When rearing more than just a few queens, a schedule is imperative. And they’re easy to construct with a computer and a little understanding of honeybee biology.
It’s easy to build your own schedule. This process can be used to simplify other queen rearing schemes. All schedules are based on bee biology.
- assign a single letter to a queen’s stage of development
- let each letter represent a single day
- it can be done vertically or horizontally
I’ll go horizontal here:
- from egg to imago takes 16 days
- from imago to mating takes 7 days
- the queen is ready to cage 7 days after that
Now, let’s add some important queen rearing info. I’ll use capital letters for this. These letters replace those used to represent the queen stage on the day they occur. And let’s remove some bee development notation to make things easier for managing the bees.
For a single batch or two, a simple horizontal schedule works fine. It can be copied directly on a calendar. Or it can be used vertically, with dates assigned for the day numbers on a paper.
After a little cleanup it looks like this.
Vertical Spreadsheet Schedule
But for multiple batches, it’s easier to work vertically and use the computer. Then, each row represents a single day rather than a column. All kinds of stuff can be added such as drone comb management on the front end, etc. This concept can be put in a spreadsheet with days automatically calculated along one edge. Multiple batches are sequenced by slipping and pasting the same schedule. If you do this, you’ll see why the cells are incubated on day 11.
Inclusive reckoning is another factor that should be considered when making a grafting schedule. Is the first day calculated as day one or day zero? Most queen rearing books start their schedules with day 1 by using inclusive reckoning. This works great when a few larva are grafted without restricting the breeder queen.
But when the breeder queen is routinely restricted, this disturbance often causes laying to stop for a time. When I worked off the front end, I had to hunt for enough 24 hour old larva. Adding a zero day solved this problem. Some larva are a long 24 hours old. But most larva are the right age for grafting. That’s a better situation than having some larva 24 hours old, but with most larva too young for grafting.
Here’s an example of a vertical queen rearing schedule using a Cloake board. Enter data in the yellow area. And the spreadsheet does the rest.
- download a spreadsheet file
- import it into your spreadsheet program
- and alter it to fit your needs
Rearing queens was the last part of my bee business that I gave up. I no longer rear queens, but have included these pages to compliment queen rearing discussions at beesource.com.
When I find a need and get back into the intensive beekeeping mode, I graft a few dozen queen cells. But since converting to natural beekeeping, queens last longer. I once replaced them annually. I now replace them at the end of their third season.
Even though their egg patterns appear good then, they often fail during the following winter or early spring. This was the reason for my few overwintering losses.