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They might be big fat lazy things just swanning around the hive but they do have a really important job to do!

Read on ....

Because the boys are that much bigger than their sisters, the cells they are born in are also bigger.  So the worker bees have to construct special cells in the comb to accomodate these beefy guys!

The cells you can see that have domes on have baby boys inside!  The others have baby girls.

Pollen Basket 1.jpg

Boys are not equipped to go foraging like their sisters are - they don't have any baskets to collect pollen in and nowhere to store any nectar.  They don't have wax cells so they can't make wax; they don't have a sting so they can't defend the hive and they can't help to feed all of the little ones.  Most of them can't even feed themselves so they have to ask for food from their sisters!

When the queen lays an egg in a drone cell, it takes just 24 days for her baby boy to be born.

After a drone is born, it takes 11 days for him to become sexually mature.  He then has just one thing on his mind!

Drones have especially large eyes on the sides of their head to help them see a virgin queen from a long way off.  They also have especially sensitive antennae that help them to smell and detect a virgin queen from 100 yards away.

Bombus Eyes.jpg

On warm summer days, the sexually mature drones from many different colonies in the neighbourhood meet up in special places called

Drone Congregation Areas.

It is here they will wait for the arrival of brand new virgin queens -

and then the chase it on!


Drones congregating and waiting for a virgin queen


But life is not all fun and roses for the boys.  Their sisters do seem to enjoy having them around (even though they don't help in the hive) and they only have one very important job to do -
to mate with a virgin queen.

The bad news is - if they are successful, they die after mating.  If they are not successful, their sisters ruthlessly evict them from the hive in late summer.


Left on their own ... they slowly starve to death.


Sister chewing brothers wings and evicting him from the hive

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