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Posts Tagged: drones

Watching the Girls Go By

Worker bee heading home. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Pull up a chair and engage in a little "girl-watching."

That is, honey bees heading home to their colony.

Many beekeepers, especially beginning beekeepers, like to watch their worker bees--they call them "my girls"--come home. They're loaded with pollen this time of year. Depending on the floral source, it may be yellow, red, white, blue, red or colors in between.

Below, the girls are heading home to a bee observation hive located inside the conference room of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, University of California, Davis. 

They're bringing in food for the colony: pollen and nectar. They also collect water and propolis (plant resin). This is a matriarchal society where females do all the work in the hive. The worker bees--aptly named--serve as nurse maids, nannies, royal attendants, builders, architects, foragers, dancers, honey tenders, pollen packers, propolis or "glue specialists," air conditioning and/or heating technicians, guards and undertakers.

The glassed-in bee observation hive is indeed a popular and educational attraction to watch the queen lay eggs (she'll lay about 2000 eggs a day during peak season), the comb construction, honey production, pollen storage and all the other activities. The sisters feed the colony, including the queen and their brothers (drones). A drone's responsibility is solely reproduction, and that takes place in mid-air when a virgin queen takes her maiden flight. After mating, he dies. Done. That's it.

Meanwhile, life continues inside the hive. 

Honey bees making a
Honey bees making a "bee line" for their home. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Honey bees making a "bee line" for their home. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Note the load of yellow pollen. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Note the load of yellow pollen. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Note the load of yellow pollen. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Queen bee and her retinue. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Queen bee and her retinue. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Queen bee and her retinue. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Friday, March 28, 2014 at 11:47 PM

White-Eyed Drone

Beekeepers sometimes see a white-eyed drone in their hives--a genetic mutation.

All drones (male) honey bees, have these spectacular wrap-around eyes that are perfect for finding a virgin queen on her maiden flight. After all, the drone's sole purpose is to mate with a queen and then die.  So, every afternoon in spring and summer,  weather permitting, the drones fly from their individual colonies and gather in a drone congregation area and wait for a virgin queen to fly by. The queen will mate with 12 to 25 or so drones in in mid-air, some 20 to 50 feet above the ground. The drones immediately die after mating ("they die with a smile on their face" as beekeepers say). The queen bee? She returns to her hive to lay eggs for the rest of her life.  She'll lay as many as 2000 eggs a day in peak season.

Life will be different for this white-eyed drone (below), a Caucasian (dark bee) at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at the University of California, Davis.  Note that this is the same race that the European colonists brought to America beginning in the 1622. If the color looks unfamiliar, that's because today the most common bee in the United States is the Italian or honey-colored bee, not the Caucasian.

But, back to the white-eyed drone. Like other drones, he will be fed by his sisters, the worker bees. No reproduction for him, though. No gathering in the drone congregation area. No waiting for a queen.

All white-eyed drones are blind.

This is a white-eyed Caucasian (dark) honey bee drone. White-eyed drones are blind. In the foreground is honey. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
This is a white-eyed Caucasian (dark) honey bee drone. White-eyed drones are blind. In the foreground is honey. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

This is a white-eyed Caucasian (dark) honey bee drone. White-eyed drones are blind. In the foreground is honey. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

This is a normal drone (male) honey bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
This is a normal drone (male) honey bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

This is a normal drone (male) honey bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Wednesday, April 25, 2012 at 8:32 PM

A Taste of Honey

If you're looking for something to do tomorrow (Saturday, April 16), it's UC Davis Picnic Day, a campuswide annual event.

Over at Briggs Hall, Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology Department faculty will be offering a taste of honey to visitors. Actually, more than one taste of honey. First, there's the honey derived from orange blossoms, clover, cotton, starthistle and other plants that you can sample. And then there's the taste of honey via samples of Gimbal's Fine Candies, San Francisco. The company donates funds to UC Davis for honey bee research.

Honey tasting time: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The place: Briggs Hall courtyard. Cost: Free!

News flash: Mussen will be wearing his "Show Me the Honey" t-shirt.

Human beings aren't the only ones who love honey. Drones (male bees) do, too. 

Today bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey was conducting a class at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road when a few drones escaped.

Several wound up by a window, and someone (yours truly) offered them a taste of honey. You think drones are fed only by their sisters, the worker bees? No. They can sip honey, too.

Drone sipping honey at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Drone sipping honey at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Drone sipping honey at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Friday, April 15, 2011 at 8:57 PM

All Hail the Drones!

Drones--male bees--are a favorite of youthful visitors at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, University of California, Davis.

Drones have no stingers, so they can't sting. In fact, their sole purpose in life is to mate with the virgin queen bee on her maiden flight. After mating, the drones die. If they don't mate, they won't survive the winter.  Their sisters, the worker bees, kick them out of the hive in the fall to conserve the precious food resources.

But it was "all hail the drones" during a recent field trip by half-a-dozen second graders from the Grace Valley Christian Academy, Davis.

Before the tour, Elizabeth Frost, staff research associate and beekeeper at the facility, opened the hives and collected a handful of drones.

When the second graders arrived, Frost invited them to "touch and hold the drones." The drones felt warm and fuzzy.

And that's exactly how the young visitors felt about the tour.

To show their appreciation, the second graders crafted a clever "thank you" card for her. The outside of the card depicted the outside of a bee hive. The inside: colorful bees!

"Thank you, Elizabeth," the inscription read. "The students talked about the drones and beekeeper outfits for days. Your hard work was appreciated."

That's one lesson that won't be forgotten. thanks to an enterprising UC Davis beekeeper and a handful of drones.

Emerging Drone
Emerging Drone

A DRONE, a male bee, emerges from a drone comb. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Thank you
Thank you

ELIZABETH FROST, staff research associate and beekeeper at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis, displays the clever thank-you card made by second graders at the Grace Valley Christian Academy, Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Colorful Bees
Colorful Bees

COLORFUL BEES, created by second graders at the Grace Valley Christian Academy, Davis, decorate the inside of the thank-you card, given to Elizabeth Frost (shown), staff research associate at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Monday, July 26, 2010 at 6:18 PM

What's Wrong With This Photo?

Take a close look.

What's wrong with the first photo posted below this blog?

If you're a beekeeper or someone who's been around bees, you'll know immediately.

If not, you may look at the photo and say "Hmm, a honey bee. Yep, it's a honey bee, all right. It's on a what...nectarine blossom?"

Yes, it's a honey bee.  Yes, it's on a nectarine blossom. But if you look at the huge eyes and the stout body, you'll know it doesn't belong on the blossom. It's a drone (male) and drones don't forage.

They have one responsibility and that's to mate with the queen. A virgin queen, on her maiden flight, leaves the hive and mates in the air with 12 to 25 males waiting for her in the drone congregation area.

After mating, the drones immediately fall to the ground and die. "They die happy," says Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty.

Meanwhile, the queen bee returns to her hive and spends the rest of her life laying eggs. She's a veritable egg-laying machine. During the peak season, she'll lay about 2000 eggs a day. She will not mate again. She has enough stored sperm to last the rest of her life, which is usually one to two years.

UC Davis bee scientists got a kick out of the drone on the nectarine blossom.  (If you watched the Jerry Seinfeld movie, "The Bee Movie," you probably heard Seinfeld erroneously referring to his fellow male bees as "pollen jocks." He also said males have stingers--they don't.)

Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, said the photo would make "A great quiz material for beekeeping and pollination courses."

However, the best comment about the photo came from UC Davis bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, manager of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis:

"Silly drone--he  has one function and that is not it!"

No, indeed!


Bliss?
Bliss?

WHAT'S WRONG with this photo? For the answer, read the text above. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Worker Bee
Worker Bee

WORKER BEE collecting nectar from a nectarine blossom. All worker bees are females. They forage for pollen, nectar, propolis and water. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Friday, March 12, 2010 at 5:36 PM

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