Marking your queen

Queens emerging in 2023 will be marked Red There are good reasons for marking your queen. Not only does it make it easier to spot her in a busy colony and allows you to keep track of her age, but it helps you determine that the queen you’re looking at is the same queen you saw last time! Your queen may have swarmed or been superseded and marking allows you to determine this.

There are five colours used to mark queen bees, they follow an internationally recognised sequence determined by the last digit of the year the queen emerged. Since queens do not live more than five years, the colour sequence starts over in the sixth year. For example, in 2023, the last digit is 3 therefore red paint is used as set out in the chart opposite.

There are mnemonics used by beekeepers to remember the order of the colours. “Will you raise goods bees” or “What! You raise green bees!”

In order to mark a queen, you’ll need to keep her still for a moment. A queen trap or crown of thorns as it’s sometimes called, can be gently placed over the queen to trap her against the comb. The special marker pen can then be used to apply the paint to the queen’s thorax; that’s the middle bit!

The identifying mark should be small, so that it does not cover any other part of the queen. Usually, queens are marked before being introduced but they can be marked at any time. Paint should be given ample time to dry before the queen is released into the colony. 

If you buy a queen she will usually be marked already.

If you’re feeling a bit squeamish about marking a queen; worried perhaps that you’ll damage her, you can always practice in advance on drones!

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