Michael Maunsell “The Drone – More to its life than we may think?”

I am a retired mathematics and physics teacher. I began beekeeping in the early 1970s when I was approached by a local farmer to rescue bees from a dangerous hollow tree that overhung the road between my house and his land. There followed a short intense period of study of beekeeping and carpentry to make a suitable home for my new tenants. Naively I assumed that the bees would be delivered to me. Unfortunately I had to cut down the tree and remove the bees myself.

With a background in science I set about experimenting with new charges. I learned a great deal of my beekeeping from my involvement with Galtee Bee Breeding Group. My beekeeping philosophy is quite simple – start with your own local bees, use natural selection (survival of the fittest, this has brought them to where they are) then progress with artificial selection, using comprehensive colony records.

Lecture Title: “The Drone – More to its life than we may think?”

Purpose of this talk is to create a greater appreciation of the life and some of the many beneficial/essential contributions of drones to our honey bee colonies.

What governs the number of drones in a colony? Is it the drone comb, the season, the forage or stores, etc? How do the numbers or ratios work out? How do relationships inside the hive affect drone numbers? Workers can only produce drone offspring if hopelessly queen less, but do they produce drones in a queenright colony?

I will explain a little on drone genetics and its consequences and sex determination in the honey bee and how diploid drones arise. I will outline the job description of drones and include some behavior particulars leading onto the mating event, the ultimate goal of all drones. I hope to demystify sex alleles and show very clearly how they work. We are well aware that our queens are polyandrous (promiscuous). I will demonstrate whether it is just the number of drones or the variety of drones with whom she mates is the more significant for the future development or survival of the colony.