Beekeeping Articles

Beekeeping Articles

Finding the Queen

Seven ways to help you to find the Queen

By Lindsay Wilson

Sometimes you need to find your queen, and sometimes you only need to know that she is alive and well. But, if you absolutely must find an unmarked queen, there’s nothing like a little practice. You’ll find that spotting her gets much easier after you’ve done it a few times and learn how to look.

Queen Hiding in the Brood.

She will be on the brood e.g. egg and larvae area.
  • (a) Please use minimal smoke, 2-3 puffs. (Wait 90 sec let the smoke do its job). Remove honey supers and queen excluder, put queen excluder on top of honey supers and a empty super to place already checked frames into.
  • (b) Space frames apart in middle of brood box.
  • (c) Scrape off all burr comb on side and top bars.
  • (d) Carefully lift out the second frame taking care not to squash bees.
  • (e) Scan your eyes over each side of the frame (60 to 90 sec each side). Place this frame in the empty super on-top of queen excluder, that’s on top of honey supers. Move to the next frame and so on till you find the old queen. The queen has not seen light for some time, and will run from light. If you don't find her on any of the frames, she maybe on the inside wall of the super or the bottom board.

Still not found her? Well you must have missed her so she is in the old brood box or in the new super with the frames. So back you go, one frame at a time, from new super to old brood box.

Split the Brood

  • (a) Put an empty Super on a bottom board next to your hive.
  • (b) Take one side of brood frames, that’s 4 frames out and into the super.
  • (c) You now have 2 bee hives each with brood pollen and honey. Place the roofs on. Go have a cup of tea. Later, you will have one hive fanning at the entrance. The hive fanning has the queen in it.
  • (d) Now do step one - Queen Hiding in the Brood - at least you will only have 1/2 the brood to work with.

Light Barrier or Linton Briggs

I have read a lot of books and papers. This is Linton Briggs' way of finding the Queen.

  • (a) Please use minimal smoke, 2-3 puffs, remove honey supers and queen excluder, put queen excluder on top of honey supers.
  • (b) Put an empty super on the queen excluder.
  • (c) You are now only working on the brood super with the sun on your back, remove the frame from the outside, starting furthest from you, checking for the queen before placing the frame in the empty super.
  • (d) Remove outside frame closest to you, again checking for the queen before placing in the empty super. You now have a light barrier driving the queen inwards.
  • (e) Before checking the next frame closest to you look down the face of the frame, according to Linton the queen often stands taller than the rest of the bees and can be spotted up to 20% of the time on the face of the frame before it is removed. Repeat for remaining frames until the queen is found.
worker, queen, drone

Strainer Method

  • (a) Please use minimal smoke, 2-3 puffs. Wait 1 min. Remove honey supers and queen excluder, put queen excluder on top of honey supers.
  • (b) Move brood box to one side.
  • (c) Put empty Super on a bottom board in original spot.
  • (d) Take frames from brood box and shake all bees off into a super with a queen excluder to the bottom, putting frames back into the new super and bottom board.
  • (e) Put strainer super with all drones workers and queen on brood box.
  • (f) With a little smoke force the bees through the queen excluder into the new brood box.
  • (g) Take the strainer box off 15 meters and dump on the ground, old queen cannot fly.
  • (h) Introduce cage queen to brood, put back queen excluder and honey supers.

Supersedure Method

  • (a) Shake off bees from brood box into new box and floor
  • (b) Put new comb into old brood box.
  • (c) Replace queen excluder and super with brood frames on top, nurse bees will move though queen excluder to feed the young.
  • (d) The old queen is now on new comb and will start laying there, the next day or after 6 hours, the hive can be split with a division board or taken away to a new site. When the new queen comes you can introduce the caged queen into the brood. This method is used all over the world and has high success rate.
Queen Cage

When the new Queen comes and you still have not removed the old one?

  • (a) Use minimal smoke, 2-3 puffs. Wait 1 min. Remove honey supers and queen excluder from the hive.
  • (b) On the brood frames super, put an envelope on top of the frames and on the envelope place the new queen in its cell with plugs still left on.

Now put the lid back on hive. Now go and have a cup of tea (I like coffee and 2 sugars please). When you are gone for your coffee, the soon to be superceded queen, will go up to the new one to kill her as both queens will be tooting to each other. Lift lid and there is the old queen just remove her.

Last Resort
(I don’t like this one but it's up to you)

Last resort cannot be used on a stinging hive or worker layer hive.

  • Move the hive 15 meters or more behind a landmark preferably this will cause them to drift back to their original position.
  • Replace empty super on a bottom board in original spot this will collect all the field bees.
  • Shake all bees off the comb onto ground and place all frames into a new hive body which is elevated on a table this will stop the queen she cannot re-enter the hive as she cannot fly back.
  • Check hive after 7 days knock off all queen cells and introduce cage queen or cell.

Well Done You Did It !

The Queen Bee

Note If the queen is always on last frame, do last frame 1st.


I do hope this helps you with finding the Queen.

Lindsay Wilson
Beekeeping Course Co-ordinator
Swarm Co-ordinator
Web Assistant
One Of The Clubs Speakers.