honey bee behavior

Drone eviction: it’s not a good time to be male

Drone eviction: These drones on the landing board are no longer allowed inside. They will soon die of exposure.

When you see drones and workers fighting at the entrance, it usually means drone eviction has begun. The ousted drones will soon die of exposure or starvation.

Here in the north, late August is not a good time for drones. Although it is still summer, you know fall is coming when the drones get ousted from their hives. Drone eviction is a vital part of the colony life cycle.

Yesterday when I walked past my hives I noticed a large number of drones on one of the landing boards. On closer inspection, I could see them trying to get inside, but the workers were having none of it. Two, three, or four workers would block entry and sometimes fight the drones to the edge of the landing board until they fell off the edge.

Basically, the workers keep fighting with the drones until they either starve, freeze, or get eaten. Since drones serve no useful purpose during the winter months, a colony without drones has fewer mouths to feed and fewer residents to clean up after. So out they go! Although drone eviction is a normal part of the honey bee life cycle, I kind of feel sorry for them.

Honey Bee Suite

These drones have been evicted and are not allowed to enter the hive. © Rusty Burlew.

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  • It sure is not!
    Drone eviction is going on over here as well these days and although one doesn’t want to anthropomorphize the bees: you do feel pity for the males.
    We have been filming them last week being pushed around and off the landing boards and left helplessly lying on the ground, some really impressive scenes and – somehow – really, really sad.
    Maybe because they indicate the end of summer, too.

    • You bring up a very good point: the end of summer. It sounds silly, but I miss the bees during the winter. The skies seems empty without them.

      I love to see them coming and going and I love to hear their sound. Busy bees make me believe that all is right with the world. Then, once cold weather sets in, I worry about them all winter long.

      So you’re right. Drone eviction signals the coming of winter and everything that winter implies.

  • I’ve seen drones being evicted outside one of my hives since July. I’m not sure what to make of it.

    The colony was queenless for about three weeks and the bees seemed to shift into honey-making mode, filling in every cell in the 3-deep hive with nectar (and working hard on three medium honey supers). I’ve never seen so much honey in a hive before. I installed a mated queen a few days ago, but they’re still filling in every cell and evicting drones.

    There’s more to it than this, but that’s the situation in a nutshell. It’s a weird one.

    • Phillip,

      I don’t know what to tell you. Every year I see some colonies evicting drones as early as July. I think that once swarm season is over, there is no real point in keeping them around. I used to wonder about it; now I figure they know what they are doing.