Marking stingless bees
Marking stingless bees is a way that we can gather information for future stingless bee keepers. What we know today about how long a queen lives for in Australia is because of this method.
Here is a video showing how I mark my bees.
Why mark bees? Marking bees has been an age old tradition with honey bees and has allowed generations and generations to gather data regarding bees and their behavior. I have used various pigments and dusts in the past to gather information on bulk bees but marking with a fine tipped paint pen is definitely better if you need a more permanent option. I have been able to find out which bees enter the workforce and when and also observe drift happening between hives. Really exciting stuff.
Marking bees tips and tricks
- Making sure the paint markers you use are water based and free from solvents will prevent you from killing your bees.
- Writing the date that you marked your queen on the viewing panel of your hive will have you remembering when that queen first started.
- Using an aspirator or pooter can aid in removing specific (workers or queens) gently enough without disturbing the colony too much.
- A smaller aspirator container has more suction but a larger one but a larger one will be more gentle on the bees.
- Painting a bee’s face or abdomen can hurt the bee, be very careful and accurate with placement.
- Always suck the queen bee from head first. This is good practice for both queens and workers.
Where to mark your queen or worker bee
As shown above it is really important that this is done right. Red arrows indicate locations not to mark your bees, these have a high chance of killing your bees. Blue arrow indicates the only safe place to mark your bees unless you choose to use a bee friendly marking pigment or dust.
If you would like to give this a go with your bees you can also buy aspirators. I am in no way affiliated with this company. But I do like the quality of products they make.
Ento supplies- Pooters/aspirators
I would love to hear what people find out in the comments below if anyone undertakes this exercise and what they are using it for.
Very systematic approach to stingless bees keeping. Keep it up.
Very interesting Nick! I would love to try this in the future but I have had difficulty spotting the queen, only seen her once. Besides to figure out how long a queen lives, are there any other things that you could find out?
I’m also wandering whether you can mark worker bees? I was thinking about finding a callow, marking her, and watching her progression throughout the hive.
Also, do you know if it hurts the bee? I wouldn’t want to put them through unnecessary discomfort…
Yes! Some examples are how long a queen lives, when do queens get turned over? Is there a certain time of year? Do queen sizes make any difference in which one is dominant? What jobs baby bees carry out first before becoming workers? Do some bees become hive Bees only?
Do bees drift? Etc.
I do t believe this hurts the bee or I would not do it. I did kill a queen once by missing her thorax and getting her face. ???? which is why I like to use a holder now. I have marked Callows free hand and observed them and they grow up fine.
For temporary marking or tracking Bees I place a small amount of flour into a jar (half a teaspoon) pop the bee in and rotate. The bee will be coated white. Once you let the bee out she will clear her eyes of flour then abdomen/wings and bing off she goes. You can track bees this way and collect data. It’s how I know Bees travel much further then the original estimated 500meters. Hope this helps.
Awesome! Thank you so much for sharing, I definitely intend to try this some time. Do you know where I could get a ‘pooter’? And what was the second container you used, when you were marking her?
When marking callows freehand, is it difficult to put the dot on the correct spot?
Also, just interested in how long the callow you marked lived for? I’ve heard estimations, but never of anyone actually trying it 🙂
I like the flour coating. How long would that last for do you know?
Interesting that the bees fly further than 500m – I had heard some people saying that their hives had cadaghi seeds but the nearest tree was over a km away. Originally I assumed that they must have missed a tree, but perhaps not!
Sorry I have so many questions, and thanks again for your awesome answers and ideas!!!
You can get a pooter from the ento supplies place I listed in post. It’s down the bottom. I always make em cause it’s cheap but I have always wanted a bought one.
The Callows lasted for about 150 days. Less then the 170-200 lifespan. They entered the workforce within the first 2 weeks but not all entered the flying workforce. Some became hive Bees.
Marking them freehand isn’t so bad if you have the hatching bees right up where you can see them. Use one hand spread wide as a sorta tripod for the marking hand. Wait till they are busy and dob them quick. Takes a bit of practice but ok if you have a steady hand.
Yep Dean and I tracked them to 700 meters before we ran out of map to find them on. I heard a fellow up north said he knows his fly 1km and that would be similar to your story. ????
The flour will last about 48 hours before its to dull to notice. The first 24 hours it’s pretty good.
The little container thing I made but… if you search around on eBay or go to the honey bee shop in summer park you may be able to take the larger fabric out of a honey bee one and put tule fabric from spotlight in.
Let me know if you do some marking stuff. 🙂