The Drone

Learn about the easy life of drones, who have to do little else but chase after queen bees. That sweet deal ends once he successfully mates.


Beekeepers often joke that male bees, or drones, are lazy because they don’t help out with any of the housework in the hive. They aim toward a singular goal in life: to mate with a queen. Per-haps it is unsurprising, then, that male honey bees are endowed with some of the largest genitalia, in proportion to body size, in the animal kingdom.

Depending on your climate, drones may be raised year-round, but they are most numerous in spring, during mating season. Drones reach sexual maturity about a week after emergence, and each afternoon in the spring they leave their hive in search of virgin queens from neighboring colonies. They fly to aerial sites called congregation zones, where they circle in wait for a passing queen.

It is not understood how or why they choose these mysterious mating locations, but a collection of drones from nearby colonies gathers at the same zones year after year. Should a queen appear, the drones will race toward her, competing against one another for the opportunity to mate.

The representation of drones as useless layabouts is neither an accurate nor a fair portrayal of their role in the hive.

When they are not attempting to mate with a queen, drones appear to do little else. They are often imagined to be lounging in the honey stores, begging their sisters for food. This unflattering picture has created a bias among beekeepers concerned about the economics of honey production in their apiaries. They believe the drones consume honey that might otherwise be harvested and give little in return.



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