I have two hives. Both successfully wintered and are now building up for the spring. One hive has always been very strong. It was started from a nuc last April, and gave me 30lbs of honey it's first year. We saw the queen for this hive once last year, a week after we hived the nuc. She had sort of a white smear/dot for a marking. Then we never found her again This was not an issue though, because we always saw great brood patterns, with brood in all stages of development. The hive was strong.
We did an inspection this past weekend, and the hive remains strong. Brood in all stages, brood nest expanding, new bees emerging. We actually saw one coming out of the cell for the first time. Very exciting. As usual, no actual queen sighting, but we were working fast because it was still a little cool. As is our habit we photograph a few frames so we can do a close and slow examination later. Looking at the photos, lo and behold a nice shot of the queen. Only there's no dot. When we saw her last year she had a white mark, although it was a little sloppy, more of a smear than a dot.
I'm just wondering, does the paint come off? That would explain why we never find the queen, we are always looking for a marked queen.