Why Drones Are Important (Really Important!)

How many of you have disparaged the mighty drone?
"Glutton, pig, worthless, honey sucker..."
Oh! The poor drone!

While the drone gets bad press he is a very important player in the life of the hive.
First let's take a look at why he gets such bad press.

1. He doesn't gather nectar but he eats the honey. (Remind you of anyone?)

2. Sometimes he doesn't even feed himself but begs a feed from a worker.

3. He is a bit on the rolly poly side not to mention loud.

4. Isn't it the drone larvae that is so attractive to the varroa mite?

Well.... yes.
But the flip side of these grievances are such that we will prove to you not only his worth but his majesty.

1. A drone is a genetic duplicate of his mother, the queen.
He is hapliod, carrying only half the chromosomes of the females in the hive.
That queen that is filling the hive with honey and brood is copied in that fat drone. When he flies out he carries with him the genetic ability to produce a similar queen. Maybe the one in that hive that you just realized swarmed and now has a virgin in it. 

2. He has been flying all day looking for a queen to mate, he needs to be fed! 
Drones can make several trips to a DCA (drone congragation area) in an afternoon, returning to the hive to refuel when necessary. Each mating flight lasts about 30 mins. 
He may fly as far as 5 miles!!

3. The number of drones in a DCA can vary enormously, from hundreds to thousands.
This is beautiful diversity. Can it be affected by drone holding colonies? Yes.

4. A drone has eyes only for the queen. His eyes are coded just for queenspotting 10 - 40 meters high. He initially smells her sex pheromones then he uses his vision.  Compared with worker bees, drones have larger antennae and about seven times as many placoid sensilla (≈18,000 compared with ≈2,700). And all that just to die in the mating flight.
How's that for give it his all?

5. When the season ends nature is not timid nor sentimental, the mighty drone is kicked out and left to starve.

I think it is an amazing part of the hive, our drones.
No stinger, loud and so very useful . 
Next time you are around a drone give him his due, he is the queen's clone after all.

Drone Facts:

  • They have no father
  • They have a grandfather
  • They can be fathers to daughters, granddaughters and grandsons
  • They can’t have sons