Queen Colours

As we approach the New Year it is time to change your marking colour for the queen – well perhaps not quite yet.

Why do we mark the queens:
There are two principal reasons for queen marking:
1) A queen with a bright spot on her back is easier to spot when doing a hive inspection.
2) The colour of the spot indicates the year when the queen first emerged.

It is useful to know when the queen first emerged so that you know how long you have had that queen. Most queens are at their peak for 2 to 3 years after which you may wish to consider requeening.
The scheme for marking the queens is an international scheme and all countries adopt the same colours. Thus if you are lucky enough to collect a swarm with a marked queen you know the year is started as a queen – even if it has blown in from another country.

The scheme is:
White – Years ending 1 or 6
Yellow – Years ending 2 or 7
Red – Years ending 3 or 8
Green – Years ending 4 or 9
Blue – Years ending 5 or 0

And the easy way to remember this is that the sequence is
Will
You
Raise
Good
Bees?
Next year the year ends in a 0 being 2020 and thus next year’s colour is Blue whereas this year 2019 the colour was green.

This does not mean you have to get into your hive and overpaint the queen blue. If she is already marked that shows you when she first appeared. If she is marked white or yellow then perhaps now is the time to think about re-queening.

So how is it done?
The aim is to paint a single spot of paint on the thorax of the queen bee. I have seen a queen that appeared to have been painted with a spray gun. This is not the aim. Try to get a single spot on the thorax.

You could do it in this simple way –

The queen is found at about 4 minutes into the video

Or you can use a One handed Bee Catcher as shown here

and available in the UK from Amazon

Here is a British video using a clip to isolate the queen and then a queen cage to hold the queen whilst she is being marked,

and another video of the one handed queen catcher

and again

A variety of designs of queen cages from National Bee Supplies:

and marking pens here

There are also queen cages on ebay

And there is an excellent article on Dave Cushman’s site.

I hope this has pointed you in the right direction.