English for beekeepers

Wednesday word file: drone congregation area (DCA)

A drone congregation area is a specific place where male honey bees congregate and wait for young queens to fly by. You often read that the drones are waiting for virgin queens but that is not technically correct because a young queen mates multiple times. The fact that she’s no longer a virgin after the first mating does not interfere with subsequent matings.

Drone congregation areas are about 20 to 50 feet above the ground and cover less than one acre. A fascinating aspect about these areas is that they occur in the same place year after year even though the drones live only a few weeks and the queens mate only in the first year. Something other than memory enables the newly hatched drones to find the established area.

“If a drone is unsuccessful in one drone congregation area, he may try a second or even a third.”


  • To me, this has always seemed like one of the truest, weirdest, greatest things in all of the bee world. How do they know to go there, if they have never been there before? What happens if people inadvertently build a condo or a cell phone tower where there was a DCA before? Is the location based on electromagnetic force fields or something? It’s as good an unknowable mystery as I can possibly imagine.

    • I agree. I’ve read that indeed construction forces the drones to move their congregation areas but, if nothing changes, these sites will remain constant for decades.

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