The drone bee. How do I best explain the brief life of the honey bee male?
I suppose it depends on your perspective on life. I've heard it said they don't do much (but I disagree), because (say some):
On the other hand.....
Yet the honey bee colony needs them, so let's simply say: enough flippancy! it's just nature - which of course, is what it is - it's the natural way of things for honey bees.
Drones are fertile male honey bees, and they are vital for the survivial of honey bee colonies. Their primary role is to mate with a receptive Queen honey bee, in order to ensure future generations of honey bees, and indeed, expansion and creation of colonies.
Drones are larger than workers, but smaller than queen honey bees.
Their eyes are relatively large, and they develop from unfertilized
eggs. (The process of fertilization being controlled by the queen honey
The cells they develop from are slightly larger than worker cells, although drone eggs may be laid in worker cells that have become enlarged by stretching.
It takes 24 days for the drone to develop from being an egg to a fully grown adult bee.
Being from an unfertilised egg, he has only half the chromosomes of a worker bee, however, the queen came from a fertilized egg.
Put another way, the queen who layed the drone eggs, is the offspring of
an egg fertilized by a drone (male). Drones themselves, however, are
the offspring of eggs that have not been fertilized by a male!
This scenario is referred to by biologists as ‘parthenogenesis’.
Each honey bee colony will produce several hundred drones. Their main contribution to the colony is the act of mating.
However, what actually happens, is the queen attracts drones to her, by excreting a special chemical pheromone, called the Queen Mandibular Pheromone
(QMP). In fact studies have been undertaken using dummy drone honey
bees with the queen's pheromone, and such experiments have proven that
the the queen attracts drones in this way.
During the course of around 3 nuptial flights the queen honey bee
may mate with around 20 drones. Obviously some of the drones will be
As explained before, the drone will die upon mating. This happens because the drone’s reproductive organs are torn away from its body, whilst the queen flies off, with the drones genitalia attached to her.
Mating tactics of drone bees reminds me of blokes congregating at a club, waiting for the women to arrive!
In a similar fashion, drones congregate around ‘hot
spots’ waiting for the appearance of new queens!
Drones may live for just a few short weeks, but it is also possible they may live 3 to 4 months.
They are expelled from their colonies by the end of summer, but in any case, by the end of autumn, there will be few or no drone bees around.
Unlike queens and workers, the drone cannot sting. And although
the do not forage for food, it is believed by some that they may help to incubate the brood.
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