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The Drones

§ 11. These are non-producers, and live on the toil and industry of others. They are the males, and have no sting – neither have they any means of gathering honey or secreting wax, or doing any work that is even necessary to their own support or the common good of the colony.


§ 12. The drones are shorter, thicker and more bulky than the queen, and their wings reach the entire length of their body. They are much larger and clumsier than the workers, and like the queen and workers are covered with short but fine hair. Their buzzing when on the wing is much louder and differs from that of the others. Their only use is to serve the queen when on her “bridal trip.”


Not more than one in a thousand is ever privileged to perform that duty, but as the queen’s life is very valuable, and the dangers surrounding her flight are numerous, it is necessary to have a sufficient number of them, in order that her absence from the hive may not be protracted.


That is why hundreds and often thousands of drones are reared in each colony during the breeding and swarming season. In domestication, when dozens of and sometimes hundreds of colonies are kept in an apiary, the choice colonies alone should be permitted to rear drones in large numbers for reproduction.


§ 13. It is said that some queens need to mate twice before fertilization is fully accomplished. But the average queen mates but once and the drone, in the act of copulation, loses his life, dying instantly.


§ 14. After the swarming season is over, or should the honey season prove unfavorable and the crop short, they are mercilessly destroyed by the workers.


Should a colony lose its queen, the drones will be retained later; instinct teaching them that, without the drone, the young queen would remain unfertile, and colony soon become extinct.


§ 15. When comparing the head of the drone (Fig. 8.), with those of the queen and the worker (Figs. 2 and 10), one readily notices the compound eyes, those crescent-shaped projections on each side of the head. They are much larger in the drone than in either the others, and this is ascribed by scientists to the necessity of finding the queen in the air, on the wing. The facets composing these eyes number some 25,000 in the head of the drone, so that they can see in all directions. The three small points in a triangle at the top of the head are small eyes or ocelli, which are probably used to see in the dark, within the hive, and at short range.


§ 16. It has been common among beekeepers to believe that the drones serve another purpose in the hive, aside from their use as males. It is said that they keep the brood warm. As a matter of course, they keep themselves upon the brood combs, when permitted, as much to enjoy the natural warmth of the living grubs as to keep them warm. But the fallacy of the belief in their being required to keep up the warmth is clearly seen when the bees drive them out and destroy them at the least reverse in the temperature. The greatest number of drones are reared in the warmest part of the season and their uselessness for other purposes than the fertilization of the queens is very positively proven.