Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Late Summer Drone Eviction

I'd read on the newsgroups from other beekeepers that they'd noticed that their drones were already being evicted by the workers.

Every fall it's customary for the workers to force the drones from the hive. It's kind of sad really. The drone can't feed himself - he doesn't have a long enough proboscis to dip into a flower and steal some nectar. He has no stinger so he's completely defenseless but he's awfully cute to look at and he has a purpose and that's to mate with a queen.

Despite all his good looks and loud buzz that always identifies him as a drone, he'll be evicted. He's a hungry stomach in the hive that doesn't give back by helping out. The bees must live off their winter stores and the drones not only create extra work because they must be fed by the workers, they also eat from their precious stores. So out they go....

Whenever I see a drone wandering around on the ground, like the drone in the photo above, I always pick him up to say hello. We visit for a while and I admire his furry thorax and long sleek back legs. It's an opportunity for a photo op for the drone and a chance for me to observe him close up.

This other drone in the next photo I found on top of my Varroa Mite sticky board--how the hell are they getting in there??? I've got it closed off - the only thing that should get through that narrow screened bottom board is a mite!!! There must be a tear in the screening or something but the only way to find out is to take the whole hive apart--that I'll be doing when winterizing.

I stopped by yesterday just to say hello to the bees and to observe from the outside. I recharged the sticky mat with Crisco. I was glad to see no additional mites dropped so that's a good sign.

The drone was barely alive and I presumed he was probably really hungry. Nothing else about him looked harmed in any way. I set him on the boards in front of the hive. And guess what happened? Two workers immediately grabbed him and struggled mightily but they dragged him to the edge of the board and threw him over the side where he dropped to the ground.

I did notice there were no other drones around, coming and going from the hive at all. That drone was too far gone for help, really nothing could be done for him anyway.

Since he couldn't fly or move I took him home. Once I was sure he was dead I added him to my collection of bees in an alcohol jar. I keep them because when drawing and painting bees it really helps to be able to see the real thing so I see how the parts of the anatomy work together. I know it's kind of morbid, but it's a good way to learn.

I'll have to make enquiries about whether I should feed the bees--I've certainly been thinking about it. With new queens laying I want them to boost egg production. The only problem is I have my honey super on and I don't want sugar syrup stored there. It very well might be wise to opt out of honey for myself this year entirely and leave it to them.

I'll be doing an inspection Sat (today there's a severe storm warning) and hopefully after that I'll be better informed.
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