Beekeeping Information Centre

Bee Craft Timely Reminder – June 22nd 2016

marking the queen cropped

Photo: Margaret Cowley – Marking the queen

If you split your most advanced colonies, then you will have some new queens. Once they have returned from their mating flights and are laying eggs, mark them with this year’s colour. Then you will know if the colony ever replaces her.

A Crown of Thorns queen marking cage is an easy way to mark a queen. It is easier if the queen is on soft new comb but not essential. Press the crown down gently until she is held still. Use paint or felt tips sold specially for queen marking (others may have toxic solvents). The wood and wire cages are much better than the plastic ones!

Using a Crown of Thorns to Mark a Queen
What you do Why you do it
Practise on drones first. You will become more confident and competent.
Having found the frame with the queen on, lay it down gently on top of the brood frames. This will free your hands to use the Crown of Thorns and will steady the frame.
Lower the Crown of Thorns on to the queen. Make sure you don’t spear her! Allow workers to escape from between the spikes – the queen is too big. If possible do this on soft new comb. The queen is trapped within the circle of spikes.
Lower the Crown of Thorns a little more. This will hold her gently against the comb and stop her wriggling.
Apply a spot of paint to some nearby wood. This allows you to judge if you have the correct amount.
Using the same amount, dab the queen’s thorax with the paint. Painting the queen on her thorax will not damage her as long as you only apply a small dot.
Lift the Crown of Thorns to allow her to move but don’t release her yet. The paint spot will dry before she has a chance to smudge it.
Lift the Crown of Thorns off. The queen should walk off and rejoin her daughters.

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