Queens get rolled when a beekeeper lifts a frame containing the queen or lifts a frame adjacent to the queen. In the tight space between frames, the bees become bunched together or pressed against the comb or frame. If a queen gets pinched in a tight space or within a mass of bees, round and round she goes as you lift the frame. She may be damaged or killed outright.
Full combs are trickier to handle
A rolled queen is always a sad event, but it’s worse in late fall. In the fall, the frames are heavy with honey, and a thick layer of honeycomb is often built in an arc right above the brood. Adjacent frames may grow together along the top, or nearly so. If a beekeeper is not careful, he can roll the queen against these thick layers and destroy her.
Also, by fall, burr comb and propolis build up inside the hive. It can be frustrating to loosen frames that are glued together and a beekeeper may impatiently make a wrong move. For new beekeepers, especially, this can be frustrating. Frames that were easy to manipulate when they were new, are now stuck to everything else. How annoying.
It’s hard to find a replacement queen in fall
Along with the increased likelihood of rolling a queen comes the decreased likelihood of finding a replacement. As each week gets colder, it becomes harder to find queens, more difficult to ship them, and trickier to install them. Because queens are scarce, extra care should be taken during every fall inspection.
The most common advice is also the best: remove an end frame first. The end frames are often the easiest to remove, frequently contain less honey, and are least likely to contain the queen. Once the first frame is removed, you can safely slide the next frame into the empty space and lift it without rubbing against the others.
Never assume where she isn’t
Note that I said “least likely to contain the queen,” not “never contains the queen.” Queens are free spirits, and occasionally you will find her where you least expect her. So go easy and take your time, even on the very first frame.
Honey Bee Suite