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How and Why you need to mark your queen bee

How and Why you need to mark your queen bee

Written by : honeytop

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Why you need to mark your queen bee, and how to do it

Within a beehive, the queen bee holds a position of utmost significance. To easily identify and track the queen, beekeepers have developed a simple yet effective method called “marking.”

First, lets delve into the reasons why marking a queen bee is important.  

  1. Identification and Monitoring: The primary purpose of marking a queen bee is to make her easily identifiable amidst the thousands of worker bees in a colony. A marked queen allows beekeepers to monitor her health, behavior, and productivity throughout her life. By keeping an eye on the queen, beekeepers can ensure the overall well-being and productivity of the hive.

  2. Swarm Control: Swarming is a natural process wherein a queen, accompanied by a large number of worker bees, leaves the hive to establish a new colony. However, controlled swarming is essential to prevent the loss of bees and maintain hive productivity. Marking the queen enables beekeepers to identify her in a swarm and take appropriate measures to manage the swarming process effectively.

  3. Queen Age Tracking: The lifespan of a queen bee varies, but on average, a queen can live for three to four years. By marking the queen with a specific color code according to the year she was introduced, beekeepers can keep track of her age. This information allows beekeepers to plan for queen replacement at the appropriate time, ensuring the hive remains strong and productive.

  4. Genetics and Breeding: Selective breeding is a fundamental aspect of beekeeping, aiming to enhance desirable traits in honeybees such as disease resistance, productivity, and gentleness. By marking the queen, beekeepers can identify her lineage, track the performance of specific breeding lines, and make informed decisions about future breeding programs.

  5. Education and Demonstration: For educational purposes, marking the queen is immensely valuable. Beekeeping classes, workshops, and demonstrations often involve inspecting beehives. A marked queen serves as a focal point, making it easier for participants to understand the hierarchy, behavior, and importance of the queen within the hive.

The Process of Marking a Queen Bee: Marking a queen bee is a delicate procedure that requires some care to ensure her safety.

Here’s a simplified step-by-step process:

Step 1: Locate the queen: During a routine hive inspection, carefully search for the queen among the bees. It can be helpful to have a queen marking tube or a small, clear plastic cage to temporarily contain the queen during marking.  I like to use the one-handed queen marking cage sold online. 

Step 2: Capture the queen: Gently pick up the queen by her wing with your fingers or a specialized queen catcher. Avoid squeezing or harming her delicate body.

Step 3: Apply the marking: Use a specially designed queen marking pen with non-toxic paint to place a small dot on her thorax. Each year has an assigned color, following an international color code. Refer to the appropriate color for the current year.

Step 4: Release the queen: After marking, carefully return the queen to the hive. Ensure she is safely reintroduced to the colony without causing unnecessary disturbance.

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