WHEN to mark a new queen.
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  1. #1
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    Default WHEN to mark a new queen.

    I don't mind saying that I'm not a great enthusiast of marking queens - but - there are times especially when queen-rearing, that locating an existing queen can be very important. And so until now I've only ever marked breeding-quality queens.

    However, this year I decided to mark all the queens of a particular line, and so as soon as each virgin was seen to be successfully mated, I've been pulling the queen, marking her, allowing plenty of time for the paint to dry, and re-introducing her over a space of several minutes in order for some bonding to take place.

    Nothing particularly unusual in that, except that I've had 100% success with re-introduction into 3- or 5-frame nucs with full-size frames, and yet 100% failure - i.e. queens being killed - when re-introducing them back into half-frame mating nucs. Now I can't believe it's the size of frame itself which is the problem, so it must be something to do with the difference in colony size. Unless perhaps it's somehow related to marking these queens so early in their lives, and I've just been 'getting away with it' (somehow) with the larger mating-nuc colonies ?

    This is a real puzzle, but not a drama, as I can always delay marking until the queens are finally pulled for either mailing, or caged for introduction as mated queens. But I would really like to try and understand WHY this is happening.

    There's a great deal of info around on the HOW to mark a queen, but nothing that I've yet found related to the WHEN of marking. Any thoughts ?
    LJ
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: WHEN to mark a new queen.

    Quote Originally Posted by little_john View Post
    .. 100% success with re-introduction into 3- or 5-frame nucs with full-size frames, and yet 100% failure - i.e. queens being killed - when re-introducing them back into half-frame mating nucs.
    ..........WHEN of marking. Any thoughts ?
    LJ
    I would not ask the preconceived WHEN question which then drives you into a tunnel.

    I would rather ask the WHY question because this is what you are really after, I believe.
    The WHY does include WHEN, just to clarify.
    Nothing is lost.

    And so, one possible "why":
    - it is entirely possible that the significantly smaller volume of the half-frame mating nuc creates environment where the smell of the marking paint is strong enough (even after some drying) to trigger aggressive response against the smell source (the marked queen); full size frame nucs are large enough to allow for sufficient dissipation of the smell to not create any issues.

    So here you have it.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  4. #3
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    Default Re: WHEN to mark a new queen.

    Are they balling her immediately when you release her back into the mini-nuc?

  5. #4
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    Default Re: WHEN to mark a new queen.

    I have been doing weekly rounds, just populating one 4-way mating quad each round.

    Last year I dilligently marked every queen in the mating nucs as soon as I saw eggs. I had zero problems with marking, and every queen that went thru the cycle ended up in larger colonies without issues.

    This year, I refreshed the marks on all the wintered queens in the 4-ways, I had no issues with those other than the one that grew out so fast they swarmed before I got to harvesting the queen and adding a cell.

    My first round, I marked 4 queens when I found eggs in the quadrant, same day I was placing cells in another 4 way. A week later when I went to harvest the queens, 3 out of 4 were missing and they had a fresh cell on the go. Exact same experience with the second round in another 4 way, a week after marking 3 out of 4 were missing. I was using the same technique, and the same pen as last year, I mark everything with white cuz it's just easier to find queen with a white mark. Third round I was gunshy, did not mark them in the mating nucs. I used a new pen and marked them after they had spent a week in the 5 frame split we were growing out. A week later, 3 out of 4 of those 5 framers had fresh cells and no queen.

    I stopped marking queens at that point. I have no idea what was different from last year, where I had no problems at all.

  6. #5
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    Default Re: WHEN to mark a new queen.

    Do you mind sharing what paint you are marking with?

  7. #6
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    Default Re: WHEN to mark a new queen.

    Quote Originally Posted by psm1212 View Post
    Are they balling her immediately when you release her back into the mini-nuc?
    Not exactly - they're not actually 'balling' the queens at all, in the true sense.

    It was while re-introducing one, that after all the usual touching and smelling and so forth, which looked to be perfectly ok for acceptance - the queen began to descend down between the frames - only she then appeared to have got 'stuck there'. By the time I'd pulled a frame or two out to check - she was dead, with just two or three bees gripping her and stinging away. The rest of the bees seemed completely non-plussed about the whole event.

    So - I then decided it might be wise to check one I installed 'next door' an hour before - which appeared to have been fully accepted - she had just walked in unmolested - with bees greeting her, and so on ...
    But - couldn't find her on the frames. Then saw her on the floor with - again - just two or three bees gripping her dead body and inflicting their rage upon her.

    What Greg has suggested is certainly plausible, but I was also wondering whether a newly-made colony tolerates a queen meandering about, but hasn't yet fully adjusted to her particular mix of pheromones - and so when she's removed and re-introduced, they then view her as being an intruder ? (perhaps the smaller colony size somehow amplifies this perception - much as Greg suggests) So - is it paint, or the process ? (or a bit of both ?)

    Next time I stock those mini-nucs, I'll mark half of the queens, and put the other half through exactly the same process (same time out of the hive etc) but just not physically mark them. That might help to un-muddy the waters.

    Thanks all for taking an interest ...
    LJ
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

  8. #7
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    Default Re: WHEN to mark a new queen.

    Quote Originally Posted by Clayton Huestis View Post
    Do you mind sharing what paint you are marking with?
    Blue nail varnish - I've always used it. That and white automotive cellulose paint. Never had a problem before now - and no problems with nucs other than these half-framers I'm trying for the first time this year. It's a puzzle - hence this thread.

    Grozzie - you've told a useful story there. Think I might stop marking too, until I can make some sense of what's going on ... thanks.

    LJ
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

  9. #8
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    Default Re: WHEN to mark a new queen.

    Quote Originally Posted by Clayton Huestis View Post
    Do you mind sharing what paint you are marking with?
    I was using an automotive touch up pen, oil based that I picked up at the auto parts store (Lordco in our area). The thing that got me wondering, I used the pen last year, no problems. Used the exact same pen this year, endless problems, so I went and bought a new one. Even with the new one, I was having the same problem. It was getting late in the season, and I needed those queens, so I stopped marking.

    Now here's the issue, since I stopped marking and I'm not in the nucs every week, I cant say for sure anymore if the queens I placed are still there, or if they too have been superceeded.

    Was my problem to do with marking ? Or was I producing sub-standard cells this year, and the bees were superceeding right away ?

    The other part of my system I plan to re-visit for next year. This year I was using a cloak board setup and did 6 rounds using the same starter/finisher.

    I know my queen production this year did not work out well for us, but I cannot say for sure it was to do with marking, it could have been any step in the process. One thing I can say with certainty, going to approach it differently next year. I tried to do things with minimal resources this time around due to a shortage of strong colonies this spring, we had a bear incident in the bee yard last fall. I've got numbers back up and will make different plans this winter for how we approach things next season.

  10. #9
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    Default Re: WHEN to mark a new queen.

    Thanks LJ. I ask because last year I marked a queen in a production hive and, when I set her back on the top of the frames, they immediately balled her. I rescued her, waited about 20 minutes and reintroduced her, only for them to ball her again. Never happened before or since. The only thing I can figure that MIGHT have caused it was that I had pulled her out of the hive and marked her in a marking tube and left her out while I went back into the hive to get a sample for an alcohol wash. Altogether, I probably had her out of the hive for around 15 minutes. Maybe that was too long. I don't know.

  11. #10
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    Default Re: WHEN to mark a new queen.

    I'm guessing its not a changed formula to the paint???? I've always used testors model paint. Never had any issues. Thinking it is a pheromone issue possibly. I'd try:

    1. Smoke the nucs hard and add the queen back.
    2. Cage the queens for a few hours , check for aggression. Direct release if it looks ok.
    3. Re-evaluate if these don't help for some other source of problem.

  12. #11
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    Default Re: WHEN to mark a new queen.

    Well, here is another thought...

    If you (I mean anyone in the thread) catch the queen with your fingers, did you ever consider that your fingers could be smelling like.... I donno, garlic?

    Seriously, I never observed in any video of a keeper washing the hands with soap BEFORE touching that queen.
    And I also mean - do you ever consider washing your hands between working different hives?
    I bet - not.

    So you work one hive; then other hive; then other hive.
    Catch a queen there, grab a frame here.
    Splatter some foreign bee smell onto the newly marked queen.
    I just don't know, but the darn bugs can smell really, really well.
    Food for thought.

    Another reason to use catchers and/or push-in cages.
    At least they don't smell like "garlic", I would hope.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  13. #12
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    Default Re: WHEN to mark a new queen.

    Very good point Greg. However, those spongy catchers could also absorb the smells of the previous queen that you had in there if you are marking several queens that day. I make it a point to smoke mine after every use, but I don't know how much good that really does. I can catch the queen with my fingers, but my fingers are not nimble enough to hold her with one hand and paint her with the other. My many attempts have led to some comical results. I use the plunger.

  14. #13
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    Default Re: WHEN to mark a new queen.

    Quote Originally Posted by GregV View Post
    Seriously, I never observed in any video of a keeper washing the hands with soap BEFORE touching that queen.
    I wear gloves when pulling frames to find the queen, not because I'm worried about getting stung, but to keep my fingers clear of propolis etc. Once I have the frame with queen in my left hand, off comes the right glove, then move the frame to right and off comes the left glove. I'm catching queens with relatively clean fingers this way. That is a bit of a change from last year, last year I didn't use gloves handling the mating nucs, and often by the time I get to finding / marking the 4th queen fingers were sticky with propolis, and I was struggling to handle a queen correctly like that.

  15. #14
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    Default Re: WHEN to mark a new queen.

    We use Langstroth deep frames for mating nucs 2-3 with a frame feeder. I mark queens with the posca pen and haven't had any issues. I have just been marking laying queens though. The paint has no noticable odor in the pen perhaps there is something up with the paint? I do know bigger colonies are less agreeable to introduce a queen to but I consider anything smaller than a 5 frame nuc game for virgin introductions. Out of curiosity what breed of bee are you working with?
    Splitting a first year hive successfully https://youtu.be/ZfRTreQ-S9c

  16. #15
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    Default Re: WHEN to mark a new queen.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tennessee's Bees LLC View Post
    Out of curiosity what breed of bee are you working with?
    Tennessee - thanks for that question - I had started to write a very long-winded reply explaining why I have such a varied mix of genetics here right now - when I suddenly realised that this MAY be the underlying cause of the problem ...

    It isn't the smaller size of frame or smaller size of colony (well, at least not directly) - but it's what I'm stocking those nucs with !

    When stocking the larger 5-frame (full frame) boxes - because they are so large, I shake-off nurse bees from several colonies together - and so each nuc box automatically ends up being stocked with a mixture of nurse bees. But - because the mini-nuc boxes are small and require so few bees, I've been stocking them from just a single hive.

    Now, seeing this from the bees point-of-view - if a bee keeps coming across other bees which have a different smell from what they're used to - this must cause some uncertainty (i.e. are they in the right hive etc ?), and so they duly adopt a lower, less assertive profile, as it were, and hope that their presence is tolerated. Such bees are far less likely (I would have thought) to molest a suspect queen 'on sight'. (Or should that be 'on smell' ?)

    But - if bees are 'amongst their own', then presumably they will still (as a group) be conditioned to the smell of their former queen - and - should any APPARENTLY foreign queen then enter the hive, they will be far more likely to attack her. The only reason they haven't molested the existing queen prior to marking, is that she entered the hive either as a q/cell or as a young pheromone-less virgin - but they may have had only a few days to become accustomed to her smell - compared with two weeks or so of their former queen.

    Well - it's a theory ...
    LJ
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

  17. #16
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    Default Re: WHEN to mark a new queen.

    Quote Originally Posted by little_john View Post
    . but it's what I'm stocking those nucs with !..

    I've been stocking them from just a single hive.

    Well - it's a theory ...
    LJ
    Here you go - another good, potential WHY.


    Booming commercial packaging business in US shows well that a pile of random, mixed, confused bees, in general, will take a random queen fine.
    Otherwise, this business model would not exist.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  18. #17
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    Default Re: WHEN to mark a new queen.

    Quote Originally Posted by GregV View Post
    Here you go - another good, potential WHY.


    Booming commercial packaging business in US shows well that a pile of random, mixed, confused bees, in general, will take a random queen fine.
    Otherwise, this business model would not exist.
    Yes but many feel introducing Russians into italians is harder that Italian Italian. I don't know for a fact just what I hear.
    Splitting a first year hive successfully https://youtu.be/ZfRTreQ-S9c

  19. #18
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    Default Re: WHEN to mark a new queen.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tennessee's Bees LLC View Post
    Yes but many feel introducing Russians into italians is harder that Italian Italian. I don't know for a fact just what I hear.
    Notice - you exactly refer to the LJ's problem.
    Don't you see it?
    Try intro an Italian queen to a coherent, existing, queen-less Russian colony and we watch.
    Or vice versa.
    That is what the typical complaints are about.

    Again, an pile of random, shook, queen-less bees from multiple sources <> a coherent, existing colony (or a pile of bees sourced from such colony).
    Multi-sourcing is different from single-sourcing.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  20. #19
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    Default Re: WHEN to mark a new queen.

    Quote Originally Posted by little_john View Post
    Blue nail varnish
    I think you just answered your own question. Gluing disks on with super glue will net the same effect of immediate balling, when using Tight Bond ll wood glue to glue on disks has no issues with reintroduction back onto the hive.

    I've marked thousands of queens with no issues. I use a Uniposka pen. Not sure why folks try to use everything under the sun to avoid these pens. They work great, paint has no ill effects on queen or acceptance and paint has great longevity when applied to the thorax as long as it is not sticky or too furry as a newly emerged virgin's can be.
    I order my pen sets from Amazon and get the finer point than Mann Lake sells.

    https://www.amazon.com/Uni-posca-Pai...osca+paint+pen

    P5111000.jpg
    Lauri Miller.
    Carniolan Hybrids. Glenn, Latshaw & Wild lines.

  21. #20
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    Default Re: WHEN to mark a new queen.

    You seem to have missed the point - I've been using blue nail varnish and white automotive touch-up paint for many years - and have never had a problem until now. The only thing which has changed this year is that I'm trialling a smaller size of nucleus box for the first time, which I've been stocking from single hives rather than multiples.

    If you're happy using those pens, that's fine - I really do not like them - and will be sticking to what I know works (usually). As for employing a wood glue to attach metal disks ? I don't think that's a very good idea. Cyanoacrylate gel is the preferred method of attachment used in research labs.

    Also - if you read one of my earlier replies - the queens were not 'balled' in the usual sense of the term (i.e. killed by heat) - but simply attacked and stung by a relatively small number of bees.
    'best,
    LJ
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

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