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I almost lost my best queen this afternoon when I returned her to the hive after marking her. I used a Testors enamel marking pen and left her to dry for maybe ten minutes. When I returned her onto a comb they seemed happy to see her at first but within a minute they surrounded her and she dropped off the bar into the hive in a ball of bees. Concerned they might be balling her due to the paint smell I got my smoker going and smoked them well. The smoke seemed to make them madder. (This hive is usually a little defensive but not mean.) I then started pulling bars and looking for her. She wasn't on the bars but there was a big clump of bees on the bottom of the hive. I grabbed the marking tube and scooped up the bee clump. I broke up the clump of bees and found the queen in the middle. She didn't appear to be moving but I took her and isolated her in the marking tube. I then caught three of the most newly hatched looking bees I could find, got an old queen cage, and put the queen and bees in it. Watching closely it looked like her antennae was moving just slightly so I put two drops of half water half honey on the screen and had dinner. When I next checked her it looked like she had dragged herself to a honeywater drop and had her proboscis in the liquid. I didn't think queens fed themselves but it sure looked like she did and after that she started to slowly come around. First dragging herself around by her front legs but the rest limp, now the young bees look to be attending her and she appears to have her leg function back even though she isn't moving with her prior ease yet. I'm hopeful she is on her way to a full recovery and I can reintroduce her in the cage to the hive tomorrow morning.

I wasn't using smoke at first because I wanted to find her to mark her. I was a bit nervous about losing her when I marked her so I waited until I saw drone brood to do it so they could replace her if necessary. When I saw drone cells that were being capped I went forward with the marking plan. The bees were pretty calm until I reintroduced the queen and not mad until I smoked them.

Should I have lit my smoker and smoked them and her before I put her back in so she didn't smell funky to them? They balled the worker that was with her in the marking cage too. I've marked other queens before just like this with no problem but those bees weren't defensive at all.

What do they do to the queen when they ball her? Overheat her? Try to sting and bite her? With how she came around it looked like she had been overheated and bitten (pinched).

Do you think if she is moving like normal by morning it will be okay to reintroduce her in the cage into the hive?
 

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I marked 3 package Queens yesterday and the Queen from my strongest hive today. Did not use smoke. I hope they survive:(
Good luck with your Queen. Have you ever had this happen before?
 

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You mark any other queens in that tube prior? Sometimes they get balled after marking, it happens and it's one of the reasons I don't understand why people feel so compelled to mark their queens.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
You mark any other queens in that tube prior? Sometimes they get balled after marking, it happens and it's one of the reasons I don't understand why people feel so compelled to mark their queens.
Yes but it was maybe two months ago the last time and I washed out the tube and let it dry afterwards. Ironically I marked her because I wanted to keep her and know if she was still there or had been superseded.

The last queen I marked was one that lost most of her cluster and trying to save her I put in a bar of bees from this hive. They balled and killed her but I didn't think it was related to being marked, I thought it was because her retinue was too small to defend her against the added bees. I determined I should have put her in a push-in cage as protection. Now I wonder if these bees are more sensitive and just can't stand the scent change from the paint.

This queen seems to have really perked up and is moving better. I may have gotten her out in time.
 

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I had been using a marking tube -- every so often that would happen with queens that I had marked.

I've since stopped using the marking tube and have been marking the way I used to mark them, by catching them by the wings with my right thumb and forefinger, then putting them against my left thumb, so I can gently but firmly grasp them by their legs, then I take my POSCA marking pen, bright green for 2014, and make a small mark on their thorax. Then I softly blow on the spot until I can gently touch it with my right pinkie and not have any transfer - then I know it is dry enough. I've marked a few dozen this year, with the same pen, and haven't had an issue, yet.

I mark all the queens I produce; I do it as soon as I confirm that they are laying. That way I can tell by looking at them if they've begun laying yet, or not. I've rarely discovered one of these laying queens to be a drone layer, but that isn't always simple to do, until of course, the new queens brood is old enough to be capped.
 

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You mark any other queens in that tube prior? Sometimes they get balled after marking, it happens and it's one of the reasons I don't understand why people feel so compelled to mark their queens.
I like marked Queens for 2 reasons:
(1) it helps me locate them
(2)it helps know if a Queen is replaced as then she is not marked

Not many of my Queens are marked as they came unmarked. I have just learned how to find the Queen so I have now marked a few. From this thread perhaps I should be going back to see if they were killed but I don't like going into the hives a lot as I think it disturbs the bees.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
I marked 3 package Queens yesterday and the Queen from my strongest hive today. Did not use smoke. I hope they survive:(
Good luck with your Queen. Have you ever had this happen before?
I have marked before but not many times and am still learning. This seems to be the problem colony with it and I was hesitant fearing it might cause a queen loss. That is why I deliberately waited to see drones to know a replacement could be made. I don't know if smoking would have helped, I have read it helps mask the paint smell but the smoke really seemed to aggravate them. They started fanning and flying en mass.

If yours didn't react at the time then I would think they are fine.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
I had been using a marking tube -- every so often that would happen with queens that I had marked.

I've since stopped using the marking tube and have been marking the way I used to mark them, by catching them by the wings with my right thumb and forefinger, then putting them against my left thumb, so I can gently but firmly grasp them by their legs, then I take my POSCA marking pen, bright green for 2014, and make a small mark on their thorax. Then I softly blow on the spot until I can gently touch it with my right pinkie and not have any transfer - then I know it is dry enough. I've marked a few dozen this year, with the same pen, and haven't had an issue, yet.
I have read about that method and can see the advantage but it would take a lot more talent and practice than I have right now. I wear gloves inspecting, I can't see how I would have enough dexterity with my leather gloves to not injure the queen. I guess this summer I should start practicing with drones. Is the POSCA pen enamel?
 

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If one lets workers from the hive go in the marking tube before placing the Queen does it lower the risk of balling?
 

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If one lets workers from the hive go in the marking tube before placing the Queen does it lower the risk of balling?
Nope, this will cause suffocation since all the workers want to go in to ball the queen at the same time. I had done this before with bad result.
Within minutes the marking tube will be jam packed with bees. The solution is to treat a marked queen like a newly introduced queen to gradually
accumulate the bees to her new scent. I just put the marking tube inside the hive on top of the frames. Let her sit there until the bees lost interest
in her usually in a few hours. Then release her back into the hive when everything settled down.


What do they do to the queen when they ball her? Try to sting and bite her?
Yes, they will bite and try to sting her all over. The end result is to try to suffocate the queen or any foreign bee.
Their legs will tangle with the queen's and all died after killing each other. Bees will not tolerate any foreign invasion so to defend their hive. It is an
ugly battle that no one win.
 

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I've marked 20+ queens a year for the past 6 years in the same marking tube and haven't lost one yet. I use testor's model paint. There are actually a lot of advantages to having marked queens. Especially if you equalize hives in the spring/fall, make nucs, make up cell builders and mating nucs.

I mark the queen and then set the tube somewhere for a minute or two (screwing the paint lid back on, etc.) before I release her back into the hive.
 

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It may just relate more to curious "beehavior" than the marking event itself though most likely marking increases the probability. I spend a lot of time each spring looking through large hives to find the queen. Occasionally when you find her they are inexplicably balling her. I don't try to rationalize it, (unless she appears injured), I just cage her, seal it with a little granulated honey and it usually turns out fine.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
I just put her back in. They mobbed the cage but she is safe inside with her three attendants. I put candy in and pulled the cork on that end so they can release her like a new queen. I situated the cage so I can see it in the viewing window and check their progress without disturbing them much. We'll see how it goes.

I was going to re-mark the other queen but now I am not sure if I should. (That queen came marked but it flaked off.) They are a very calm and gentle colony so it will probably be fine but maybe I will hold off until I take her out to start a nuc in a few weeks.
 

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We had an open hive day today. The hive owner opened the first hive, and there was her royal highness on the first frame, up in the honey supers where they say she doesn't go. And unmarked. So he popped her into a queen marking cage, explained that he has a bad habit of accidentally killing queens, pulled out a Testors paint marking pen, and proceeded to put a dot on her back.

He mentioned that it is a good idea to let the paint dry before putting her back in the hive, but then added that you should not blow on her to help the paint dry. I immediately thought of this thread. Could the problem be some human odor, particularly something the queen picks up when blown on, or maybe a hand cream transferred when she was caught? Aftershave? Perfume? Orange juice for breakfast?
 

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Discussion Starter #16
I had my beekeeping gloves on and caught her in the tube so didn't touch her. I didn't blow on her and I let her sit in the tube to dry while I went through the rest of the hive so it couldn't have been any of those in my case. I think it was a combination of the disposition of the colony and the smell of the paint. They still didn't like the smell of her when I put her back this morning and a few hours later when I checked through the viewing window there was still a ball of bees clumped around the cage. Hopefully they calm down before they consume the candy and release her.
 

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Have you try other paint on the market before? I am using non toxic without odor/smell
fast drying acrylic paint. One thin layer of TB-2 follow by a layer of paint then sealed it off
with another thin layer of TB. This will not fade and last until the queen either die or get replaced.
 

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>Should I have lit my smoker and smoked them and her before I put her back in so she didn't smell funky to them? They balled the worker that was with her in the marking cage too. I've marked other queens before just like this with no problem but those bees weren't defensive at all.

I certainly would have when they balled her. Before probably would have prevented it, yes.
 

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I lost 4 last year and the first two I tried this year. I decided it's just not worth the risk. I haven't gone to the trouble to cage them and re-introduce them.
If I try marking them again, I will go to the trouble to cage them. I really like having marked queens, but I hate having my queens killed….
I haven't tried catching them and marking them with my bare hands. I use a queen clip and marking tube. I usually grab them, finish whatever I'm doing, go back to the truck where the marking stuff is, mark her and come back. So I'm guessing she is out of the hive for about 10 minutes. That could be part of the problem.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Well, it didn't work out. After the bees stopped mobbing the cage I could see in it from the viewing window. When I looked today I could see the 3 workers alive and well but the queen was dead.

Hopefully they are successful replacing her. The drone cells in this hive were almost capped on Friday when I went through the hive. The other colony didn't have any drone brood so I am not sure there are drones around yet.

Wishing I didn't mark her. :(
 
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