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Thread: Marking Queens

  1. #1
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    Aug 2002
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    Does anyone out there want to share you methods of catching and marking queens? I'm quite curious myself. I don't have a method I like or that I'm very good at yet. Since I'm going to be raising queens I need to get a good system.

  2. #2

    Post

    Here's my method (especially good for just starting out).
    Equipment: Plastic queen catcher (as sold by several of the bee supply companies); common household "finishing nail", grind off the pointed end until flat (makes the perfect sized dot); Testors model paint (your choice of colours - there is a colour scheme according to the year, if you care to follow it); {optional): baby fingernail sissors IF you're planning to clip wings (these are small and very sharp - perfect for the job). You can practice on drones at first to "get your technique down".

    Catch queen; let any attendants 'escape' the plastic queen catcher. Bring queen into kitchen (be sure to get in wife's way right at dinner time). Between thumb and index finger, catch the queen by opening up the plastic queen catcher and grab her on the inside of the queen catcher. The important thing here is to NOT grab her by the abdomen, you want to only be touching (holding) her by the head/thorax area (again, you can practice on drones...they don't mind).
    I usually set out the nail and paint on a clean white paper towel before hand (and sissors, if I'm also going to clip wings - which I don't tend to do very much nowadays).
    Don't get too much paint on the end of the nail. I have found, it you shake the paint in the little bottle, then the inside of the cap/lid has just about the right amount of paint for the marking process. Touch the flat end of the finishing nail (the end you gind off) to the paint in the lid and make one pass at marking the queen. Do it directly on top of the thorax, being careful to not get any paint on her wing joints. Again, the finishing nail makes the correct sized dot. Put her back into the plastic queen catcher, appologize to your wife for getting in her way while making dinner and return the queen to the hive. The model paint will take just a minute or two to dry (during your walk back to the hive).
    I have tried the marking pens but I think the Testors paint tends to stay on and last longer. Also, once you get good enough at catching the queen directly off the surface of the comb, you can do away with the plastic queen catcher. My trouble is that I always miss her on my first attempt and then she's running around like crazy and suddenly she's about four times as hard to catch. So to this day, it's just much easier for me to catch her with the plastic queen catcher (which always works the FIRST time). Good luck!


  3. #3
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    And what happens if you grab for the queen (which is in the catcher) and she escapes? I assume this is one of thos "hair clip" catchers?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2001
    Location
    Jameson, MO USA
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    This is timely for me. We must still be walking the same road, Mike. I was planning to get one of the marking kits sold by various bee suppliers which have the gizmo for holding the queen motionless on the frame while you mark her. They come with a standard marking pen, but I like the idea of Testor's paint better. It seems that the enamel paint would last longer. I imagine one would want to wait a few minutes until the stink wore off before putting the frame she is on back into the hive.

    Has anyone had experience with these marking kits that they would like to share?

  5. #5

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    Over time, I've probably marked about 100+ queens in this fashion. I've only had a couple "escape", which I recovered. Between your fingers and being able to rapidly control the opening size of the plastic queen catcher, it just isn't likely to happen - once you try it, you'll see. The one or two who temporarily escaped, were due to me getting distracted at the wrong moment. In both cases I was at my kitchen sink where there is a window (i.e., light source) and I always make sure it's about the only "light source" that would attract a flying queen - and sure enough, she flew to the window where I just recaptured her in the queen catcher and started over (this time not getting distracted).

    I've never tried those 'hold down' cages to mark a queen so I can't give my opinion about them. I have found the plastic catcher to be a nice little tool to keep in my pocket when I'm working bees. If I run across a superceded queen/hive, I usually locate the queen and mark her so I can keep track of things.

    It's really not difficult to do, you just have to get the hang of how tightly to hold her and after doing two or three, you'll be an "expert". I don't recall that I've ever damaged one. After the paint dries, which only takes a minute or two, I think there must not be much of an odor left (maybe, at least compared to her own pheromones) because I always just directly release her back into the hive. I've watched her crawl onto the top bar from the queen catcher and usually one or two bees "inspect" her for about a half-second and then she makes her way down into the hive (I've never noticed any 'balling' actions at that point).

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
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    oneonta al.
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    Cool

    My son fuss about not finding the queen(won't wear glass's). said he was going to hold that sucker by the wing & spray paint her all over with Florscent paint then just then he may see her.L.o.L.>>>>> Mark

  7. #7
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    Dec 2000
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    crown point, NY, USA
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    Hi Micheal,

    I use testors paint markers (I did anyways, don't mark much these days). Take a canning jar ring and a piece of screen or hardware cloth or such and place over the top. Probably could cut it to fit inside the ring and epoxy it or hot glue gun it (never did that part). In one hand hold it and plop over queen and mark her. Or buy one of those gizmos that does the same thing.

    Clay

  8. #8
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    I do have a queen catcher and have used it. There was a new queen that ended up with a bum leg, but I don't know if she already had it or if the catcher messed it up (catcher could be me or the clip. )

    Joel said:
    >It seems that the enamel paint would last longer.

    The marking pen I have has enamel paint in it. I think I bought it from WWW.BEEWORKS.COM.

    >Has anyone had experience with these marking kits that they would like to share?

    I think I have them all. lol I killed a queen once with the ones that have a row of little nails around the outsideo f the circle. No, I didn't puncture her, but I think she got squished and I was trying to be quite gentle. I have the little bottle and plunger set and it works if you can get the queen in it. I do have trouble getting her to go in though.

  9. #9
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    Birmingham, West Midlands, UK
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    I use a crown of thorns cage since I worry about getting my scent onto queens. It pushes down over the queen, with a ring of nails to hold it in place, and her majesty is held under a mesh screen for marking. I get queen marking pens from Thorne's. Just don't kneel on the cage!

  10. #10
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    >I use a crown of thorns cage since I worry about getting my scent onto queens. It pushes down over the queen, with a ring of nails to hold it in place, and her majesty is held under a mesh screen for marking.

    Good description. That's the one I killed the queen with, and can't figure out how I did. I didn't stab her and I thought I was being gentle. The one I have has like really widely woven cloth so it's pretty soft and gentle when you press it in. It looks like a really good design.

  11. #11
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    Mar 2003
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    sc
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    Where do you get a crown of thorns cage. I think i may like that way
    I mark my queens as the are on the comb, i just get her on the thorax as she walks by....not the best way but i dont watn to grab her....
    Chris

  12. #12
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    http://www.beeworks.com/uspage3.asp has the crown of thorns, the clip catcher the tube and the glass pipe catcher.

  13. #13
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    Mar 2001
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    Jameson, MO USA
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    Thanx to all. Believe I'll try the mason jar lid first, and just get a bottle of model paint when I go to KC tomorrow. Faster and (I'm Scottish) cheaper than sending off for the other things. I believe in future I may try the crown of thorns and I do believe that the pen would be easier to manipulate than an open bottle of paint and the brush in the cap. But does the pen have a tendency to clog?

  14. #14
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    crown point, NY, USA
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    Testors paint marker are like a marker they don't clog. At least mine never did. You do have to get the paint to flow a bit(when new). I just dab on a piece of paper to get it going, after that its just like a marker. By the way use a pint size ring and not one from a quart jar.

    Clay

  15. #15
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    I agree with Clayton. I get the marker going on the side of the hive or whatever. It kind of pumps if you push hard, then after there is some paint in it you can just gently touch it and leave your dot. Also, small mouth quart jar band will have a lot of workers pinned with the queen, it's easier to do if you can get just her under it. A smaller jar band would work better.

  16. #16

    Big Grin

    hi all
    is there any old timers that mark there like me? just reach in pick her up with you fingers and put little paint on her back?
    I like to use white out on them dries very fast but in the past have used finger polish on them for over 25 yrs . no need for those new fangle things that just make someone rich and most the time never had a bee hive.
    thats my two cents
    Don

  17. #17
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    Go Big Don,I don't do it,but have a man that help's me that does it all the time,he even pick's the worker's up with finger & put's them in the queen cage with her.we found a swarm once & seen the queen fly off he grabbed the queen out of the air & placed her in the hive.not me I'd have bee gut's everwhere.L.o.L

  18. #18
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    Yes, I think catching them by hand and doing it is the norm among beekeepers with experience at that. I've always only had a few hives and killing a queen accidently worries me much. I have caught them, but to tell the truth, I'm afraid of her getting hurt and of grabbing some worker as she dodges. I need to practice on some drones.

  19. #19
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    Mar 2001
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    Jameson, MO USA
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    Wish I could just pick her up and paint her like you, Don, but finger dexterity is one talent I have never had - I know I would wind up squashing a queen sooner or later, and probably sooner than later. I'll just go with the small Mason jar ring. Can you get those testors markers at a local store somewhere the MalWart, perhaps, or is it easier to get from the bee suppliers?

  20. #20

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    Hi to All,
    I like to use surgical latex gloves (snug fitting) and just pick them up by hand. The gloves allow you to get an excellent grip without having to squeeze the queen. I go for the thorax(middle) and avoid the abdomen since it's very soft and easy to injure.
    I have used the paint pens for the last three years, and after ruining my last queen, I decided to use the Testors paint that comes in the little jars. It's very inexpensive at just under a dollar each at WalMart. Just sand the end of a sharp pencil lead flat to the correct diameter and dip the end in the LID of the paint jar. Dab off the excess and put the mark on the queen.
    I found the paint in the marking pens usually tends to be quite thin so it will flow through the tip. If you get too much paint on the tip and forget to blot the extra, you'll surely destroy the queen. I've done this several times...to large, beautiful queens...very beautiful and very productive queens Talk about heartbreak and disappointment.
    If you decide to pick them up by hand PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE on drones. They are similar in feel to the queen, yet are expendible. I like to mark the drones away from their hives and see how many make it back. It's not hard to learn this way and you'll like the fact that you don't need special equipment.
    I've tried the acrylic paint, but it doesn't work as well as the enamel paint.

    Regards,

    Jim

    ------------------
    http://www.emeraldridgeapiary.net

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