Since the arrival of the swarm I have never really been too sure about drones. I never saw much of a difference among the bees in the colony except ever-so-slight color variations, and maybe slight size differences between the newly hatched smaller workers in the hive and the older foraging workers coming and going from the entrance. Not really feeling the presence of the boys I thus kept referring to the group as "girls". In the back of my head I wondered if I was being sexist (?) because surely a colony is made up of drones and workers, boys and girls? I tried addressing them as "girls and boys" a few times, but something didn't resonate, and so I stuck with "girls".
The first notion of the drone presence however was after my phone calls to the two professionals regarding my concern of a brood disease - when I spotted bees dragging out unborn baby bees. See post from September 8th, titled "Concern". The explanation that the workers were disposing of drone larvae in response to the cold weather made sense - even though I had not seen, or hadn't thought I had seen any adult drones prior to that time.
It wasn't until this week that I started noticing really big bees leaving the hive. The first one I saw I thought was perhaps a bee from another clan because of such a noticeable size difference - almost the size of a bumble bee - but not as plump. It wasn't until repeated spottings that I realized these must be the drones! I dont know why I hadn't seen them all summer, but here they are - quite a few at the end of the season.
their job is to mate with Queen bees - could be from their own colony or another colony. The mating takes place high up in the air. The queen takes her "maiden flight" just once in a lifetime. She mates with as many drones as possible during that brief flight. This determines how fertile she will be for the rest of her life - which could be 4-6 years. It is a noble job the drones have - and a true sacrifice of life, as after the mating they apparently die. During their time in the hive they are fed and cared for by the workers. It feels to me that aside from mating with Queens that they have another job and purpose that we might be overlooking? I am not sure, but will stay open to signals as to what this might be!
In the freeze frame of the video below, you can see a drone in the very lower left hand corner: