Bees in the Air!

Check off another bucket list item – marking queens on a grand scale!

Queen Right Colonies had a delivery of packaged honey bees – 1800 boxes.  The event made the media come out and while they were there taking pictures and interviewing – employees and folks picking up their new charges!

About 800 queens needed to be marked with a green paint pen – green signifying the year the queen was born.  Beekeepers add the mark of paint to the thorax of the queen (which doesn’t hurt or hinder) and allow the mark to dry before introducing her to the hive.  By marking the queen, the beekeeper can quickly locate her in the sea of bees and immediately knows if she is the original queen introduced to that hive.

The day of marking was cold and raining – not a good day to be handling bees at all much less removing the queen cage from her package of bees.  I am sure after the bees’ long drive from California they only wanted to be left alone!  After a short amount of time, there were bees everywhere…in the air, on the ground and on us!

To retrieve the queen cage from a package of bees, a person firmly hits the cage to a solid surface to move all the bees to the bottom of the package.  Once the syrup can is removed, the queen cage tab is quickly slid to the opening and removed.  The cork is pried out and the queen allowed to  walk out into your fingers.  While gently but firmly gripping the queen by three legs on her one side, you quickly place the paint mark on her thorax and give a quick blow-dry.  Finally you gently guide her back into her cage, re-bang the package of bees to move everyone to the bottom of the package and remove the feed can again, insert the queen cage and all is well!  Sort of!  Every time you open the package of bees about 3-5 bees escape…

Sometimes the escapees are not too happy about the abrupt package movement and they let you know about – the sting!  Unfortunately   the honey bee gives up her life then as the sting left behind also takes a good part of her abdomen with it.  The queen on the other hand has a barbless stinger and is capable of multiple stings and my swollen fingers were witness to that process.  It took a couple of days before  I had full sensation back in my fingertips.

What a day!  8 hours of marking queens…I don’t think I ate enough donuts!