Queen Marking Colors

Queen Marking Colors

Beekeepers have been placing markings on honeybee queens for as long as queens have been raised. It may seem a bit strange to see it done. For the general public, it isn’t obvious. There are some excellent reasons to mark your queen. Like much of what we do in beekeeping, it is for the benefit of the beekeeper.

Paint pens are typically used for placing a colored dot on a queen. Paint pens are cheap and non-toxic. They do not have any long-lasting ill effects on the queen when done correctly. The queen is marked on a “bald” spot right between where her wings connect to her body in a perfect location for marking the queen. It’s the equivalent of marking the area directly under your neck, between your shoulders.

The beekeeper doesn’t need to do this, but it can be helpful. The good news is that it makes no difference to the queen, who continues working as she normally does.

The industry standard, and the brand most beekeepers use, is POSCA. Other brands work just as well, as long as they are non-toxic.

Beekeepers have been placing markings on honeybee queens for as long as queens have been raised. It may seem a bit strange to see it done. For the general public, it isn’t obvious. There are some excellent reasons to mark your queen. Like much of what we do in beekeeping, it is for the benefit of the beekeeper.

Paint pens are typically used for placing a colored dot on a queen. Paint pens are cheap and non-toxic. They do not have any long-lasting ill effects on the queen when done correctly. The queen is marked on a “bald” spot right between where her wings connect to her body in a perfect location for marking the queen. It’s the equivalent of marking the area directly under your neck, between your shoulders.

The beekeeper doesn’t need to do this, but it can be helpful. The good news is that it makes no difference to the queen, who continues working as she normally does.

The industry standard, and the brand most beekeepers use, is POSCA. Other brands work just as well, as long as they are non-toxic.

Queen Marking Colors For This Year

Queen Marking Colors For This Year

This is the color guide for marking bees. They go by the year the queen was born. For example, queens born in either 2013 or 2018 would be marked with a red dot.

An alternative to marking queens with a paint pen is to use a numbered sticker. These are purpose-built stickers designed for marking queens. These are typically reserved for a very valuable queen where record-keeping and the queen’s genetics are essential.

This is the color guide for marking bees. They go by the year the queen was born. For example, queens born in either 2013 or 2018 would be marked with a red dot.

An alternative to marking queens with a paint pen is to use a numbered sticker. These are purpose-built stickers designed for marking queens. These are typically reserved for a very valuable queen where record-keeping and the queen’s genetics are essential.

Years that end with 1 and 6

Years that end with 2 and 7

Years that end with 3 and 8

Years that end with 4 and 9

Years that end with 5 and 0

Rotulador POSCA Queen

$6.99 USD

Rotulador POSCA Queen

$6.99 USD

Read all about queen marking and how to mark queens.

Check out our latest YouTube video, ‘Marking Queen Bees: A Step-by-Step Guide’

Whether you’re a seasoned beekeeper or just starting out, this video will walk you through the process of marking queen bees with ease.

Read all about queen marking and how to mark queens.

Check out our latest YouTube video, ‘Marking Queen Bees: A Step-by-Step Guide’

Whether you’re a seasoned beekeeper or just starting out, this video will walk you through the process of marking queen bees with ease.

Marking a queen with a red posca pen and push in cage

Why Do Beekeepers Mark Queens?

It’s a fairly common practice to see the option to mark a queen when buying bees. If you go to beekeeping club meetings or read online about queens, you’ll often hear beekeepers talk about marking queens. It’s one of the most popular questions asked by new beekeepers when they are buying new hives. 

But why do beekeepers do this?

While common, it isn’t really completely necessary. It doesn’t do anything for the actual bees and can damage the queen if not done correctly. Beekeepers mark their queens with a colored dot of paint or a marker so they can keep track of them. It is common for a queen to leave a hive during a swarm or be replaced by its own colony. If a queen is replaced, the beekeeper may not notice the new queen and loses track of how old their queen is.

Marking a queen with a red posca pen and push in cage

Why Do Beekeepers Mark Queens?

It’s a fairly common practice to see the option to mark a queen when buying bees. If you go to beekeeping club meetings or read online about queens, you’ll often hear beekeepers talk about marking queens. It’s one of the most popular questions asked by new beekeepers when they are buying new hives. 

But why do beekeepers do this?

While common, it isn’t really completely necessary. It doesn’t do anything for the actual bees and can damage the queen if not done correctly. Beekeepers mark their queens with a colored dot of paint or a marker so they can keep track of them. It is common for a queen to leave a hive during a swarm or be replaced by its own colony. If a queen is replaced, the beekeeper may not notice the new queen and loses track of how old their queen is.

When the queen is marked with a paint pen, it is easier to keep track of them. If the beekeeper marks the queen and the bees swarm or replaces her, it is easy to know you have a new queen because the new queen doesn’t have a dot.

The colors represent the years so that beekeepers can keep track of how old the queen is. Most honeybee queens live 1-3 years, so the dot helps beekeepers know just how old the queen is and can make management decisions accordingly.

For the beginner beekeeper (and those with poor eyes), the marked queen makes it easier to find the queen inside the colony. A blue dot on the back of a queen makes her stick out of the crowd, and identifying the queen much easier and quicker. This is why most beginner beekeepers mark queens.

When the queen is marked with a paint pen, it is easier to keep track of them. If the beekeeper marks the queen and the bees swarm or replaces her, it is easy to know you have a new queen because the new queen doesn’t have a dot.

The colors represent the years so that beekeepers can keep track of how old the queen is. Most honeybee queens live 1-3 years, so the dot helps beekeepers know just how old the queen is and can make management decisions accordingly.

For the beginner beekeeper (and those with poor eyes), the marked queen makes it easier to find the queen inside the colony. A blue dot on the back of a queen makes her stick out of the crowd, and identifying the queen much easier and quicker. This is why most beginner beekeepers mark queens.

Available on our website.

Round, Press In Cage

These work by finding the queen and pressing the prongs down into the comb. Press deep enough to secure the cage over the queen. Do it very gently until the queen is immobilized with her back centered in one of the gaps in the cage.

These work well and are the cheapest tools available, and are available in metal or plastic.  I prefer the metal one as the plastic can break easily. Either way, both are cheap and beginner-friendly.

To use one of these traps, the queen has to be on a frame-drawn comb so that the cage’s tines can be pressed into the comb. These are only designed to temporarily trap the queen (a couple of minutes), not for days or weeks.

Available on our website.

Round, Press In Cage

These work by finding the queen and pressing the prongs down into the comb. Press deep enough to secure the cage over the queen. Do it very gently until the queen is immobilized with her back centered in one of the gaps in the cage.

These work well and are the cheapest tools available, and are available in metal or plastic.  I prefer the metal one as the plastic can break easily. Either way, both are cheap and beginner-friendly.

To use one of these traps, the queen has to be on a frame-drawn comb so that the cage’s tines can be pressed into the comb. These are only designed to temporarily trap the queen (a couple of minutes), not for days or weeks.

Available on our website.

One-Handed Queen Catcher

These one handed queen marking tubes are handy as you can catch the queen on the surface of the frame. This allows her to climb into the chamber. Use your thumb to slide the door over the opening so the queen doesn’t fly off. These are designed to work with just a single hand but can take a little practice.

The door also has grooves that are wide enough to let workers out but keep the queen in. This is a handy feature for sure. With your index finger, slide the padded plunger up until the queen is pressed gently against the grooved door. The trick is to immobilize the queen so she can be still while applying the paint.

This can all be done with one hand, which is its selling feature. This is also the reason I don’t love it. You have to use this tool with your non-dominant hand because your other hand holds the marker. It can be tricky applying just the right amount of pressure with this queen marking device, but with practice, it works great.

Available on our website.

One-Handed Queen Catcher

These one handed queen marking tubes are handy as you can catch the queen on the surface of the frame. This allows her to climb into the chamber. Use your thumb to slide the door over the opening so the queen doesn’t fly off. These are designed to work with just a single hand but can take a little practice.

The door also has grooves that are wide enough to let workers out but keep the queen in. This is a handy feature for sure. With your index finger, slide the padded plunger up until the queen is pressed gently against the grooved door. The trick is to immobilize the queen so she can be still while applying the paint.

This can all be done with one hand, which is its selling feature. This is also the reason I don’t love it. You have to use this tool with your non-dominant hand because your other hand holds the marker. It can be tricky applying just the right amount of pressure with this queen marking device, but with practice, it works great.

It’s a test of your fine motor skills for sure. Since I’m right-handed, my left hand isn’t so great at ever so slightly pressing the queen against the screen without squishing her.

A word of wisdom here, since this marking tube has moving parts, it’s important to make sure the queen is not going to get damaged by the moving parts. I was teaching a class one time and showed the students how to mark the queen with one of these. I wasn’t paying attention, and one of her legs got caught in the sliding door, and I pulled it off when opening it. Yikes. Please don’t do what I did and be more careful.

It’s a test of your fine motor skills for sure. Since I’m right-handed, my left hand isn’t so great at ever so slightly pressing the queen against the screen without squishing her.

A word of wisdom here, since this marking tube has moving parts, it’s important to make sure the queen is not going to get damaged by the moving parts. I was teaching a class one time and showed the students how to mark the queen with one of these. I wasn’t paying attention, and one of her legs got caught in the sliding door, and I pulled it off when opening it. Yikes. Please don’t do what I did and be more careful.

Available on our website.

Tube Queen Cage

This one happens to be my favorite. It probably just reminds me so much of a push pop ice cream. Aside from childhood memories, it works quite well.

This type of queen marking tube requires two hands to operate, which is alright with me. It is better to be accurate than fast when marking queens.

The hardest part of this tool is getting the queen into the tube. Because it has a rounded edge, it doesn’t sit flush on the surface of the comb. This makes it tougher to herd the queen into the tube.

Once she is in, the padded plunger is gently guided into place with one hand, while the other holds the tube.

Available on our website.

Tube Queen Cage

This one happens to be my favorite. It probably just reminds me so much of a push pop ice cream. Aside from childhood memories, it works quite well.

This type of queen marking tube requires two hands to operate, which is alright with me. It is better to be accurate than fast when marking queens.

The hardest part of this tool is getting the queen into the tube. Because it has a rounded edge, it doesn’t sit flush on the surface of the comb. This makes it tougher to herd the queen into the tube.

Once she is in, the padded plunger is gently guided into place with one hand, while the other holds the tube.

Mated queen bee surrounded by worker bees

Do I have to use a posca pen to mark the queen?

Posca pens are the industry standard for marking queens and the most popular type used. They aren’t made for beekeepers, but beekeepers use them because they work so well. The paint is water-based and non-toxic so that it won’t hurt your queen. The color stays on the queen well enough to last her lifetime, so that’s a bonus.

The paint pens are designed to be primed before using them. The tip is on a bit of a spring/plunger, so before marking the queen, you have to get the tip of the marker wet. You do this by shaking the pen and pressing the end down until the paint flows into the tip. Practice marking on a hard surface to get the excess paint off the tip. Just a quick dap on the queen is all you need.

Put too much paint on the queen, and it will run; too little, and it won’t show. Practice makes perfect.

Mated queen bee surrounded by worker bees

Do I have to use a posca pen to mark the queen?

Posca pens are the industry standard for marking queens and the most popular type used. They aren’t made for beekeepers, but beekeepers use them because they work so well. The paint is water-based and non-toxic so that it won’t hurt your queen. The color stays on the queen well enough to last her lifetime, so that’s a bonus.

The paint pens are designed to be primed before using them. The tip is on a bit of a spring/plunger, so before marking the queen, you have to get the tip of the marker wet. You do this by shaking the pen and pressing the end down until the paint flows into the tip. Practice marking on a hard surface to get the excess paint off the tip. Just a quick dap on the queen is all you need.

Put too much paint on the queen, and it will run; too little, and it won’t show. Practice makes perfect.

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