3.1. Preconditions and general recommendations

A breeding programme entails selection of the best individuals for specific traits, and elimination of the worst. To do this, individuals must be assessed in a way that allow genetic effects to be distinguished from environmental influences, and according to a uniform method that allows for comparisons across time and space. The basis of performance testing is that colonies in the test station (apiary) should be placed in similar starting conditions and managed according to a standard protocol. The final result obtained from performance testing is a selection index or breeding value for the chosen traits, which is used to select colonies to reproduce (to use as stock for queen and drone production).

The colonies are started from package bees or uniform nucs (see the BEEBOOK paper on estimating colony strength parameters (Delaplane et al., 2013)), into which the queens to be tested are placed. The colonies are normally set up at the beginning of the summer, or so that there is sufficient time for the colony to build up before the winter. The size of the starting package of bees or nuc and the establishment of the test colonies depends on the climatic conditions of the testing station. Methods of equalization (food, space, diseases) of the test colonies are allowed until the last autumn observation, when the first assessment data are taken. This represents the starting point of the test (overwintering).

3.1.5. General recommendations