Regular paint would most definitely rub off. You could try staining them. Or failing that, try painting them and then get some Modge Podge or dimensional magic (a clear coating that hardens over night as it dries). This could, however, give the needles a "slippery" feel. I'm not sure as I've never tried it, but it can't hurt I guess.
Or make big knobby ends for the needles and then paint those.