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Saturday, January 1, 2011

Kicking Out the Worthless Men

Leaving the dead on the front porch.
When I checked on the hive late this morning, I saw a bunch of dead bees on the front and hardly any coming and going, so I freaked out a bit. I pried up a corner of the lid (all gluey from propolis) and peeked inside. There were tons of bees moving about and wondering why the lid was moving, so I quickly closed the top and left them alone. Since it was raining this morning, they most likely were all huddled inside keeping warm, and when it gets cold they get lazy about keeping their front porch clean. They just leave the dead outside the door rather than walking to the edge of the landing board and chucking them over.

Note the drone on the left with his huge eyes!
About half of the bees I found were drones. If you don't already know beeology, then I'll fill you in. A drone is a male bee. The have slightly bigger bodies than the workers, a little more fuzz, and HUGE eyes. Why such big eyes? To see the queens better during a mating flight. There aren't many drones in a hive, and compared to the workers, these guys are just laze-about freeloaders. Their only function is to mate with a queen. Their sex organ is barbed like the stinger of a worker bee, which means that they lost part of their body and essentially die. Anyway, when Winter sets in and there's no mating going on, the lady bees tell the drones to take a hike and kick them out of the hive. No more freeloading! I guess in most normal climates this takes place in Autumn, but in our messed up California climate, it's taking place now in my hive, which is technically the middle of Winter. Most bees over winter too, but not mine. They only stay in on rainy days. As soon as the sun pops out, that hive is buzzing. Apparently they are finding enough of what they need pollen-wise, even now in Winter, because they haven't been interested in their syrup at all. In fact, the syrup only seems to be feeding the local ant colony.