I have found nothing on the market that has been tested safe for marking queens. Some of the pens sold through the bee supply companies are carcinegenic, and are not fit human contact making bee contcat outright crazy.
Below is an article I wrote on the subject that was printed in 2009.
Thinking Outside The Box #2
I’m looking for a few volunteers. I’m looking for willing participants who do not care about their health, don’t want to get caught up with health issues or warnings, and those who just want to have some fun. If you have children, perhaps you can get them involved also. If all goes well, you may even get your name in a written article in one of the bee magazines. And wouldn’t that be so neat?
So what I want to do is this. I want to take a product that has always been assumed to be safe. One that has been used, with seemingly no known side effects, no known long term impact, and no long term concerns. I want to take this product and paint a 18 inch disk on your back. If we have families participate, we can have family members paint their backs with different colors. White, Blue, Green, Yellow, and Red, seems like great colors. But once marked, you will carry the spot for the rest of your life. So pick a good one.
So after being marked, we want to see if rashes develop, whether long term health concerns can be seen, and if even other chemicals would interact with the paint spot. We hold the right to hit this paint spot with a splash of formic acid, maybe some oxalic acid, and a few other chemicals of our choosing. But do not be concerned. You see, others have gone before you, and never has their ever been one complaint.
Like any good study, we must have transparency. So I add the following jibber-jabber and nonsense for those who want to read it. Those participating in the study can just skip the next paragraph or two. No sense wasting your time reading this. The paint product for the study contains such chemicals as VMP naphtha, Ethyl Benzene, Xylene, High Boiling Aliphatic Hydrocarbon, Anti Flooding Agents, Diarylide Yellow pigment, and Copper Phthalocyanide pigment. We’ll mention them, but just disregard comments on the label such as “contains a chemical that causes birth defects” and “known to cause cancer”. Probably just a bunch of legal mumbo-jumbo anyways. Labels…what good are they really for anyways?
And just to cover our bases, cause you never know what may be brought up later, we contacted the company for the MSDS on the product to be used. (Material Safety Data Sheet). After all, we want this to be a first rate study. But who wants to get caught up in details? Yes, the MSDS mentions things like “Primary routes of Entry” for contaminates as “Inhalation and skin contact”. Yes, it says to not have it come in contact with your skin. But how are we to conduct a study, let alone use the product as it always has been, if we were to take such written warnings with any real reality. So just disregard all that. Probably just government lingo garbage anyways. Oh, and yes…that discussion with the company representative where we asked if they knew the product was being used by beekeepers? The one where they almost seemingly giggled with delight and said they were quite aware of their product was used by beekeepers….Just disregard that also. That’s the conversation where they commented that they never ran any testing on using their product on humans, let alone other things, like Bees! And when I said since they knew it was being used for things like bees, if they would go on the record as promoting such use, they avoided that answer as if all of a sudden, there could be a problem. I remember as we ended the conversation, something along the lines that “we do not recommend, advise, or promote, the use of our product other than what the label indicates and the product has been approved. We do not advise it be use on human, animal or insects.”
Now wait one moment here! This was the same product that was sold in some bee supply companies, and advertised for marking queens. But now I read and hear, that the stuff is carcinogenic, not made for insects, never approved or tested for such use, and it’s starting to have me wonder a bit. And it has me asking some questions.
Is it really as safe as some beekeepers suggest, since they never seem to have any problems marking their queens? Yes, everyone says the queens of today are not good as they once were, but that can be easily answered by using the excuse, that queen quality and even hive loss is due to other things. After all, we have a whole list of things to complain about, including neonicotinoids, coumaphos laced wax, etc.
I do not mark my queens. I do not use chemicals in the hive. I don’t know which one’s may be “safe” but made “unsafe” if in contact with another chemical. I guess if we get some beekeepers to volunteer to have paint spots painted on their backs, we can always throw some formic or oxalic acid on the spots and see what develops. My money will be on a rash developing or some severe skin irritation, if it had not developed by just the paint spot alone. I just hope we do not lose any beekeepers during the testing phase. “Superceding” beekeeper volunteers would slow the results, lessen productivity of the test, and could even spell disaster for the research.
I guess I’ll continue to ask questions. I’ll wonder how I may be forced to mark queens in the future if we ever have problems with AHBs and we are forced to comply with such things as “Best Beekeeping Practices”. I feel real uncomfortable being forced to put unapproved chemicals in my hive, let alone paint queens with such items.
Maybe it’s time for the beekeeping community to demand bee safe products. Maybe we should look at how chemicals play off each other and actually see if marked queens are being damaged. Maybe we need to take a step back up sometimes, take a look at everything in our industry, and ask questions.