I’ve been marking queens recently, both for my own benefit and for some nucs I am selling. Marking the queen is not strictly necessary, though it does make it easier to find her amongst a crowd of bees. I do not consider myself very good at it, so have come up with my own technique once I find her majesty on the comb.
This year I have really struggled to find my queens, I’m not sure why. Normally my queens are a bit more distinctive in terms of color or other trait. This year their coloring seems to be similar to the workers, so perhaps that is in.
Once (if) I find the queen, I often put the comb down on top of the hive. I use a tube with a soft plunger, as you can see in the below image. Most bee stores have them, or you can see one at this link (this is an affiliate link). Having a horizontal surface makes it fairly easy to cover her with the tube on the comb. I originally waited until she climbed up the sides, but I’ve found that she doesn’t always do this. So that’s a problem.
I now have a small piece of cardboard that I slide underneath to capture the queen and pick up the tube. Then I turn it upside down and get the queen to move to the screen end of the tube. You will catch worker bees sometimes, but they can climb out so do not present a problem.
At this point I insert the plunger and I have her. You can see the queen in the following image with the plunger keeping her inside. There is a worker here as well, which is fine.
I normally walk away from the hive at this point for some privacy. You can gently push the queen against the screen at the top to hold her in place and mark her thorax. This year’s color is red, so that’s the pen I use. Once complete, let her air dry for a bit, and then she’s ready to go back in the hive. As you can see, she stands out pretty well compared with the worker bees.
May you prosper and find honey.