Queen Marking Paint
Marking Disc Adhesive
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Numbers for Marking Queens that need a Definite Identity

Queen honey bees are marked for various different reasons:-

All of the above listed reasons have their place in beekeeping, but the use of numbers is only relevant for breeding projects or in some cases for experiments that need to be able to identify a single bee.

The numbered discs themselves are nominally 2.2 mm in diameter, but vary a little between manufacturers, they also vary a little as the doming may not be consistent from batch to batch.

The type illustrated at extreme right is manufactured by:-

Bee Research Institute at Dol
25266 Libcice n. Vlt.
Czech Republic
Tel: 42 2 6857586   Fax: 42 2 6857585

Click on the pictures for enlarged versions.

Label that is packed with Dol Bee Institute queen numbers Queen Marking Numbers produced at Dol Bee Institute

The version shown at right is made in Germany and is packed in five colours with a phial of lacquer fixative.

The pack is illustrated below right and the contents are spread out in the view below.

Queen Marking Numbers produced in Germany
Contents of German Queen Marking Number Pack German Queen Marking Number Pack

Fixing adhesives

Fish Glue
Is a straw coloured to light brown gelatinous substance. It is a collagen (protein) that can be extracted from fish by heating the skin, fins and bones in water. The purest form of fish glue is made from the membrane of the dissected swim bladder of sturgeon, also known as isinglass. In the 1950s and 60s it was commonly sold in small tubes that had a distinctive smell, then it was commonly used for gluing paper... Times have changed and this product is now rare.

Amber coloured Lacquer
The German number kits illustrated above have a small phial of lacquer, that has a 'heady' smell. It is applied by dipping a thin hardwood rod or metal pin into the phial and applying the rounded tip to the queen's thorax. Although I have used it, it was so long ago that I have forgotten how effective it was.

Nail varnish
I include here the types of queen paint that are made in a similar fashion to nail varnish, they work well as an adhesive and give the added bonus that the colour can be used for some extra identifying purpose in addition to the base colour of the disc and the number it bears. Cut the brush, that is usually provided, so that the bristles are very short (about 2 mm), using a sharp chisel or scalpel. The short stubby brush can then be used to 'stipple' the varnish or lacquer through the short hairs right down to the surface of the carapace (much like the match stick printing method).

Concern has been expressed by some that there are types of nail varnish that contain amyl acetate. As a result some queens that were marked using nail varnish were balled by the workers (Beowulf Cooper, during 1950s and 60s). I think the risk of this is reduced in modern times as I believe that the nail varnish is formulated differently these days.

Cellulose paint
I include the type of paint that comes from the ball ended marker pens in this class. Cellulose paint works reasonably to affix queen number discs, but it is not as inherently 'sticky' as nail varnish and occasionally a queen will be found with a shiny, domed, lump of paint where there should have been a number, in the main this loss is not a big deal so long as there is only one missing disc, as your apiary records will reveal the missing number. As I am aware that this can happen I usually apply a small amount of paint to the underside of the disc as well as the queen's thorax. This can sometimes result in a ridge of excess paint being exuded all around the edge of the disk. This may look a little unsightly and if smeared before it is dry can result in paint over a larger region of the queen than originally intended. When this extra bead of paint is evident I leave the queen a minute or so extra before release in order that a skin can form more solidly on the paint.

Modern adhesives
I have no personal experience of using modern glues for this purpose, but it is something that is worthy of experiment. I suspect that some of the anaerobic adhesives that are used for securing 'surface mount' electronic components may be useful for this purpose. Should any of you have any information on this aspect of sticking discs on, I would be pleased to publish your findings here.
Written... 28 September to 06 October 2004,


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