Not Brotherly Love

Dec 26, 2008

'Tis the season for brotherly love, but not in the bee hive.

As the honey-gathering season ends and the weather turns colder, the worker bees (infertile females) push their brothers--the drones--out of the hive. Drones are of no use to the colony in the winter. They're another mouth to feed. (The sole function of the drones are to mate with the queen.)

So how are the worker bees able to shove the much-larger drones from the hive?

"The sisters quit feeding their brothers so that they're lighter and easier to push," said UC Davis apiculturist Eric Mussen.

UC Davis bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey admits to having a soft spot for the drones.  “They’re cold and hungry, sitting there on the doorstep and wanting to go back in. They’re attacked and they die.  Well, it’s a matriarchal society.”

It is.

A matriarchal society in the season of brotherly love. 

By Kathy Keatley Garvey
Author - Communications specialist

Attached Images:

DEAD BEES--Drones are pushed out of the hive, cold and hungry, as the honey-gathering season ends and the weather turns colder. Some of these bees are drones (males) and some are worker bees (infertile females). This photo was taken Dec. 20, 2008. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Dead bees