In the Hive

Facts About Bees:

  1. There are three types of bees: the queen, worker bees and drones. The drones are the only males in the colony. Everyone else is female.
  2. The buzz they make is from the sound of their wings beating 200x per second.
  3. They communicate through dancing and smell (ie. pheromones).
  4. Each colony has its own unique scent.
  5. Each species of bee dances differently to communicate. Each group is unique.
  6. Most dances communicate directions.
  7. They are attracted to/by caffeine.
  8. They aren’t born with the innate ability to make honey. They have to be taught.
  9. At low doses, bee venom can treat high blood pressure and arthritis.
  10. Bees have been trained to locate buried land mines.
  11. When older bees take on a new task that is passed onto them from the younger bees and they learn something new, the signs of aging are reversed.
  12. The proteins scientists discovered in the bees brains when they learned something new is the same protein that prevents dementia and Alzheimer’s in humans.
  13. Honey bees’ sense of smell is 50x more powerful than a dog.
  14. Bees have two stomachs: one for eating, another for nectar.
  15. They can recognize human faces.
  16. They poop outside in the winter (that’s badass).
  17. Worker bees have a jagged stinger. When a worker bee stings, the stinger often gets lost in the person or thing she stung. She will bleed out and die but she dies as a noble warrior. Unlike…

Drones:

  1. They are the only males in the colony.
  2. They don’t have stingers.
  3. But they do have penises.
  4. Their only purpose is to mate with the queen.
  5. Other than that, they just sit and eat in the hive.
  6. If it’s a good winter and they have a lot of resources, the honeybees keep them around for warmth because their body heat is a good furnace for the hive.
  7. If it’s long winter or the worker bees don’t want all their resources to be wasted, the drones are the first to get kicked out. Worker bees will shift roles to become ‘heat warmers.’ They vibrate their bodies till their body heat warms up the hive.
  8. They can only have sex with the queen. Not the other worker bees.
  9. When they do have sex, it’s a suicide mission.

The Sex Lives (and Consequential Death) of Drones

  1. When the drones are sexually mature, hundreds (some times thousands) will leave their respective hives and hang out in the sky. They will make this huge cloud of bees 30-200 metres in diameter about 10-40 metres above the ground. This is called the DCA (Drone Congregation Area).
  2. The virgin queen will be fashionably late to the party (usually one hour) and join the congregation.
  3. The drones will be immediately attracted to her. This attraction happens in one or two ways depending on their proximity:
    1. If they are at a long distance, they will be attracted to her pheromones.
    2. If they are close, they will be attracted to her visually.
    3. It’s literally love at first sight.
  4. They will compete with each other to mate with the queen. I hoped they would compete through jousting but because they don’t have stingers, that would be difficult. Instead, they compete to see who can get the closest to her. However, it sounds like this competition doesn’t always work for the queen because I’ve heard of certain queens hanging out on the edge of the DCA, picking up the outsiders and stragglers of the party.
  5. Of the hundreds or thousands of bees presented to her, she only has sex with 10-20 of them.
  6. After they have sex, the drones will die. Their penis is ripped away from the rest of their body as the queen flies off with it still attached [to her].
  7. This entire ritual takes less than 30 minutes.
  8. The drones who weren’t chosen go back to the hive and stick around till the worker bees kick them out for the winter or they die of natural causes.

I wonder if the drones grew up knowing what would happen after they lost their virginity. Is it an honourable death? Or do the worker bees keep it a secret and talk about it like a lottery so they’ll want to go to the DCA and mate with the queen?

I wonder about this a lot.

Would you rather have sex and die? Or stay a virgin and live?

SOURCES:

https://www.livescience.com/21392-brain-aging-bees.html

http://honeybee.drawwing.org/book/drone-congregation-area

https://www.perfectbee.com/learn-about-bees/the-life-of-bees/role-of-the-drone-bee

101 Fun BEE Facts About Bees and Beekeeping

https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/03/130308-bees-caffeine-animal-behaviou-science/

https://www.buzzaboutbees.net/dronebee.html