Q. Marking queen bees
Marking is the process by which a queen bee is permanently identified by either painting its thorax with a particular color, and/or by clipping one of her wings. We mark our successfully mated queens with a drop of acrylic paint, following the international queen marking color code: queens born in years ending in certain numbers are designated with a specific color:
1,6 2,7 3,8 4,9 5,0
Queen marking is useful because:
- Marked queens are easier to find.
- It identifies a queen's age.
- Clipping a wing can help delay swarming.
- It tells the beekeeper if a hive has swarmed
(presence of an unmarked queen in the hive).
To mark a queen, follow the procedure below. Practice on drones first, moving to royalty once you feel comfortable performing each step.
1. Find the queen
2. Grab the queen by her wings
Press your right thumb and index fingers together (a). Follow the queen with your hand until she pauses to lay an egg or relax on the comb, then gently roll your thumb and index finger over her wings until you grip her. As you lift the queen from the comb, she will instinctively buzz and curl her abdomen forward (b).
3. Transfer the queen
Now move the queen to your opposite hand, which will free your right hand to mark her. Bring the queen toward your left hand and softly touch her legs onto the tip of that hand's index finger; she will instantly grip it with her legs. Next, with a firm but gentle motion, roll your left thumb toward the index finger until you grip one set of the queen's legs. She is now safely transferred and you may release the grip on her wings (c). Paint her thorax and/or clip a wing and carefully return her to the comb.