Top-Bar Queen Sighting

Because I don’t really trust bees in top-bars to build straight comb, I checked up on the swarm in our new top-bar hive again today. It’s been two weeks exactly since they swarmed, and I compulsively peek at them through the observation window multiple times a day, but I wanted to make sure nothing funky was happening out of sight.


First off, they still look fabulous! Who would have thunk that honey bees would build straight comb all by themselves, in our apiary?! I’m floored. They already have some capped honey and a few bees bringing in pollen.

Two minutes into the inspection, whom should I find but the plump, beautiful queen, wandering briskly up and down one of the larger combs. The million-dollar question is whether she has already mated and if she has begun laying eggs. She looked as big to me as a mated queen, but then, our virgin queens tend to look big to me. I didn’t see her lay an egg, but the bees around her were paying plenty of attention to her, and there was a general commotion wherever she passed.

Because it’s a top-bar hive, it’s not as easy to tilt the comb toward the light to really get a good look for eggs. And besides, the wind was suddenly coming up, and it was making me nervous to have the queen running around out in the open.

The queen, with her head in a cell.

The queen, with her head in a cell (she is centered toward the bottom of the frame).

Maybe the best clue to her laying status was that, as I watched, the queen bee stuck her head into several cells of nectar and emerged with her tongue out. From my brief subsequent foray into the bowls of online bee forums, it appears there’s a general consensus that laying queens do not feed themselves, while virgins often do.

This photo does little to back up my claim that bees were paying attention to the queen, but it is a nice shot of her head and back!

The queen is centered toward the bottom of the frame. We almost managed to convince ourselves that we can see an egg in the cell just above the tip of her tail end…

My personal hunch, for what it’s worth is that this queen has mated (hence all the attention paid her and the little bit of pollen coming into the hive these past two to three days), but that she has perhaps not quite started laying.

If I go into the hive again in a week, I’m betting I’ll find brood.

2 Responses to Top-Bar Queen Sighting

  1. Bonjour Monsieur

    Je suis apiculteur Français,sur l’Ile de la Réunion .Je prépare un ouvrage sur les abeilles et je me permets de vous contacter pour vous solliciter l’autorisation de reproduire photo de votre blog ” The queen, with her head in a cell (she is centered toward the bottom of the frame).”

    Veuillez recevoir, Monsieur tous mes remerciements anticipés. 

    Pierre MARECHAL 

    • Hello, Pierre,

      Thanks so much for asking. I don’t speak French, so had to run your comment through a French-English translator tool on the Internet. Hope you can do the same, if you don’t speak English. We always enjoy hearing from beekeepers in other parts of the world and hope you will stop by our blog again and perhaps weigh in with your experience of keeping bees in France.

      You are welcome to use my photo in your book. Pleas include a credit to Sarah Phoenix and I will reach out to you by email, as well.

      Take care,


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