queen bees

2011 is a year for white queens

The colorful spot you sometimes see on a queen’s thorax is actually a code. The color denotes the year of the queen’s birth. So with a just a quick look, you can tell how old she is. The International Color Chart works like this:

Years ending in 0 or 5 are blue.

Years ending in 1 or 6 are white.

Years ending in 2 or 7 are yellow.

Years ending in 3 or 8 are red.

Years ending in 4 or 9 are green.

Since queens normally live just a year or two, the color chart repeats every five years. Besides dating her, the bright paint spots makes it much, much easier to find her majesty among the tens of thousands of workers and drones.


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  • Starting next year I will use this color convention for marking (i.e. dating) my mason bee tubes. I’ve been color marking for years to track each year, but up until now have used my own sort of random convention.

  • Hi, Rusty.

    I installed two packages of bees in 2017. They swarmed that year, possibly more than once. The swarms I captured in 2017 might have swarmed again that year, seeing as how I started the winter of 2017 with five hives (plus a swarm I gave to another beekeeper), and lost two hives over the winter. In 2018 I caught several swarms (and lost at least one), combined a couple of queenless hives with queen-right hives, and started this winter with six hives. Over this time none of my queens were marked. I might have some two-year-old queens (from 2017) and some one-year-old queens (from 2018), but have lost track of who is who. I’d like to mark my queens this spring. Should I use yellow (2017), red (2018) or green (2019)?

    • Rick,

      Why don’t you use an entirely different color (like purple) for all the unknown queens, and use the regular colors beginning now.

  • Thanks, Rusty. I think I’ll mix my 2017 color (yellow) and 2018 color (red) and mark my unknown queens orange. I’ll try to find and mark them this spring before new queens are reared.