The queen was actually on top…
Two weeks ago, I finally had a chance to open my hives after a long, cold, wet start to spring. Two survived the winter, one single brood and one double. My goal with the double was to locate the queen and get an excluder up so I could do a split.
Once I got in, I realized the colony was smaller than I anticipated and I decided not to split. I saw plenty of capped blood up top, but it was really windy and chilly and I decided not to dig deeper, assuming the queen was in the bottom.
When I opened the hive today to do a mite wash, and I went right into the bottom box. Frame after frame had nectar and pollen. But no eggs, larvae, or capped brood. By now, I'm kicking myself for rushing the first check.
I went back into the top box with several angry drones and workers bombing my face by now, but there was capped brood and larvae present, so the queen was nearby. I was smoking regularly, and then it went out, so I ended up swapping boxes to get the empty frames up top and skipping the wash altogether.
Moral of the story, don't put an excluder in until you know where your queen actually is.
Now, a question: was swapping boxes the right call?