Queen Bee Marking

There are many reasons to do a hive inspection but one of the most important is to ensure there is a laying queen. While you can be fairly confident of a healthy hive if you see cells of uncapped larva, it’s still exhilarating to find the queen. 

You can identify the queen bee by her extended abdomen but it’s not always easy to find her in a hive with tens of thousands of bees. She also tends to try and hide when the frame she is on is extracted. Marking the queen makes finding her much easier and in addition, by using different colors each year you can tell her age. While worker bee’s only live for a few weeks a queen can live four or five years. 

If you find an unmarked queen in a hive you had marked previously, you’ll know the queen was replaced. The marked queen could have swarmed or for some reason the colony felt the need to replaced her in a process know as supersedure. There can only be one queen per hive or things will get all Game of Thrones with a fight to the death.

The marking process involves catching the queen in a marking tube then placing a small dot on her thorax with a non-toxic paint pen. Needless to say there is a risk of injuring the queen so best to practice on a few drones first.

While not all beekeepers feel the need to mark their queens the more hives you have the more time you’ll save during inspections. Some very experienced  beekeepers can forego a tube by carefully picking up the queen by her wings.

Gear Used

For this series I used a pair of Nikkormats with a Nikkor, 35mm f/2 on one body and a Nikkor 135mm f/3.5 on the other. Both bodies were loaded with Kentmere 400. This was my first experience processing in Kodak HC-110. I recently switched from D-76 so I can mix only the amount of working solution needed and because of it’s long shelf life. I found the grain to be acceptable and was pleasantly surprised with the tonal range .

Negatives were digitized using a Canon 5D mkll, 100mm macro and a light box then reversed in Photoshop Lightroom.

Using Format