Eviction of the Drones

by Jayadevi dasi

I recently visited the beehive I tend by the apartments to check on the status of the bees.  They were still very actively bringing pollen in and doing their waggle and circular communication to direct their co-workers where the flowers were.  However, there was another activity occurring which I had never observed before.

Every autumn, around the time of hard frosts, the female workers push the male drones out of the hive.  This type of contact was much more aggressive than the customary crawling over and touching antennae in communication;  the smaller female workers were literally dragging the drones over the edge of the hive and biting their wings as they attempted to come back in.

Here are some facts taken from “The Latest Buzz from the beehive” by Ross Conrad, featured in 2012 Old Farmer’s Almanac.

–  Honey is the only food that will never spoil when stored in an airtight container in its natural state (as found in the hive.)

–  A worker honeybee strikes, or stings, only in defense of itself or the hive-that is, when it feels threatened.  Its stinger is barbed like an arrow, not smooth like the stingers of many other insects.  When a honeybee stinger hits a soft, fleshy target, it remains embedded.  The bee dies shortly thereafter.  The queen, however, can use her stinger several times. (Drones, or male bees, have no stinger.)pp.72-73

The beehive is a complex society based on extreme efficiency.  The queen is guarded and fed royal jelly to keep her at optimum health for her only function of laying eggs.  Around the beginning of May, it’s time for the queen to be fertilized after the winter dormancy.

The newly hatched drones have one main purpose-to impregnate the queen for the new season.  The workers prepare the queen for her flight by nudging her to rid herself of her winter weight gain; sometimes they will even bite her if she is too lethargic!  The mating takes place mid-flight, and she can’t be too heavy to fly.

There is a much lower ratio of drones to female workers in the hive, as they do not forage for nectar and pollen or tend the queen.  It was once thought that mating with the queen was their only purpose, but they have been observed tending the young brood as they mature.

Drones are handsome little insects with larger bodies than their sisters, and, as mentioned before, no stinger.  They are identifiable by their large eyes, to see the queen during their mid-flight rendezvous.

When I watched the workers push the drones out by wrestling them and biting their wings, I remembered another story about the efficiency of the hive.

Sometimes, rogue workers will develop a taste for fermented nectar and attempt to bring it back to the hive.  In order to prevent contamination of the precious honey and pollen, special guard bees will chew off the offenders’ wings so they can’t leave the hive again.  It’s their method of bee-alcoholic reform.

Savage as it sounds, honeybees are diligent little workers who become familiar with their beekeeper’s pheromones and will make eye contact with them, (I even pet my bees who will crawl on my hand.)

Beekeeping as a hobby is fascinating to me, and if I become engaged in conversation about them, I find myself going on and on beyond the interest of my audience and force myself to stop from expounding the glories of the honeybee, as I will now.

Blessed bee

(see below for a little bio on the author)


About the Author, Jayadevi dasi

Jayadevi dasi  has done a variety of services before coming to NV, such as  helping to run a preaching center in Kent, Ohio in 1987, teaching a cooking class at Oberlin College, and helping with the Food for Life in Cleveland.

In 1980, Jayadevi moved to N.V., where she  raised her three sons. Her first son was actually  born one year before she moved to NV, but her other two sons were born in N.V.

Jayadevi was able to bring her professional skills of a degree in elementary education to her devotional life when she taught kindergarten in N.V. from 1984 to 1986.  She has also enjoyed attending the births of several devotee children.

Jayadevi’s current favorite service is looking after Tulasi devi, which she began in 2011.

Her hobbies include playing piano, and, of course, bee keeping.

When I asked Jayadevi, “Tell me one thing you’ve learned in your life that you’d like to share,” Jayadevi replied: “Don’t take anything personally.”

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