Everything You Need To Know About Drone Bees

image of a male drone bee without stinger

Drones refer to the male bees in a colony. These hive members cannot sting, lay eggs, collect pollen, or create honey. That may make them seem pointless, but they actually play a crucial role in the colony’s growth and future. A stinger is one feature that worker bees have that drones have not. Drones don’t sting, so you don’t have to be afraid of them if a honey bee infestation has formed on your property.

The appearance of drone bees varies depending on the species. They resemble the other bees in the colony, the workers, in appearance. However, there are a few minor distinctions.

Drone bees can be identified in two ways: by their eyes and by their size. The eyes of a drone are significantly larger than those of a female worker bee. They’re bigger because they need good vision to detect queens who are ready to mate.

The drones will be noticeably larger than the workers in some species. Drones will appear stouter than females in species such as honeybees. Despite their massive size, they can still mate with a queen by flying beside her.

How Do Drone Bees Contribute To The Colony’s Success?

Drones are male bees whose sole duty is to mate with the queen; they do not work, produce any honey, and are unable to sting. Because a queen only has to mate once, most drones will never get the chance to play their part. On the other hand, worker bees keep them around in case a new queen needs to be mated.

Drones live for around eight weeks and have all of their requirements covered by worker bees during that time. The worker bees throw the drones out of the hive in the fall because it takes too much work and food to keep them alive through the winter.

Honey Bee Reproduction: Drone And Queens

Image of male honey bee leaving hive cellA virgin queen mates with numerous male honey bees (drones) during flight. This happens when the queen bee flies away from hive to meet thousands of drones that are waiting to mate. A male drone will mount the queen and inject his endophallus (inner wall of the aedeagus of an insect), resulting in the ejection of sperm. A male honey bee moves away from the queen after ejaculation, despite his endophallus being ripped from his body and remains linked to the newly fertilized queen.

After ejaculation, the next male honey bee who mates with the queen will remove the previous endophallus and eventually lose its own. Male honey bees may only marry seven to ten times during a mating flight, and a drone dies rapidly after mating when his endophallus is removed as his abdomen rips open. Even drones that make it through the mating flight are removed from their nests, as mating is their entire purpose. 1Go To Source honeybee.org.au -“The Type Of Bees”

Drone Congregation Areas

A drone congregation area (DCA) is a specialized location where male honey bees congregate and await the arrival of young queens. They differ from typical mating places in that they are suspended in the air, high above the ground. Honey bees only mate in these locations, never on the ground or in the hive.

Drone congregation sites bring drones and queens from all around the world together, preventing inbreeding. A single DCA can have drones from up to 240 separate colonies. A DCA might have anything from a few hundred to 30,000 drones. The large number ensures that sufficient gene mixing occurs.

Male Honey Bee Life Span

Drone honey bee laying downMale honey bees that are successful in their mating attempts live a much shorter life than those who cannot find a queen to reproduce with. Getting lucky, it appears, has its drawbacks, at least in the world of honey bees. As a result, a long life does not reflect strength or vitality; it simply indicates that the bee was inept at catching a woman.

Depending on the ecosystem the hive is in, drone bees can live anywhere from a few weeks to several months. In an environment that experiences harsh winter, drones are kicked out of the hive to conserve resources for more essential colony members.

Drone Honey Bee Eviction

It is called drone eviction when a colony stops feeding its drones due to a lack of incoming pollen supply. Drones become weakened over time and are forcibly removed from the hive.

The amount of fresh pollen gathered is the most critical component. Drones are evicted if pollen supplies to the colony decrease; if pollen supplies are extended beyond the normal seasonal span, drone eviction is minimized. 2Go To Source uky.edu -“Drone honey bees – rearing and maintenance”

How Many Drones Live In One Bee Colony?

Each hive comprises a single female queen, tens of thousands of female workers, and ranging from a few hundred to several thousand male drones during the spring and summer months. On average, drone bees account for about 15% of the colony’s population. The drone count drops to zero in the winter as other hive members evict the males from the hive (males die-off).

 

 

Sources:

  1. Rhodes, J. “Drone Honey Bees – Rearing and Maintenance.” Uky.Edu, NSW Agriculture, Mar. 2002, powell.ca.uky.edu/files/drone-bee-rearing-and-maintenance_002_0.pdf. Accessed 3 Aug. 2021.
  2. “The Type of Bees — Australian Honey Bee Industry Council.” Honeybee.Org.Au, honeybee.org.au/education/wonderful-world-of-honey/the-type-of-bees. Accessed 3 Aug. 2021.
  3. Reuber, Brant (February 2015). 21st Century Homestead: Beekeeping. LuLu.com. p. 80. ISBN 9781312937338. Accessed 3 Aug. 2021.
  4. http://www1.biologie.uni-hamburg.de/b-online/ibc99/koning/bees.html. Accessed 3 Aug. 2021.
  5. Oldroyd, Benjamin P. (2006). Asian Honey Bees: Biology, Conservation, Accessed 3 Aug. 2021.
  6. “Honeybee | National Geographic”. Animals. 2011-06-10. Accessed 3 Aug. 2021.