Drones the Forgotten Bees: See You Next Spring

by Ginger Davidson

It’s now fall. This is the time of the year when trees look like a Monet against our hillside. The temperatures are dropping and the days are getting shorter. Pumpkins, corn stalks, and decorative Indian corn adorn porches across the Midwest in preparation for bean and chili suppers, ghostly trick o’ treating youngsters, and Thanksgiving praises.

For the bees, it brings about many changes within the hive as they prepare themselves for the upcoming winter months. In the Midwest, the unique aroma of goldenrod pollen provides a welcome curiosity while supplying a protein food source for the upcoming dark winter months and hopefully into the new dawn of the upcoming spring. Food, food, food . . . an adequate supply of food has been a concern for the bees and also the beekeeper who want to see their ladies survive the winter. The size of the colony has shrunk as the queen slowed down production. Yet, another phenomenon has occurred.

The stout, big-eyed drones have been kicked out to meet their demise. Drones, like queens, lack the body parts to effectively harvest nectar or pollen and therefore cannot feed themselves. Drones also lack a stinger of any kind. They are designed only for mating. The drones, bumbling bags of sperm that they are, are no longer of use to the hive. With little food coming in and the desire to survive the winter, the natural instinct tells the workers that it is time for the drones to leave. Uselessness in a beehive is a crime punishable by death. Poor little dudes!

Let’s not discount these guys, as they do play a very significant role. They are used to carry the genetics of the bee forward. So do not fear, a new crop of drones will be emerging next spring. These clumsy, fuzzy drones with a unique buzz will once again be needed by the hive and the queen will start laying unfertilized eggs to prepare for the upcoming swarming period. See you next spring!

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