A drone emerging from its cell
Drone
The drone and varroa

The varroa mite has a preference for laying her eggs in drone brood. Advantage can be taken of this fact by using the drone brood to trap the mite. For this end in the third week in March a special frame (shown left) is placed in position four in each brood box. The central part contains a push-fit mini frame with worker foundation while the outside areas are left empty. The bees build normal worker brood in the center but drone comb on the outsides. The central mini frame can be exchanged for a Jenter cage if required later in the season.

Giving the bees space to produce drone comb in this frame has 3 advantages:
1. it prevents drone brood being made on and so spoiling worker foundation, particularly when built underneath the brood frames.
2. in early spring the drone brood can easily be cut out and so removed and examined for the varroa mite. This process can be repeated during the season if varroa is thought to be a problem.
3. if the drones are carrying bad genes inherited from their mother, destroying the drone brood helps to stop the spread of these genes (see below)
The Drones
A plentiful supply of drones with a good genetic pedigree is required in each colony in the apiary to ensure that any new queen is mated successfully. The use of the frame shown below has been used very successfully to this end.
Drone genetics

The drone carries only one set of sex chromosomes from its mother. If, therefore, this queen has undesirable characteristics which are not to be passed on when new queens are mated in the apiary, then the drones which she produces can be trapped using the frame shown below and so destroyed. The colony can later be requeened. On the other hand if drones of the right strain are present, then it is essential to ensure that sufficient numbers of these are present so as to flood the apiary.
Drone characteristics

After emerging drones continue to be fed by the nurse bees. After 8 days the drones are able to feed themselves and fly from the hive; but are only able to fertilize the queen after they are 13 days old.
Drones are mainly seen flying only in fine weather in the afternoon; 30 minutes is about the average length of each flight. Drones have a high energy requirement and therefore return frequently to the apiary where they visit any hive to top up their joules.
Although a drone can fly many a mile, queen mating often takes place within the vicinity of the apiary. I feel sure that the drones know when a virgin is present in a colony; the hive being visited by a host of drones.
On mating, of course, the successful drone dies and the queen returns to her colony with the mating sign.
Next Page: Queen Mating
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