Life Cycle of the Drone Bee

Drones are male honeybees. They develop from eggs that have not been fertilized, and they cannot sting, since the worker bee's stinger is a modified ovipositor.

Type Egg Larva Cell capped Pupa Developmental Period Start of Fertility Size Hatching Weight
Drone 3 days 6½ days 10 days 14½ days 24 days approx. 38 days 15–17 mm nearly 200 mg

Drones will die off or are ejected from the hive by the worker bees in late autumn, and do not reappear in the bee hive until late spring.

Drones are characterized by eyes that are twice the size of those of worker bees and queens and a body size greater than that of worker bees, though usually smaller than the queen bee.

The drones' main function is to be ready to fertilize a receptive queen. Drones in a hive do not usually mate with a virgin queen of the same hive because they drift from hive to hive. Mating generally takes place in or near drone congregation areas. It is poorly understood how these areas are selected, but they do exist. When a drone mates with his sister, the resultant queen will have a spotty brood pattern numerous empty cells on a brood frame. This is due to the removal of diploid drone larvae by nurse bees , a fertilized egg with two identical sex genes will develop into a drone instead of a worker. Mating occurs in flight, which accounts for the need of the drones for better vision, which is provided by their large eyes. Should a drone succeed in mating he soon dies because the genitalia and associated abdominal tissues are ripped from the drone's body after sexual intercourse. Honeybee queen breeders may breed drones to be used for artificial insemination or open mating. A queen mating yard must have many drones to be successful.In areas with severe winters, all drones are driven out of the hive in the autumn. A colony begins to rear drones in spring and drone population reaches its peak coinciding with the swarm season in late spring and early summer. The life expectancy of a drone is about 90 days.