As a beekeeper, you will have reasons to search for the queen bees in your beehives. While there are multiple ways to search for the queen, using a bee shaker box to get the queen is the easiest and most effective method.
In this article, you will learn why many beekeepers search for the queen bee, how to use a bee shaker box, how to make a bee shaker box and other methods of searching for the queen bee.
What is a Bee Shaker Box?
A bee shaker box, in simple terms, is the body of a beehive with a queen excluder attached at the bottom. The idea behind bee shaker boxes is that worker bees can pass through the mesh (i.e. queen excluder), but queen bees cannot pass because of their large abdomen.
With a bee shaker box, you almost always find the queen. Why do you have to find the queen?
Why Search for the Queen?
There are various reasons why you have to search for the queen. Examples are:
1. To Check for a Queen
Sometimes, beekeepers suspect that a hive might not have a queen. To confirm whether a hive has a queen or not, beekeepers have to search for the queen using a bee shaker box or other methods.
2. Requeening a Colony
When your beehive is unproductive or has no resistance against diseases and pests like the varroa mite, you have to replace the old queen with a queen from a more resistant hive.
Old queens or queens that lay just a few eggs have to be replaced with young queens to boost the population of the colony.
3. Artificial Swarm
A bee swarm is the reproductive unit of a bee colony. When it is time to make a new colony (usually in spring), a queen bee (and some worker bees) splits from the mother colony in search of a new hive.
To prevent losing your bees, you have to make an artificial swarm by separating new queens and placing them in new hives.
Of course, there are other reasons why beekeepers search for queen bees. Now, let us discuss how to search for a queen bee using a bee shaker box.
How to Build a Bee Shaker Box
To build a bee shaker box, you need:
- Nail or glue
- Queen excluder
- Empty box or hive
- Mesh cage (optional)
You can buy queen excluders online, or you can use any mesh with 0.163 inches (4.1 mm) openings.
An optional mesh cage can be used to trap worker bees that passed through the queen excluder so that they do not disturb your operation by flying back into the box where the queen is kept.
You can use honeycombs under the queen excluder instead of a mesh cage.
When you have everything you need, place the queen excluder on the mesh and then an empty box on the queen excluder.
Check for holes and make sure that the queen excluder is the only way through which bees can escape. If your box, cage, and queen excluder have wooden frames, you can bind them with nails or glue.
There you go; you just made a bee shaker box. That was easy, right? If you cannot make a bee shaker box, you can order online.
How to Use a Bee Shaker Box
Are you searching for your queen bee but cannot find her? It’s time to use your bee shaker box. There are two ways to use bee shaker boxes:
- Using honeycombs under the queen excluder
- Using a wire mesh cage under the queen excluder
Using a Bee Shaker Box with a Wire Mesh Cage
Here are the steps involved in using a bee shaker box with a wire mesh cage under the queen excluder:
- Open the beehive
- Carefully search for the queen when removing the frames from the hive
- Keep the frames in another hive or rested at a safe location
- When only bees are remaining in the hive, turn the hive upside-down into the empty box (i.e. the top unit of your bee shaker box)
- Shake and tap the hive to disturb the bees so that they will go into the mesh cage through the queen excluder
- The remaining bees that cannot pass through the queen excluder are drones or queen bees. You can identify queens by their large abdomens. (source)
Note: mesh cages usually have side doors through which worker bees can be poured out.
Using a Bee Shaker Box with Comb Frames
In this method, the queen excluder should be above an empty hive with an opening in the empty hive through which you can slide empty frames into the hive. The steps are:
- Open the beehive
- Collect a frame from the beehive and shake the bees into the empty box above the queen excluder
- When the frame is empty, slide it into the empty box below the queen excluder so that worker bees will feel at home
- Repeat the steps above until all the frames have been positioned in the “no longer empty” hive below
- The bees that are unable to pass through the queen excluder from the empty box above to the hive below are either queen bees or drones. You can identify queen bees by their large abdomens. (source)
Good luck while you use the bee shaker box to search for the queen bee. Are there other methods to search for the queen?
3 Alternatives to Using a Bee Shaker Box
1. Searching from the Center of the Hive
You are most likely to find the queen at the center of the hive. To search for her, you have to:
- Remove the honey super and queen excluder from the hive
- Space the frames in the middle of the brood box apart
- Scrap off burr combs visible to you
- Remove one middle comb from the hive. Do so carefully so that you do not squash the bees.
- Carefully scan both sides of the frame for the queen bee.
- Repeat steps 4 and 5 with other center frames until you reach the frames at the edge.
The queen is mostly at the center frames, so you may not reach the frames at the edge before you find her.
2. Searching from the Frames at the Edge
This method is the opposite of the previous method. The idea behind this method is that if you remove the frames at the edge first, the queen (which does not like the light disturbance) will likely stay at the frames at the center.
With this method, you will likely find the queen at the center. While it is not usual, you might be lucky to find the queen at the frames close to the edge of the hive.
3. Using Two Boxes
This method involves the use of two hives.
- Place an empty box close to the beehive
- Remove half of the frames from the beehive and place them into the empty hive
- Place empty combs into both boxes to fill the space of the empty frames
- In a few hours (I recommend that you wait a day), you will notice that one box is more active than another. The queen is at the most active box.
- Search for the queen at the most active box. You are guaranteed to find her. (source)
What method will you use?
The most effective method to find a queen bee is using a bee shaker box. Bee shaker boxes are made with a queen excluder and an empty box. Using a wire mesh cage is optional, but easier than sliding comb frames into the box below the queen excluder.
What do you think? Can you make a bee shaker box? Do you have suggestions? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.