Beekeepers Friend

Peaches' Beekeeping Blog

February 7, 2010

Marking Queens and Why

Do you know the reason for marking your queen  and/or clipping one of her wings? Do you think that mutilating the queen is a sign of Satanism?

You are not mutilating the queen to practice for later using larger animals. You are only branding them, not for identification, but to know when one has been superseded. And if a hive has swarmed, you can reach the cluster easiler, because the queen cannot fly very high or very far at a time.

Especially in an area where there are undesirable bees, you can look at the queen in the colony to see if she is marked. If so, then all is well. But if she is not, then you know that the bees have superseded your old queen and you can either mark the new queen with the color of the current year or replace her with one you know is of good stock. That is your choice.

In Florida, with the African Honey Bee (AFB) in established residence, it is recommended that you replace the unmarked queen once a year with one you know came from a good stock. I personally do not requeen each year. If I have a marked queen, then I know she is the one I placed there. The color tells me how old she is and that she has not been replaced.

The international color code is: Years ending in – 1 & 6 – White; 2 & 7 Yellow; 3 & 8 Red; 4 & 9 Green; 5 & 0 Blue. This way you know what year you marked her (or had her marked). You then know how old she is. What I really do,  instead of killing the old queen when I replace her, is to move her into a nuc box with one or two frames of brood, both sealed and unsealed, with enough bees to cover. I have just made a nuc. I will move this nuc to another yard and keep the queen as a spare in case one of the new bought queens do not take. Then I still have a queen to put back in the colony.

The size of the apiary will dictate how many nucs I will keep for spares.  I can use these nucs to help a weak colony or if I don’t need to do that, then I have the makings for a new full colony when it expands to the second story nuc box. On a side note, I can remember when I had too many bees and no one to give them to, I would load the hive up in the middle of the day while 1/2 to 3/4 of the field force was out forging and move to another apiary. That would thin the bees out and I wouldn’t have to worry about a swarm. This way I would lose only about 1/4 to 1/3 of the colony instead of 1/2 +. Those were the good ole days.

Next post I will tell you how to mark and clip the queens. It will get quite lengthy in explanation. The actual execution, tho, is very simple.

Until then read your bee books and magazines and finish up the last minute chores for the Spring flow. Check the bees for pollen and honey stores as now they will be using the majority of their food in the building of babies. Remember to keep your veil close, your smoker lit, and your hive tool sharp.

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