Bee Math

Gestation Time

This chart is really a cheat sheet for me because past the three days it takes for an egg to hatch, I always forget the other numbers. Hopefully, this will help you, too.

Michael Bush's website has some good advice about how to use these numbers to diagnose what is happening in the hive.

How Long Does it Take a Queen to Start Laying?

It takes a queen 16 days of gestation time. Add 10 days (on average) to mate, but it could take as few as 3 days or as many as 15.* Then it could take up to another 3 days for her to start laying. If I did the math, I guess this would give a range of 19 - 34 days; however, somewhere around 26 - 28 days is what I've heard from most people.

*Side note: I've been reading Huber's observations lately, and he mentions that if a queen is not permitted to mate until 21 days after emerging, she becomes a drone layer. Thought that was interesting.

Calculating Hive Volume

For those of us who are math challenged (or who simply want to know the volume of their hives without doing too much work), I thought I'd post links to these online calculators.

This calculator will give you the volume of your trapezoidal hive in whatever measurement you use: (Thanks for the link, Don!) So if you plug in inches, your result will be in cubic inches. If you plug in centimeters, your output is in cubic centimeters.

Once you know what your cubic measurement is, put that number into the appropriate field on this screen:

Voila! Now you know exactly how many liters your hive holds!



  1. I just read Honey Bee Democracy, by Thomas Seeley, which talks about how they figured out that 40 L was the "preferred" size. So, that's true for bees who are free to swarm at will...One Langstroth deep has a vol of 45 L. But the bees will swarm pretty quickly if left to that size only. So it's not a great guide for beeKs who don't want lots of swarms.

    1. I love that book, and you're absolutely right about the hive volume. I wrote this page a long time ago, and I need to update it. When I first started beekeeping, everyone kept talking about 40L, but you're right, that's really a minimum size for a new colony that is suggested for Lang weeks (who have the flexibility to add supers). My TBH nucs are about 40L, and a colony will fill those up pretty quickly. For a full-sized TBH, 2-3 times that is much better.


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