The invisible hive tool

At last! A hive tool I can see!

I am severely colourblind, which generally means that the difference between red and green makes little sense to me. I have been told (by enough people) that grass is green, so I have learnt to associate that word to the peculiar hue of grey that I see when I look at grass. Unfortunately, hive tools have been red for most of my life. Therein lies a big problem.

If I drop a red hive tool onto green grass, the tool disappears in greyness. Kind of like this:

OK, you can still see it easily enough. That’s because it’s still falling. But, take a look at this:

This may seem trivial, but for someone like me, this is a big deal. I once painted a hive tool white, but the paint wore off, it turned back to red, and yes, I lost it somewhere in green grass. I am hoping that my new yellow hive tool will last the rest of my life.

When people came up with the clever idea of painting queens, they used red and green marks among a mix of three other colours. A paint dab on a queen thorax makes her easier to spot and also, if a certain universal code is followed, makes her age known at a glance.

The queen, above, is marked with yellow, which means she emerged from her birth cell in either 2017 or 2022, according to the beekeepers’ colour code. If I saw this bee this summer, I’d know she’s a 2022 queen – I wouldn’t expect a 5-year-old to look nice and fuzzy like this. Lucky for red-green colourblind people like me, we still see yellow, blue, black, and white quite well. But sadly, the bee gods chose to put red and green on consecutive years in order to inflict the most damage upon colour-disabled beekeepers.

If you’ve forgotten, here is the Queen displaying the sequential coding: white, yellow, red, green, blue.

About Ron Miksha

Ron Miksha is a bee ecologist working at the University of Calgary. He is also a geophysicist and does a bit of science writing and blogging. Ron has worked as a radio broadcaster, a beekeeper, and Earth scientist. (Ask him about seismic waves.) He's based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
This entry was posted in Beekeeping, Personal, Queens, Tools and Gadgets and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The invisible hive tool

  1. The Apiarist says:

    Hello Ron
    I’m also colourblind. I thought from your comment about ‘greyness’ that you were achromatopsic (no colour vision). People with normal vision often struggle when I say that I can see the colours, but may not be able to discriminate between them. I think it also means that I put less relevance on colour (all colours) when viewing things. But who knows what colours people actually ‘see’?
    When Mann Lake started in the UK they had a freebie hive tool for new customers that was a very visible blue. I can’t remember where I lost that one 😦
    I just buy white, yellow or blue marking pens and totally ignore the year scheme. My notes tell me the age of the queen. I’m a little concerned about the ageing of our queen in your final montage!


  2. Ben says:

    Have you heard about those glasses for Colorblind ppl? E.g. EnChroma.
    I could imagine it’s inconvenient to wear those just to see the colors, but I can’t imagine how it feels for you as I don’t have that problem. Maybe that’s helpful.


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