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How to find unmated queen


Hoping for a tip or two here. Apparently I have a queen in one of my hives which is not mated properly and not laying. I can’t find her to kill her. I have tried to find her using the queen excluder method twice without luck Busy hive with many bees still in it. Perhaps she is small enough to be going through the excluder?



Hiya Dan, perhaps take a few photos of the frames and see if someone can point it out as I’m curious as to what a virgin or poorly mated queen looks like. NO Royal jokes please…
It was my understanding that they are still a golden colour.


A virgin can’t get through the excluder any better than a laying queen. Her thorax does not change size and that is what does not fit through the excluder. The abdomen is flexible. The thorax is not… What “queen excluder method” are you using? Shaking them?


I believe that @Dee keeps her unwanted queens in the freezer to use for this purpose. Take the frozen queen out to the hive and pin her to the top bar of a frame. Go and do something else for 15 minutes or so. When you return, frequently the living queen will be trying to sting the pinned queen.

One other thing I find frequently is that if I use lots of smoke, the queen will be on the last or second to last frame. Queens hate smoke even more than workers, and will run as far as possible. I take inspected frames out of the hive, and put them into a spare empty box (on top of an inner cover to maintain the lower bee space). That theoretically stops the queen from hopping onto frames I have already inspected. The other advantage of this method is that if you don’t find her once you have been through the whole box, you can inspect every frame again as you transfer them back into the hive. :blush: Oh, and don’t forget to look at the hive walls and floor, she will often hide there too! :wink:


Hi Dan, there is a couple of options. #1. you could split the colony by adding fresh brood to each split. Then in 4 days, see which split is making QCs. Then you only have the other half to look through to find the queen you are looking for.

She will be easy to find because even if she starts laying drones, her abdomen will swell. That’s what I found recently.

#2 As Michael said, the thorax wont fit through the QX. Just replace the brood box with another one containing fresh brood, place the QX in position, then an empty super. Shake all of the bees, frame by frame into the empty box. Wella, all you’ll finish up with above the QX is the queen with all of the drones. However, before shaking the bees, take one last good look on each frame.


Hi Michael

I am putting frames in an empty box. Queen excluder on top of this box and then another box on top of the excluder. Each frame is taken from the hive and shaken into the box above the excluder. The vast majority of the bees end up in the bottom box but there are also bees crawling on the ground and in the air and some scattered around here and there. I hoped the queen would be amongst the bees remaining in the top box.

This split failed to produce eggs after 28 days and then failed to make queen cells from a frame of eggs and young larvae. A further frame of brood given later also did not end up with queen cells on it. The queens hatched in the split on the 18th and 19th October. I have spoken to an experienced beekeeper who says they are not making queens as I have a queen in there and given the lapse of time, she will only turn into a drone layer now.


Hi Jeff
Your advice to split the split in two came to me in the middle of the night actually. I am worried though about pest attack with weakened hives with no laying queen. They don’t go well with no queen :anguished: Not sure how I can do it. The split currently is made up of two ideals with one deep frame in the middle with hatching worker and drone brood - if you can picture that.


I should do that but it would be educational only because when I put the frames back in - she will disappear. :grin:. I’ll post a video some time that I made of a virgin queen running around the outside of the hive.


I would keep giving them a frame of eggs and brood every week for three weeks before I gave up on that method. You may have some laying workers who haven’t degenerated yet to the point that you’re seeing the eggs because they are getting removed. Even if it’s an umated queen, if you keep giving them the opportunity to raise a new one they may finally take that opportunity.


In relation to shaking the bees into the empty box, shake the bees off the frames, then place the empty frames somewhere else. That way you’ll only have bees in the empty box. Keep a good lookout that she doesn’t walk outside the box. She IS different to bees, just look for a queen with a smaller abdomen.

Ignore that bit about bees not doing well without a mated queen. They still function very well. If you are worried about pests, just reduce the entrance which should be done anyway.

I persevered with one colony for about 4 months recently. It finally finished up with a good mated queen.


Hi Dan, after further thought on the situation & understanding that you have, as I understand it that you have 2 ideals & 1 deep in the split. My splits only consist of maybe 4 to less than 9 frames. That way they are easy to monitor. Even if they were ideals, I’d still only have, say 4 or 5 frames in a split/nuc. That’s 4-5 frames that are covered with bees with the brood predominantly worker brood.


Hi Michael,

I was dealing with a swarming hive recently. Caught two afterswarms, both with virgins, then went through the parent hive to sort it out. As soon as I lifted off the top super I discovered a virgin sitting on top of a flow frame! The QX was still in place and I’m pretty sure it’s undamaged.

Anyways, I’d love you to comment on my thread in the section on Queen breeding; supering up my queen castle, because this is my main concern!

Cheers, Paul


How long is the time-fame? How long has this queen been in the hive?


Hi Ed @Red_Hot_Chilipepper
I had a strong hive so I split it to help stop it swarming on the 1st October.

I put the old queen in a hive in a new spot and the hive in the original spot made 14 queen cells starting around the 1st October.

The hive in the old spot then swarmed on the 18th October and I caught the swarm and put it in a new box. So the original hive is now three if you follow.

The swarmed hive failed to produce a laying queen as did the split in the original spot (I saw virgin queens in both hives on the 18th) , and both have been given frames of eggs and larvae each week for two weeks. Neither hive has made any queen cells.

I combined the swarm hive back with the original queen using newspaper. This was a mistake I believe as the unmated dud queen now might have killed the good old queen (probably 3 or 4 years old).

The split in the original spot is the one I am trying to now find the unmated queen in. I am about to go and split that in two and try adding brood again, assuming one has the dud queen and one does not.

There was bad weather here right when I would have expected the queens to go on mating flights.


I had a hard time following: Just tired from a long day:


If you manipulate this calendar, maybe you can figure out when you should be seeing eggs from your new queen(s).


A virgin often returns to the wrong entrance and ends up in the top or the bottom or sometimes even the hive next door…


Thanks Ed…
It is complicated. I have trouble remembering what I’ve done myself actually. I know one thing…I’ve definitely reduced the swarming impulse in that hive😊

I’ve split the split as suggested by @JeffH
and will give them time to work out their queen status . At least 12 hours …then add more eggs and larvae. At least one should make queen cells.

Anyone ever combined a good queen hive with an unmated queen hive?


Hi Dan, I would be inclined to leave the good queen hive as it is. The unmated queen hive will sort itself out in time after a bit of frame manipulation.

Don’t be at all concerned because it hasn’t got a good mated queen. That’s my strategy.


Hi Jeff …a couple of days ago, I combined one of my dud splits with my old favourite queen hive, using newspaper between them. I found out yesterday, from a commercial beekeeper, that it was a foolish thing to do because the unmated queen in the dud split will tussle with the old mated queen, and the old mated queen might end up dead. I hadn’t realised that there was an unmated queen in the split you see…I should have because they weren’t making queen cells.


Yes, I see. We live & learn. Beekeeping is one long journey of learning. I haven’t combined any hives for a long time now. Mainly because there is a market for nuc sized colonies. Any opportunity to start a new colony or strengthen a weak colony, I’ll grab it.

That tiny swarm that turned up the other day on my back verandah IS very weak. I gave it a full frame of sealed brood but no bees are emerging yet. Tomorrow I’m going to check on the trap out. If there is enough bees to spare, I’m going to put a couple of frames full into a nuc box with newspaper attached to the bottom, then I’ll bring it home & sit it on top of the weak colony so that the bees will unite.