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Ditching the Drones

Massacre of the drones, drone eviction, ditching the drones, whatever you call it, every fall the drones are kicked out of each honey bee hive. But why?

Drones are the male bees in the hive, and they are physically incapable of many of the colony’s necessary daily tasks like foraging for nectar and pollen, caring for larvae, and taking care of the queen. A drone’s main role is mating (with a queen outside of his hive, not his Mom – ew!) and eating. Once the daily temperatures reliably dip below 70F, the mating season is over and the colony then sees the drones as resource hogs. The solution? Kick them out. And they do! It’s shocking to see the worker bees drag the much larger drone bees out of the hive and refuse them re-entry. This eviction is one of the less warm & fuzzy parts of nature, for sure.

While the drone eviction is part of a colony's winter preparations, the bees will continue to forage on sunny days over 55F to ensure sufficient honey and pollen is stored for the long winter. Right now they’re busy visiting remaining flowering plants like goldenrod, asters, zinnias, sunflowers, and others. The worker bees are also beginning to cluster together on chilly nights to keep the queen warm – between 85-95F thankyouverymuch. As the weather cools, the queen is laying fewer eggs to hit the right winter population numbers – too few and it’s tough to keep the queen warm enough, too many and they will use up their food too quickly. So the queen gets to play Goldilocks as she estimates how many eggs she needs to lay to have the right population.

But enough talk of winter, we’re soaking up these last few weeks of nice weather and looking forward to the leaves changing, sweater weather, and cozy outdoor bonfires.

Cheers to the Goldilocks queens!

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