Getting Ready For Winter

What I’ve learned From Bees

The weather is getting cooler now and the leaves have started to turn beautiful colors and drop.  There are not many flowers left blooming either.  This is the time that birds get to enjoy fruits and seed heads.  Bees, on the other hand, are busy gathering the last pollen and nectar as fast as they can find it.  The food they are storing now will have to last through winter.  In the last couple of weeks the temperature didn’t climb above 50°F until afternoon.  That’s half a day of food gathering gone for bees.  The weather hasn’t been on their side this year.

This is the time honey bees make the necessary preparations for winter to ensure the survival of their hive.   Aside from packing pollen and nectar in, they also kick out the drones – the male bees.   I’d never kept my eyes on this activity until I read Fate of a drone by Emily Heath which showed a drone chased out of the hive.  I found it interesting that a queen lays less eggs in fall to keep the hive population down over winter and they kick out the remaining drones as well.

I don’t blame them at all since the sole reason for the drone’s existence is to mate with the queen, if he gets the chance.  That is a big ‘if’ as well since a queen mates only once in her life time, albeit with many drones.  Drones don’t forage, don’t clean the cells, don’t defend their hive.  They pretty much just hang out, being fed while waiting to mate.  The worker bees which are all female, do all the work.  However, once the food starts getting scarce, the worker bees will stop feeding the drones and eventually kick them out.  It’s fewer mouths to feed and fewer dead bodies they have to drag out.  The drone may live a fabulous, pampered life when everything is well but when push come to shove, they get shoved out.

Though it is not a choice of a drone to live as it does, its life reminds me of what my mother told me many times growing up; “Don’t borrow other people’s noses to breath.”  The bees just reinforced her maxim.

Busy taking pollen in
Busy taking pollen in
One worker bee helped by blocking his way while the other one was dragging him back out.
One worker bee helped by blocking his way while the other one was dragging him back out.
Though he was bigger, in the end she successfully kick him out.
Though he was bigger, in the end she successfully kick him out.
This drone gave up and was left just hanging out on the side
This drone gave up and was left just hanging out on the side
This one was dumped on the ground in front of the hive
This one was dumped on the ground in front of the hive

5 thoughts on “Getting Ready For Winter

Add yours

  1. I like reading about your bees. Last year there were many, many hanging around my garden and in the early morning I would find bees on flowers appearing to be sleeping. I assumed these were the drones that had been kicked out.

    1. Not likely drones. After fulfilling their mating flight, the only thing they seem to live for, they hang out in the hive being fed by their sisters until autumn when their uselessness becomes a vector for the females to eject them from the hive. When that happens, they seldom travel further than the ground outside the hive itself. In contrast, bumblebees will nap on flowers at night and anytime it gets cold enough for them to become lethargic.

      1. Thanks for explaining this. I just took some pictures yesterday of sleepers on flowers and they were probably bumblebees. Have a good day! Susie

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