Numbering Beehives (or Queens)

I came up with a new way of numbering my hives: Blank plastic key tags ($25 for a pack of 100).

I used to give names to my hives, but gave up on it after my fourth hive. I don’t refer the bees as “my girls” either. I care about my bees, but I’ve seen how anthropomorphism can lead to funny places. It’s not for me. So I go with numbers like this:

This tag number, 2101, means the queen in the hive is the first new queen of 2021. The tag follows the queen, not the hive.

Additional information is written on the back of the tag. In this case, I wrote the date in which I knew the queen was laying successfully and hadn’t been rejected by her new colony: 21.07.18. “FR mated FR” means it was a queen from one of my hives in Flatrock and she mated in my Flatrock beeyard (meaning possibly inbred). I also wrote that she was created from a split on June 28th. I’ll have to come up with a better method for these notes so I can get more info on the tag, info such as the genetics of the queen, maybe who I got the queen from, etc. But this is good enough for now.

I tried numbering my hives/queens using pig ear tags, something I picked up from a University of Guelph beekeeping video. But that didn’t work out at all. The tags weren’t easy to attach to my hives. I eventually switched to using numbered key tags, which was okay but didn’t give me any info on the queen. In the above hive, for instance, I had to look up “18” in my notebook to find out, and I don’t carry my notebook around with me when I’m beekeeping. I also keep terrible notes.

The numbered key tags were also black on the back, so I couldn’t write any additional info on them. The blank key tags seem to offer the simplest solution. I attach them to my hives with heavy duty tacks. It’s easy.

I’ll have to see if the permanent marker eventually wears off in the weather. If it does, I might be able to put some scotch tape around the tag to prevent that. In any case, it seems like a good at this time.