17 April 2014
THE SHORT ANSWER (TSA)
Drones are the relatively rare male honey bees found in the typical hive of female worker bees and a single female queen. The term drone originally meant “male honey bee” but, later, came to mean ‘lazy worker’ or a person who contributes nothing to an enterprise. This is because male bees make no honey and participate in none of the regular activates of the hive other than mating with a queen.
Drone bees have larger eyes than the workers or queen, and a larger body than the workers, though their eyes are not as large as the queen’s. Drones cannot sting. The drones fly regularly in the early afternoons and gather together in specific areas some distance from the hive. These areas, where the drones gather, are the source of a mystery.
About 30 to 100 feet above the ground, the drones’ gathering or “congregation” areas can be vary from 90 to 600 feet in width. All of the hive’s drones die long before the birth of a next generation of drones, but the young drones will seek out the same congregation areas. These areas can remain in the same place for as long as 12 years. It is believed that some characteristic of the area must explain the ability of each generation to find their way to the same place. Although often found above open ground in areas sheltered from the wind, some congregation areas are above water or dense tree growth.
If the hive is located in a place with cold winters, the drones will be forced out of the hive in autumn. A new generation of drones will be born and raised in the spring. Drones live about 90 days.