Mar 24, 2012

For New-Bees: Painting The Queen Bee. What? Why?

Johnny Mason, March 24, 2012:

Have you ever seen or heard about a queen bee with a bright color painted on her thorax? Well, if the person who did it knew what they were doing, that paint color was most likely not selected at random. Believe it or not, there exists an International Color Code for marking your queens. Yes, international...as in beekeepers all over the world. Why? So that you can find her easier majesty in a crowded hive, keep track of her age, or see if your original queen has maybe been superseded. Beekeepers will sometimes even code the frames (using colored thumbtacks or other means) in a Langstroth hive to keep a visual of when they were introduced, and get rid of old wax that has been in there every few years or so.

A queen is really only expected to live for a couple of years, so the color code cycles through every five years. Here’s how it works:

  • Years ending in 0 or 5 are blue.
  • Years ending in 1 or 6 are white.
  • Years ending in 2 or 7 are yellow.
  • Years ending in 3 or 8 are red.
  • Years ending in 4 or 9 are green.

Queen honey bees can be purchased already marked, or you can (carefully) do it yourself using one of those model car paint pens or a 1/16 dowel lightly dipped in paint. Make sure that the paint has dried before allowing her back into the colony. A queen plunger, available from most beekeeper suppliers, makes the job easier to do, and decreases the chances of you injuring or crushing the queen. That would be bad. Very bad.

So, now you know. And knowing is growing. ;)