Beekeeping is just plain fascinating to me. Everything I’ve learned about bees is far more complex than I imagined and I think the role of the drone is far more complex too.
All I ever hear about drones is they are fat, lazy, don’t do any work and are only good for one thing – mating. I feel and have always felt this can’t be accurate. I truly believe Nature doesn’t create anything to be lazy and have only one purpose (including people, especially teens, but that’s another blog altogether!), so I think there has to be more to the Drone’s Story.
It is a fact that drones mate with virgin queens and therefore are essential to the survival of the species, but I never believed this was their sole purpose.
From the beginning, I very carefully observed my bees and one very profound thing I noticed was that honeybees don’t swarm without drones. This got me to thinking about the drones expanded role in the colony and beyond.
For years I pondered this – what do they really do and what is their true purpose
Drones sing a unique song, a kind of chanting, like calling out a cadence. I believe they sing the song that regulates the activity of the hive. They also hold the wisdom of the species. Drones don’t have a very long lifespan so they have to turn this knowledge over to the next generation. They can only hold their small portion of this information and only add so much, like a computer hard drive that’s almost always just about full, so they need to have another generation come along that has another little space to carry on and so forth.
They sing the song of the hive and that song tells the bees what’s going on. Not only does their song tell the stories but it coordinates effort across tens of thousands of community members. How does the colony know what to do and when to do it? When to start, when to stop, and when to do something radical like swarm? Somebody has to know. How is this information transmitted? I believe it’s done auditorily by the drones and biochemically by the queen as she runs around the hive before they swarm.
In every species someone has to be the holder of the wisdom. Take the Monarch Butterfly for example. They migrate thousands of miles every year. How do they know the route? Someone has to hold that information and in the case of the honeybee, I believe it has to be the drone. The workers are too busy, and so is the queen. Drones sit like little Buddhas in the hive most of the day. This is not from laziness but because they hold this sacred information it is hard to do much else.
I understand this may be a radical idea for some. It’s not an idea I’m interested in debating. I’m sure there will be many who discount this post. I hope you decide to at least take a moment to ponder the possibility. After all, there is so much we don’t know about most things – especially honeybees. I believe it’s time to open our eyes, hearts and minds beyond just scientific data. Look where that’s gotten us so far!
I doubt the mysterious life of bees will ever be fully understood, but it’s fun to think about!