How to Spot the Queen in a Hive - Queen Spotting

Find the Queen!

When we do inspections we are looking for a list of things to tell us about our hive. As new beekeepers this can be daunting. The first thing we like to have our students learn is queen identification. 

Queen Identification

There is only one queen in the hive so looking for her is no less than looking for the 'needle in the haystack'! However, with a bit of practice it can become second nature to find her majesty even in a giant colony.
Let's first remember that the queen looks different from the workers and drones.
  • Her abdomen is longer than the other bees.
  • Her thorax has much less hair.
  • She has yellow legs.


  • She moves slower than the other bees, almost a waddle.
  • She is almost never alone, she will most likely have a retinue.


  • She tends to be in the middle of the hive on brood frames.

 Queen Spotting

We make queen spotting videos and photos to help beekeepers hone their queen spotting skills. Since you do not want to open the hive too often practice through pictures and videos is perfect. Practice may not make you perfect but it will make you better! You can check out our Queen Spotting playlist on our YouTube channel.


What about virgins? If you think you have a virgin queen then much of the above is not true! A virgin moves quickly, she may look similar in size to the workers, she does not yet have a retinue and she moves around the hive much more freely. If she is a virgin there will be no eggs.
Unless you have a small hive or nuc, spotting a virgin is even more difficult!

Bee Careful

Inspections are important to know your hive is queen right and it is rewarding to spot the queen but finding her at every inspection is NOT necessary. You should see eggs! If you see eggs then you know you have a queen. If not, then you have a need to see more.

Seeing eggs is not always easy either. If you need glasses just for inspections then so be it. The egg should be centered in the cell and there should be only one. It is here we need to caution you on looking for the queen. She can be squished or she could fly. She may even drop off the frame. Bee aware that while she may love being an Instagram influencer, her portrait may be her last! Be gentle with the frames as you are watching out for her majesty.

Eggs and larvae
Eggs and larvae


Every Queen is Different

So just like people, every queen has her own way. Some will be runners, some you always find in the honey, some like to drop off the frames or run the edges of the frames! Some queens are big, fat beauties and others are long and skinny. Her best attribute is not physical, it is her laying pattern and production of eggs.

So get practicing!