Everlasting Drones

One of our Warre Hives dragged out its drones around the week of 22nd August, as normal this year.  Subsequently, from September onwards it has been gripped by a second honey flow fervour which has seen its numbers increase dramatically so that in October it was flying as vigorously as in the main honey flow in June.  Nothing on this scale has happened to this hive in the last two years.  (by contrast our other warre is just ticking over, a few bees coming out, drones a distant memory & well hunkered down for winter).

On the 1st October drones re-appeared from this hive in substantial numbers and throughout the month our garden has echoed to the sounds of the noisy old beggars flying incongruously around yellowing autumnal vegetation.  As I write on 12th November, during a brief sunny interlude in the rain, Drones are still flying unmolested by house bees even though there are dead bees littering the ground in front of the hive as the years workers gradually expire.

What is interesting is the excitement of the hive – hard to describe, but they seem to be scrambling to get at the forage even though by now supplies must be dwindling fast.  I’ve read that the physical presence of Drones can have an effect on the behaviour of bees in the hive..?

I’d be interested if anyone else has experienced the same as this exceptionally warm autumn comes to an end, in the meantime I’ll be savouring  the sounds of summer while they last!

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2 Responses to Everlasting Drones

  1. Paul says:

    (Nov 14th, 2 days later than your post) we have seen masses of bees flying outside our 3 hives three times since we thought they had holed up for the winter. Each time it was an intensely warm,sunny day – above 12C – unusual for this area of rural Oxfordshire in November.
    As I type, once again they are out and about in an intense sunny hour between drenchings. It looks like some orientation flights by new bees, and some longer flights by foragers, probably fruitless as I see no pollen today. At one hive entrance, I saw 2 drones and the workers let them back in(!)
    So we are wondering if our hives have “cycled” and think it is Spring and are kicking off new brood, despite generally being small black creatures descended from local ferals. There seem to be too many new, healthy looking, large bees. We’re going to have to keep a really close eye on their stores levels this winter, and probably feed fondant madly, or we’ll lose all three colonies.
    One thing is for sure, this non standard behaviour will teach us a lot about our bees as we watch them over the next few months. The key question is, is this behaviour OK – has it evolved to help them survive – or is it a problem, perhaps because the colony has too many foreign genes in it or because weak colonies’ behaviour cannot cope with such unusual weather variations?
    One thing is for sure, I wish I’d fed them more. I keep assuming it is too late to feed them and then we have another burst of warm weather.

    • sj100 says:

      I wouldn’t worry too much about feeding – I used to but now leave the bees to it. All this mild weather has allowed them to stock up their stores, so see it as a late bonus – and if you don’t take too much they won’t need the supplement. We have a lot of end of year workers crawling around saying goodbye or just expiring quietly on neighbouring vegetation, so numbers are slowly going down. However, as of today (14th) there were still substantial numbers of drones rocketing out into the blue (lonely blue) which I take as a really positive sign – if they can afford to keep them in November all must be very well!

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