Last modified on 21 July 2013, at 22:39

Beekeeping/Drone Bee

The drone honeybee is the only male resident within a colony of bees. At the beginning of a spring season their population is often below one hundred, with a healthy hive often not having a population greater than a thousand. A good approximation dictates that about 15% of the hive's population is made up of drones. The drone is often described as simply being a fat, lazy bee that is unable to care for himself.

AppearanceEdit

Those unfamiliar with distinguishing the sexes of bees many often mistake a drone bee as being a queen bee, as he is noticeably different than his sister worker bees. In actuality, the drone bee can be easily distinguished from a queen bee by identifying his large round eyes located close together at the top of his head. The drone’s body shape is also more cylindrical than that of the thinner tapering queen’s body. Though not obviously apparent from casual observation, drone bees also do not have pollen baskets, stingers or wax glands.

BehaviorEdit

Beg, Borrow and StealEdit

The drone has a reputation for being fat and lazy, this likely comes across due to his manner within the hive. The drone will not help out in brood rearing, comb building, honey curing or storage. Rather the drone does little more than eat. In fact when possible, the drone will beg nurse bees to feed them, when unsuccessful a drone will eventually help himself to stored nourishment. The drone is likely only tolerated within the colony as he is needed to spread the hive’s genetics.

Leaving the HiveEdit

In about six days after emerging as a bee, the drone will begin to leave the colony. This however depends on the weather and time of year. As they mature, they will begin to congregate in areas where other drones exist, in hopes of mating with a viable queen.

Kicked OutEdit

As the outside weather cools, and mating season comes to an end, most drones that managed to survive unmated will be kicked out of the hive. Drones are a tremendous drain on resources, and are not required for the overwintering process. It is also not uncommon for both adult and brood drone to be kicked out of the hive during a dearth in food collection.

From Egg to BeeEdit

EggsEdit

Drones are the result of unfertilized egg and the process of parthenogenesis. Normally, a queen bee will purposely deposit an unfertilized egg into a slightly larger drone cell. A special case also exists where a laying worker bee may deposit eggs into any brood cell.

Larval DietEdit

After hatching into a larval form, drones begin to eat a mixture of worker jelly, pollen and honey. This food has been called drone jelly, though all beekeepers and researchers have not adopted this term.

Drone CellEdit

Most commonly, drone eggs are deposited in what is known as a drone cell. These cells are similar to worker cells, but are wider. After about six days, the drone larva, within the drone cell is capped. These drone cells can easily be distinguished from worker cells once they their capping is domed shaped and protrude beyond other brood cells.

DutiesEdit

MatingEdit

The drone has only one purpose, after completion of which, he will quickly die. The drone honeybee exists to mate. Once mature, the drone leaves his colony to join other drones within designated mating grounds called drone congregation areas. If the drone is successful, mating will occur somewhere around two hundred feet in the air. Because of the fact that his mating apparatus is barbed, much like the stinger of a worker, it will be ripped from his body after mating, and he will fall towards the earth with the only possible outcome of death.

WarmthEdit

It is debated by some, that drone bees may also provide insulation to a hive, making it easier to maintain warmth. If anything this function is incidental, and can likely be more efficiently achieved by worker bees.

Life CycleEdit

Day 0
An unfertilized egg is laid by either the queen bee or a laying worker.
Day 3 
The unfertilized egg hatches.
Day 11 
The drone cell is capped.
Day 15 
Metamorphosis in to a pupa is complete
Day 24 
Adult drone emerges.
Day 30 
The drone begins to leave the colony
Day 85-06 
The drone dies, if survived unmated

Quick FactsEdit

  • Many beginning beekeepers practice on drones when learning how to successfully mark the queen, as they do not have stingers, and are not vital to the colony if accidentally injured or even killed.

See AlsoEdit

Drone Anatomy