3 weeks in, still can’t find queen!

Hi folks!! First-time beekeepers in San Francisco, we’ve been regularly inspecting our newly-installed hive to learn all we could. Everything seems to be going well: the frames are filling up, we’re seeing tight brood patterns, honey at the top and brood at the center, bees going back and forth bringing pollen.

Only thing is- despite repeated searches, we have never yet found the queen! No supersedure cells, and we are seeing larvae, so clearly someone is laying - but, should we be worried?


If you have brood you have a queen. No need to bother looking for her if you see eggs. People get kind of obsessed with seeing the queen.


Good laying pattern of worker brood shows you that you have a queen. Leave her alone to get on with her job. Ripping the hive apart regularly so you can find the queen is very disruptive and you could kill her in the process. Once you see a good laying pattern stay out of the brood is my advice unless you have a specific job to do.


Thanks!! We were wondering only because all the books say that when there’s no queen, sometimes workers start laying drones, or any number of weird situations…

Thanks Rob- we inspected the hive regularly because both books we had (dummies books and backyard beekeeper) told us that for the first year, don’t even think about getting honey, you’re just looking to learn as much as you can, etc etc. If we have a queen, then it sounds like we’re all set!

If you have laying workers you will have spotty laying patterns and it will be all drones no workers. Also you will likely see many eggs in each cell sometimes up to a dozen per cell. Only the queen can lay workers.

So let me understand this if a worker bee lays and egg it can only be turned in to a drone?

Is there a pattern to how worker bees lay eggs. Do they let them in the same location or close to where a queen place the egg ie in the center of the comb?

Good question, Marty. I don’t know how much genetics you learned at school, but drones are haploid whereas workers and Queens are diploid. In other words, drones have half the DNA of workers and queens. In order to lay workers, a bee needs to have been fertilized by a drone, so that she can use his DNA to supply the other half needed to make a worker. If she hasn’t been fertilized, she can only lay drones and they all come from her own DNA. That is why a queen doesn’t like to mate with drones from her own hive - unhealthy inbreeding. As workers have never been on mating flights, they can only lay drones.

Workers typically lay in a patchy undisciplined pattern, all over the comb. That is partly why we worry about a scattered pattern of brood - either the queen is senescent, or she is absent and workers are laying drones.


Thank you very much for the very good clarify yes I understood about the XY chromosome. But not necessarily applying it and everything I’m thinking about as a relates to egg laying bees

My question about worker bees laying eggs wasn’t necessarily about the pattern but they location inside the cell It self do they typically try to lay it in the same location as the queen? I know they may lay multiple in the same cell

I recently did a hype inspection and did not locate my queen but I did see a number of eggs and what appeared to be fairly new larvae it also appeared to be in a fairly good pattern on the comb itself,

Ah, another great question! Actually it is very hard for workers to lay where the queen does in the cell. Because they have shorter abdomens, they can’t easily reach the bottom of the cell. So often they will lay eggs on the wall, or at the junction of the wall and the floor of the cell. Also, because they are not pro at egg-laying, they often lay multiple eggs in the same cell. This article has a nice photo of what I mean:

So I have not read the article link yet I will shortly.

Being a new beekeeper and really panicking over killing my queen accidentally , For two friends of mine which are also new beekeepers going to the same club I have already done so with at least one of their hives. I only have one hive so I’m trying to be extra careful not saying they’re not being careful they have two and three hives so they would be better apt to adapt and or transfer brewed to help create a new queen

So when inspecting my hive if I find really fresh larvae and this past time was the first time I think I was truly able to identify eggs and if everything else looks OK I’m careful to close up the hive so I’m not moving everything around potential he killing my queen

It’s been very hard for me to identify eggs for I’m doing foundationalist frames and the wax is nice and clean Emma I did notice some eggs in this last inspection and was very pleased that I was able to finally see them and it was on darker older comb

One egg dead center of the cell at the bottom laid and what I would consider a decent pattern all grouped together nicely

Anything I’m saying in this post that would alert you and or suggest I do something different please let me know

You got it. Have a beer and chill, you are a good bee-daddy. :smile:

LOL LOL thank you so much for that vote of confidence :slight_smile: yes I’ll take my glass of unsweet tea in my lawn chair and relax

After my last hive inspection prior to this one I did yesterday I literally was panicking and really concerned about my queen and hearing of my classmates.

I was truly able to sleep better the next evening

Add a curiosity if we don’t do a hive inspection and just looking at the bees themselves is there any pattern change in their behavior that could possibly alert to being queenless?

I think you may need more experience before you can detect this. However, in the past, when I have removed a queen for re-queening a hive, within 15 minutes there is a noticeable increase in the volume and pitch of buzzing coming from the hive (to my ears at least). You can almost hear the bees saying, “Have you seen the queen? Anyone spotted the queen? Where is the queen, omg, I am gonna panic soon!” It is fascinating and somewhat tragic. I can feel their pain when I hear it. But it is subtle, so don’t go looking for it unless you know you just removed her.

Much more obvious, within a few days, you will start to see queen cells with eggs, larvae and royal jelly in them. They don’t usually stop at one either, they will make several to ensure that they get a new queen.

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We were working quite a few hives yesterday. The ones without queens were a bit irritable and had little to no pollen going in. Hives next to them with Queens were calmer and had plenty of pollen going in. I am not saying this is the norm but it was quite obvious yesterday.

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Hey all! I just did my first frame by frame inspection yesterday & thought my findings would be interesting in this thread.

I put my package in on 4/8, on foundationless frames. A week later I thought it necessary to check for brood, perhaps spot the queen.

@Dawn_SD you might recall this first inspection as a disaster - Filled with self-recrimination I posted shortly afterward that my barest initial movement of the center frame with the biggest section of comb caused it to crash to the floor of the hive. Lesson learned: new comb on empty frames is even more fragile than I realized.

From then on I limited my influence on the hive to replacing syrup, watching & listening to bees, & one veerrrry careful cross comb repair. My observations were that the colony appeared calm & purposeful, with what seemed like a burst of & then slowed comb production (ongoing cold wet weather not helpful I’m sure).

Finally yesterday, a day above 60F & lighter wind. I went in, expecting to see more comb & good brood pattern in various stages. There was more comb, thankfully mostly obeying frame lines, but I was starting to get quite concerned with all the capped nectar, pollen & empty cells I was seeing. I noticed some small, brownish papery pieces of comb on the floor, and just then when I lifted out the biggest section - I spotted a nice, even, large area of comb with single, brand new eggs! at the base of each cell :+1:

I did a few double takes from the eggs to the papery brown shape, & recognized that I must have a new queen. I carefully scooped up the brown bits for a closer look & sure enough, a hatched emergency queen cell!

Looking at the calendar, it’s pretty clear that I killed my original package queen in mid-April. Thankfully, she had begun laying & the workers did their job of creating a new queen. The time involved for the sequence of events needed to arrive at 1 or 2 day old eggs yesterday works out perfectly, back to the day the comb crashed :worried: and accounts for the 3-week gap in production even as my bees were appearing so businesslike.

So, I’m still sad I killed my first queen with a clumsy move…but glad I took experienced beeks’ advice & paid attention with minimal intervention. My colony is doing what they want & doing it well.


Don’t feel bad Eva I also put an empty frame in with wooden starter strip. They almost drew it all out in 5 days. On my inspection I gently moved it and it snapped off a 1/4 of the way down so I had to leave it for them to sort out. Did not want to cause any more damage. Added my Flow Super and Flow frames today so it will be interesting to see how things go. Hope your new queen is a beauty.

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I’m 5 or 6 years in and still haven’t seen the queen in some of my hives lol


Hi Red,

I’m like you … I’ve got 5 hives now n will make a stab @ seeing her Magesty once again in my hives. My eyesight with glasses sucks so even teeny eggs are not much easier. I can see the tiniest white larva. It must be the contrast of those that let me see them. I lost the retina in my best eye n surgry never did bring back my perfect sight in my left one n the right eye ain’t too perfect either. But seeing crappy ain’t keeping me from doing my BEST @ Beekeeping. I’ll see if I can Score a queen sighting today. Bit cool so don’t want to keep the brood box open too long.

Have a great day !


You might find it a lot easier (and even more fun?) if you can could get a buddy to mark her for you. Queen marking pens are easy to use, non-toxic and only cost a buck or so.