How to mark a queen
Many experienced beekeepers mark a queen by holding onto her legs with one hand and quickly dabbing the paint with the other hand. It looks easy and takes only a moment. But unfortunately that method does not work for me. I like to have lots of hardware between me and her majestynot to protect me from the bee, but to protect the bee from me. I am absolutely paranoid about injuring a queen and so I take lots of precautions to prevent that. Below is the hardware I use.
The little contraption shown below is known as a “queen catcher.” It is plastic, extremely light weight, and it has slots just wide enough for workers to pass through. You just squeeze the handle, put the catcher over the queen and surrounding workers, then allow it to close. The bottom is cut away so you won’t injure the queen’s legs, and as you lift the catcher away from the frame, the workers flow through the slots like water. You are left with just the queen. I’ve used this many times with no problem.
The next item is known as a “queen marking tool.” Once you’ve captured the queen, you drop her into the plastic tube and insert the sponge-covered plunger part way. Then you hold the tube so the mesh end is up and the stick end is downthe way you would hold a popsicle. Once the queen is sitting on the sponge with her back toward the mesh cover, you slowly push the plunger until the queen is captured between mesh and sponge. Squeeze just enough to hold her stilland no more. The sponge will give and keep her from getting squished, but don’t push your luck. Just enough is enough. Now you are ready for paint.
The next item is a “queen marking pen.” It is made with quick-drying enamel paint in an easy-to-use pen-like dispenser. Dab the proper color on the queen and let it dry for a minute or so. It is very important that paint be applied only to the top center of the thorax. Paint in any other area could injure the queen. If the exact spot is not lined up in the mesh, just lower the plunger, let her take a few steps, then try again.
The final item is called a “queen muff.” This mesh muff has elastic arm holes for you and plenty of workspace inside. To use it, put everything you will need inside the muffqueen in her cage or queen catcher, marking tool, enamel penthen slide the ends over your arms until it is tight. Once inside, if the queen should get away, she can’t go far. This is much better than having her fly into a nearby tree or get loose in your house.
I’ve spent hours looking for a queen inside my house and, although I finally found her on the kitchen curtains, it wasn’t any fun. And queens can be expensive. You can buy all the listed equipment for not much more than the price of one good queen. If you are confident and dexterous enough to do without all this stuff, so much the better. But if you have your klutzy moments, it can be a wise purchase.