Marking queens is good for a variety of reasons, including making it easier to spot her when doing alcohol wash mite counts. We mark all of our queens when we release them into our packages.
Marking queens is one of the more intimidating things to do in beekeeping. What if I hurt her? What if she flies away? What if I get too much paint on her? Questions like these frequently keep new beekeepers from marking their queens. In fact, they kept us from marking queens for several years too. Only after we bought To Bee or Not To Bee and started selling queen marking kits did we even attempt it. To our delight, it was much easier than we expected!
Marking queens during the package installation process is the easiest way to mark queens because they are confined to their cages when we get them. Our procedure for installing and marking queens is straightforward and works very well. After years of installing packages, we found this method gives us the best success rate for getting packages with accepted, marked queens installed in our hives.
Our packages come with corks in the queen cage, not candy plugs. When we install the package, we leave the cork in the cage for two days. This waiting period gives the bees a chance to settle down after transport and installation. When you revisit the hive in two days, you will find comb on the frames and likely find food stored in those new cells. The bees are already busy making this a home, needing only their queen to begin laying to start the colony growing.
We use a locally made queen marking kit with a soft pad to help reduce the chances of injuring a queen. The flexible mesh of the tube reduces both injuries and over-inking accidents.
When marking your queen, it's essential to get the paint-pen primed before marking. You want there to be a bit of paint on the end of the pen so that you are lightly making contact with the queen's thorax and not pushing down on the tip at all. Pushing down on the tip during the marking process can injure the queen or coat her in too much ink.
After marking, let her dry for a minute or so before releasing her directly into the colony.