Why can’t I see the queen bee in the indoor bee hive?

“Where is the queen bee?”

That’s usually the first question we get when people see the indoor bee hive at the Dickinson County Nature Center.

The queen bee is pretty identifiable. Her abdomen — the longest part of her body — is almost twice the length of a worker bee.

However, we almost never see her, and there’s a variety of reasons for that.

First, the indoor bee hive at the nature center has three rows of frames, as pictured below, and we can only see the outside two frames through the glass.

Graphic of a bee hive setup

The queen usually stays in the center of the hive where she is well protected. Plus, in the center, she is surrounded by worker bees, which is necessary because she needs taken care of. One of the jobs of a worker bee is to feed the queen bee and take care of her waste.

The queen also stays in the center of the hive to lay eggs. She begins laying eggs in the center of the hive and then will lay in the next frames out, and so on, until all frames are used. That means the queen has no reason to come out from the center of the hive unless she needs more room to lay eggs.

The times that we have spotted the queen, she was laying eggs. In the video below, watch the center of the hive and the queen will move her long abdomen to another cell after laying an egg.

In the winter, the queen stays hidden even more than in the summertime. Worker bees will huddle around the queen and brood (egg) cells to keep them warm. The workers keep their heads pointed inward and keep the queen at about 98 degrees.

Some places mark their queen bees with a colored marker, because many queens are purchased separately and introduced to a hive. Our queen has always come inside of a hive of 10,000 or more bees, so it has been difficult to mark her. Markers are most often used for breeding research projects or experiments.

Keep an eye out for the queen bee, because if you see her it’s a special moment. And make sure to tell the front desk staff! They’ll want to see too!

(You can also read about our new Pollinator Paradise building addition that will have all kinds of interactive bee and butterfly exhibits.)


1 Comment

  1. Dorothy Wagner on October 17, 2017 at 6:43 pm

    Hi Kiley,
    I learned something about a queen bee I did not know. Thanks. you are a great teacher and writer!!!!

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