Painted Ladies

One of the reasons for so much disenchantment with the European Union is its tendency to overreach into the minutia of everyday life. Take for example the Directive on the Commercial Exploitation of Invertebrates and Ornamental Fish. This Directive ranges over the minimum length of Stick Insects for retail sale, to criteria for determining whether goldfish can be described as ‘gold’. Section 38 deals with the marking of queen honey-bees.

In principle, it’s sensible legislation. Finding the queen in a colony of 50,000 bees can be difficult, so every spring, when the colonies are still small, beekeepers mark their queens with bright coloured paint.

For the cack-handed it is a tricky exercise; the queen has to be found, immobilised and marked, then released back into the hive once the paint has dried.

Mess it up and you’ll have a damaged or dead queen and a colony that’s doomed. For this reason novice beekeepers practice their queen-marking skills on drone bees, like the one in the cartoon above.

Section 38 mandates what colour queens should be marked each year. This year’s colour is yellow so beekeepers all across the EU will be marking their queens yellow. This facilitates the internal market for trading queen bees and also allows the free movement of swarms across international frontiers. The Directive means well, but it was hijacked by the politicians and lobbyists.

Green MEPs were outraged that queens were being marked with the party colours of the Socialists, Conservatives and Liberals (red, blue, yellow) so insisted that ‘green’ was added to the list. Minority parties argued their case too, and eventually settled on ‘white’.

The paint industry was delighted. At almost £5 each, marker pens are four-times the price of regular pens and are guaranteed to dry-up from one five-year period to the next.

With the UK now leaving the EU there are plans to rationalise the range of colours to just red, white and blue, consistent with the Union flag. But French beekeepers are already objecting, fearing that lower standards and cost cutting by the Brits will result in an unfair competitive advantage.

“Beekeeping is ‘appy-culture, but this is a race to the bottom,” claimed industry spokes-person, Anna-Lise D’urin.

Analyse whatever you like, dear! Regardless of outcome we still need to get marking our queens. After all …

It’s April the First!

Author: BeeNuts

Bee-keeper and wannabe cartoonist.

3 thoughts on “Painted Ladies”

  1. Cute cartoon and interesting piece. In North America, we use a 5-year colour scheme and it has nothing to do with politics. It’s based on the idea that you might (rarely/occasionally) encounter a queen living past three years but never past five. At three years, there could be confusion between a 2014 and 2017 queen as both would have the same marking. So colours repeat every 5 years. This year, like Europe, Canadians are using Yellow (years ending in 2 & 7 are yellow) while last year’s markds were white (as are all marked queens produced in years ending in 1 & 6).


    1. Sorry Ron, I’m afraid I’ve deceived you. The whole post was (mostly) a spoof for All Fools Day (Ist April). Not sure if this is just a British tradition or if you indulge in this silliness in Canada. My understanding is the queen-marking colour regime is international (nothing to do with the EU!). The UK has no plans to change, but experience here these days is that queens have a much shorter life than previously. Historically 4 – 5 year old queens were not unusual, but that is seldom the case now. If I have a 3-year old queen she’s an old lady needing replacement … so a 3 year colour scheme could work here, and save on all those dried-up pens!

      Liked by 1 person

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