What’s happening in the hive? There aren’t any drones

Are all the bees in the indoor beehive worker bees?

The answer right now is 99.99999 percent of them are.

All of the bees in our indoor beehive are female worker bees, except for the queen bee. There is one queen bee in each beehive, but the other 50,000-60,000 bees in the hive are all workers.

That is not always the case. Hives usually have drones as well, which are male honeybees. Drones don’t do any work throughout their lives. Their sole purpose is to mate with the queen. In fact, they are such a drain on resources and provide so little that the worker bees actually kick out any drones in a hive each fall so that they don’t eat through all their honey stores throughout the winter.

A queen bee only mates once in her life. Within weeks of emerging as an adult honeybee, she will leave the hive and find male drones from another hive and mate with 10-15, usually about 20 feet above the ground. She stores all of the sperm cells in her oviducts to immediately fertilize eggs when she returns back to the hive. The rest of the 5-6 million sperm she stores in what is called a spermathecal, which keeps the sperm in good condition for up to four years. The average queen lifespan is three-five years, so the sperm will last the rest of her egg-laying life.

The queen is completely in charge of all of the egg-laying for a hive, and she can lay up to 2,000 eggs per day if that many bees are needed. She also can choose if what she lays will be a worker bee or a drone. If an egg is fertilized, it will become a worker bee. If an egg is not fertilized, it will become a drone. A fertilized egg can also become a queen, but that rarely happens. A fertilized egg only turns into a queen if workers feed an egg cell royal jelly to help it develop into a new queen. They will feed an egg royal jelly if the queen has died and needs replaced or if a hive is growing too rapidly and needs to split and swarm — when a new queen takes half of the worker bees to establish a new hive elsewhere.

Read more about what’s happening in the hive with other articles in the series:
“Drying Down Honey”
“Festooning Bees”
“Varroa Mites”

2 Comments

  1. Steve Lende on August 17, 2018 at 7:53 pm

    Last paragraph should be reworded. A mated queen will lay drones.

    All Queen bees will lay unfertilized eggs to create drones that go out and mate with other new queens. This passes on her genetics in other colonies. Some queens will lay more drones than others. It could be your queen has stopped laying drones because mating season is over.

    After mating season is over in late fall the worker bees will kick out drones so they do not eat the honey and pollen stored for winter survival.

    • kiley on August 20, 2018 at 12:51 pm

      Thanks!

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