Since my last disastrous attempt to find and mark the queen, I have bought a new gadget. It's a queen marking cage, which has spikes around the rim (see photo) that are set narrow enough to confine the queen, but wide enough to allow workers to escape. The top is a grid of fine wires that enable a marker pen or the placement of a marker dot to be glued on the thorax of the queen.
The result can be seen in the other photo. A fluorescent queen. Not too neat - but effective.
Photos are by my son Joe, who is doing A Level Photography. Nice photos, Joe!
I also managed to get her wings to poke through the grid - and I clipped them. None too neatly, again. But she won't fly again! Why do this? The colony is getting ready to swarm. The queen is at least two seasons old - arriving with me last July. But she could have swarmed from another colony before that - so she could be three years old. Anyway, I have marked her red for 08. This year's colour is green.
The other sign that the colony is ready to swarm is that there are about five queen cells in the making - the most prominent one on Frame 6 (that's a note for me :-).
So my next operation will be to split the colony. The old queen will into a nucleus hive, which I have made. I'm too embarrassed by the quality of the woodworking skills to blog a photo. She'll be accompanied by some sealed brood and some stored honey. That colony is destined for my friend D's hive (see previous blog).
That will happen next weekend - weather permitting.