observe the bees. Two stacks will be fanning and the third is content. The super with the content bees will contain the queen.

3. Queen will generally be on a frame containing eggs and some empty cells.

4. Then use cover cloths to keep sides of frame dark other than frame you are removing. This keeps queen from moving about.

5. Do a visual scan of one side, then bottom of frame and then other side. Hold frame about 18 inches away from your face so you can scan. Look for the circle of nurse bees attending to bigger queen.
Thanks...that at least narrows it to 10 frames...unless the supers are the calm stack. I presume one doesn't use smoke when looking for the Queen.
 

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OK, so, queens lay eggs. That's her job. If she stops, they'll replace her. So, look for eggs, then you may see her without looking for her.

Also remove top cover and smoke the top bars fairly well, wait a minute, remove top box and set it aside, she's run down from the smoke and the sunlight to the box below.

You can split all the boxes, setting them aside. Wait twenty minutes. The boxes with out queens will be runny and noisy, might even be roaring. The bees will all be fanning trying to find her scent. The queen will be in the box that is calm and quiet.
 

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I usually start with the top box...2nd frame in, then put it aside, then check the outside frame, the 3rd frame and work my way across. I look on the far side of the frame 1st then the closer side, then the edges, then again and again. Then I take off the top box nod usually sit it on the lid and drape paper over the top. Then I start on the next box.
My question was certainly loaded. I wanted you to say exactly what you said. What you're doing is the worst way to find a queen. The disturbance you cause by removing frames and smoking causes the bees…and queen…to run down to get away from you. By the time you get down into the broodnest there are so many bees that you can't find the queen…and she is running from you just to make it more difficult.

Before you open the hive, ask yourself…which box do you think she's in. If there are honey supers on the hive, is it likely she's up there? Usually not. Depending on the time of year, is she likely in the top brood box or bottom brood box…assuming you have two.

Take off the honey supers, stacking them on an upturned cover. Cover them with an inner cover or cloth. Take off the top brood box and place on another cover. Don't use much smoke…it just causes the bees and queen to run. Now decide which brood box to search first. Say first…


Pull each comb and search for queen. No smoke…you want the queen to remain on the comb she's laying on…quietly. As you look over each comb, place it to one side…either standing on end against the box, or in another empty body. If you don't find her, search the bottom box again placing the combs to one side. Check bottom board and side walls of bottom box. Still can't find her?

Place a shaker box…hive body with wood bound excluder nailed on bottom. 2" of duct tape on inside of shaker box along top edge. Place on now empty bottom brood box. Leave a 4" space at side wall. Take last frame removed from bottom box, shake all the bees into shaker box, and place frame into space pushing it under excluder. Repeat with each frame from bottom box until all the frames are back into bottom box. Slide shaker box back over bottom brood box. If the bees want to boil over shaker box edge, brush them back down. Use a little smoke along the too edge to get the bees moving down. They'll go through the excluder to get back into the hive. If the queen is there she'll be running along the excluder at the sidewall. If not there, shake the bees from the second brood box into the shaker box and run them through the excluder. If she's not there, repeat with the supers.

Go slowly. Don't allow the bees to boil over the sides of the shaker box. You will find the queen.
 

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Good advice as usual from MP. You sneak into a big hive with as little disruption as possible. When dealing with a large double I use the "divide and conquer" strategy. Carefully set the top box off on a lid using just a gentle smoke. Then decide where your best odds are based on where you are seeing eggs and larvae. Sunshine helps greatly, keep the sun over your shoulder and trained on the frame as you quickly scan each frame trying not to let your eyes get lazy and begin focusing on individual bees. If the bees begin to run and "ball up" your odds of finding her drop significantly. If you know you will be doing this ahead of time, inserting an excluder at least 5 days ahead of time will help greatly in reducing your search area.
 

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>I have never found the queen in the picture of the black bees.
I think I can see the one in the 2nd picture. Is she marked with green?

Both of those queens are marked...

As MP says, smoke is not your friend when trying to find a queen. It often causes the queen to run.

Any beekeeping skill (or any skill for that matter) is improved by visualizing what you think you'll find and then seeing if you find that. That way you exercise the mental process of guessing where the queen is etc. and then get feedback on your instincts. When you throw a baseball, you think about where you want it to go and you throw it. The reason it now goes at least close to where you visualize is that you went through the process at some point in your life of visualizing, throwing and then analyzing the feedback of the results. That same mental process of visualizing, and then getting feedback is how you learn to tell if a hive is about to swarm or if it's rapidly building or where the queen is. You don't throw the ball entirely by rational thought. That will get you nowhere. You can't possibly take into account the windage, the distance, the elevation and all the laws of physics that are involved, yet your subconscious can with visualization and practice.

With practice you can tell by how the bees are moving on the top bar and the density of bees where the queen is likely to be. But only if you exercise your mind by visualizing and then getting the feedback.
 

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Thanks...that at least narrows it to 10 frames...unless the supers are the calm stack. I presume one doesn't use smoke when looking for the Queen.
Probably narrowing it down to 6 frames, as generally outside two are honey and pollen. I don't use a lot of smoke, if at all.

When looking for the queen, cover cloths are my best aid to keep bees and queen calm. Expose the top of one frame at a time and then pull it and scan it for the queen.

And when you do find her, mark her!
 

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Three years ago, I could never find a queen. It didn't matter how big the colony was, or how long I looked. When I wanted to find her, I couldn't. When we weren't looking, invariably I would spot her.

I started a couple nucs beside the house in early May two summers back, and let them raise queens. By the time they got queens built, nucs were not strong at all, just a couple frames of bees. The queens were easy to find in those boxes. I made a point of using those nucs to get good at finding her. At least once a week, I went thru them, hunting down the queen, and persisted till I found her. Over the summer they grew, and by the end of the summer, one of them was in a 3 high stack of 5 frames, and one in a 2 high stack of 10 frames. I learned a lot by persisting and hunting her down at least once a week in both of them. It was actually easier to find her after the colonies got bigger, which I attribute to persistent practise. It is a little difficult to quantify exactly what I'm looking for, I've tried to explain it to my wife as we go thru a hive last summer, and didn't do to well. But, ever since then, I can open any of our hives, and as I pull up frames, just looking at them I can tell if it's a good candidate for finding her.

Last summer, and again this spring, I've noticed a trend. More often that not, working my way across the brood nest, where I find her is on the first frame of honey / pollen on the far side from where I started. Particularily this spring while they are building up. I'm not sure if it's because she's on the edge of the nest looking for more room to lay, or if it's because she has been running from me as I pull frames. Probably the latter. I am not using smoke when I am determined to find her, and my suit is buttoned up tight. Sometimes they get angry, sometimes they dont.

I think what made this a lot easier for me, by using the same two nucs growing into full size colonies for the exercise, every week for a whole summer, I learned a lot about those two colonies, how they built out and where the bees were putting various things in the hive. Over time, I also figured out where each of the two queens liked to hide when I started pulling things apart. But, what is the real big thing for me now, when I walk up to a hive with the express intent to find a queen, I'm confident I can find her. Personally, I think that's 3/4 of the battle. If you walk up to the hive thinking 'I sure hope I can find her today', you've already lost the battle. If you walk up to the hive thinking 'I wonder which frame she's on today, will be interesting to find out', with no doubts you will find out, you are 3/4 of the way to success before you pop the lid.

If you have watched the videos from the National Honey Show, then you saw the piece about the cloaking device. It's sooooo true. If you _think_ you saw her on a frame, then she vanished, she is probably there. You have to look away, blink, then slowly start scanning that area of the frame again. Invariably, she will pop out of the herd of bees. Another thing I've noticed over time, once you do spot her, it seems that suddenly all the nurse bees move away, and there she is, plain as day in the open.

Lots of folks say, dont spend a lot of time inside your hives, it'll disturb the bees to much. Particularily in a case like yours Janne, you have a bunch of colonies out back, and started more from packages this spring. Pick one or two of the fresh start packages, and just resign yourself to the fact they aren't going to be productive honey hives this year, instead they are going to be learning tools. Open them up once a week, sometimes twice. Go thru them frame by frame, make a point of finding that queen every time you open them up. By the end of the summer, you will have learned a truckload about what's happening inside those hives, and you will be able to tell what's happening in the rest of them, by simply popping the cover and lifting one frame. And by the end of August, you'll be able to walk up to any of them, large or small, and feel confident that if you must find the queen, it's a 5 minute job most of the time. That confidence is 3/4 of the battle.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
My question was certainly loaded. I wanted you to say exactly what you said. What you're doing is the worst way to find a queen. The disturbance you cause by removing frames and smoking causes the bees…and queen…to run down to get away from you. By the time you get down into the broodnest there are so many bees that you can't find the queen…and she is running from you just to make it more difficult.

Before you open the hive, ask yourself…which box do you think she's in. If there are honey supers on the hive, is it likely she's up there? Usually not. Depending on the time of year, is she likely in the top brood box or bottom brood box…assuming you have two.

Take off the honey supers, stacking them on an upturned cover. Cover them with an inner cover or cloth. Take off the top brood box and place on another cover. Don't use much smoke…it just causes the bees and queen to run. Now decide which brood box to search first. Say first…


Pull each comb and search for queen. No smoke…you want the queen to remain on the comb she's laying on…quietly. As you look over each comb, place it to one side…either standing on end against the box, or in another empty body. If you don't find her, search the bottom box again placing the combs to one side. Check bottom board and side walls of bottom box. Still can't find her?

Place a shaker box…hive body with wood bound excluder nailed on bottom. 2" of duct tape on inside of shaker box along top edge. Place on now empty bottom brood box. Leave a 4" space at side wall. Take last frame removed from bottom box, shake all the bees into shaker box, and place frame into space pushing it under excluder. Repeat with each frame from bottom box until all the frames are back into bottom box. Slide shaker box back over bottom brood box. If the bees want to boil over shaker box edge, brush them back down. Use a little smoke along the too edge to get the bees moving down. They'll go through the excluder to get back into the hive. If the queen is there she'll be running along the excluder at the sidewall. If not there, shake the bees from the second brood box into the shaker box and run them through the excluder. If she's not there, repeat with the supers.

Go slowly. Don't allow the bees to boil over the sides of the shaker box. You will find the queen.
Thank you. I didn't use smoke in the hive...just had the smoker sitting on top of the adjacent hive so the air had the scent of smoke.

I did not separate and group out the boxes before searching. I will now do that and see if I can hear the box with the Queen.

I expect if you end up at the shaking point that the bees are in a state.

When you shake frames do you harm the brood?
 
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