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Utah Beekeepers' Association

As Currently Organized since 1892, but Serving and Representing Utah's Beekeepers Since the Early 1860's

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Marking a Queen Bee

International Queen Marking Color Code:
Color:For Year Ending In:
White (or gray)1 or 6
Yellow2 or 7
Red3 or 8
Green4 or 9
Blue5 or 0

It is common practice to mark the queen with a small spot of paint on her back (thorax). A color code exists within the beekeeping industry to indicate the year the queen was introduced.

A paint pen, model car paint, or fingernail polish may be used to mark the queen. The identifying mark should be small, so that it does not cover any other part of the queen. A 1/16" stick, lightly dipped in paint, is a good applicator if you don't have a paint pen. Generally, queens are marked before being introduced. They can; however, be marked at any time. Paint should be given ample time to dry before the queen is released into the colony. In fact, queens may be purchased already marked by the queen producer.

Some beekeepers also identify queens by clipping the tip of the tip of one forewing. If queens are replaced every two years, the beekeeper clips the left wing(s) on queens introduced in odd years, and the right on queens introduced in even years. The clipping practice may also supplement the paint spot technique as a back-up should the queen lose her paint mark. If clipped correctly, the queen will not be able to fly. However, if clipped too closely, the queen may appear damaged and be superseded.

See also Queen Catching and Marking.