A fertile male honey bee is popularly known as the Drone. Its primary role is to mate with a Queen honey bee to ensure expansion and creation of new colonies. During mating, the Drone bee ejaculates so hard that his genitals rupture, leaving the tip of his endophallus inside the queen bee. Then the drone falls to the ground and dies shortly after.
Honey Bees are social insects who dwell in colonies. They have three castes or categories: The Queen bees, the worker bees, and the Drones. Drones are male honey bees, while workers and queens are female. The hive population consists of a single queen, a few hundred drones, and thousands of worker bees.
Drones are precisely known to perform the essential role given by nature as they are a vital part of the honey bee colony. It takes approximately 24 days for the male honey bee to develop from being an egg to a fully grown male adult bee.
Their average lifespan is just for a few weeks until they mate or up to 90 days if they don’t mate. Indeed, they die immediately after mating because his genitals rupture and his abdomen tears apart, leaving the tip of his endophallus inside the queen bee.
The exact size of Drones can vary widely, but of course, they are larger than worker bees and quite smaller than queen honey bees. The cells they are developed from are slightly larger than worker bee eggs. Drones also have larger eyes in comparison to queen honey bees and worker bees.
Drones generally pass on important behavioral traits to new generations of honey bees through their genes. Adult drones help to regulate the temperature in the hive, which’s important for the development of young bees and larvae.
The Suicidal Mating Deed
Drones are essential for the survival of future honey bee colonies. They mate with the honey bee queen in the mid-air, where only 10 to 20 drones get the opportunity to mate with the queen honey bee.
Honeybee mating occurs in mid-air when the queen flies out in search of fertile male mates. Experts call such action “nuptial flight.” These 10 to 20 drones compete for the chance to mate with their queen. They swarm around her and eventually the brave drone makes his first move.
Soon after the drone grasps his queen honey bee, he everts his endophallus using a contraction of his abdominal muscles and hemostatic pressure. Later, such contraction and pressure eventually result in his death. He inserts his endophallus tightly into the queen’s reproductive tract.
Then he immediately ejaculates so hard with such explosive force that his genital ruptures. Left behind is the tip of his endophallus inside the queen honey bee. The drone falls to the ground from mid-air and dies soon after.
However, this ejaculation does stop here. The next drone swarms around, grasps the queen, removes the previous drone’s endophallus and inserts his. He also dies after mating.
Drone Mating Behaviour
The hive population consists of a single queen, a few hundred drones, and thousands of worker bees. The future expansion of honey bee colonies largely depends upon the few hundred drones, in contrast to the thousand worker bees.
During the mating season, sexually mature and fertile drones fly out of the hive, congregate with other drones and seek out his opportunity to mate with the queen honey bee.
Sunny afternoons are a pleasant time for the nuptial flight. So, about an hour after the drones’ congregation, a virgin queen honey bee leaves her hive for her nuptial flight. As soon as the queen enters the congregation of drones, she is in the spotlight.
Drones will swarm and follow the virgin queen honey bee, competing with each other to approach and mate with her. The queen honey bee mates within 15–30 minutes.
Each drone that mates with the queen dies immediately after mating because the drone’s reproductive organs ruptures apart from his body, and the queen flies off with the drone’s endophallus attached to her.