The Need for Drones

While ‘natural beekeepers’ are widely-used to thinking of a honeybee colony more regarding its intrinsic value for the natural world than its capacity to produce honey for human use, conventional beekeepers and also the public in particular tend to be prone to associate honeybees with honey. It is been the reason behind the attention directed at Apis mellifera since we began our association with them just a couple of thousand years back.

Quite simply, I suspect a lot of people – should they think it is in any way – often imagine a honeybee colony as ‘a living system which causes honey’.

Before that first meeting between humans and honeybees, these adaptable insects had flowering plants and also the natural world largely to themselves – more or less the odd dinosaur – and over a lifetime of ten million years had evolved alongside flowering plants and had selected people who provided the best quality and amount of pollen and nectar for use. We are able to think that less productive flowers became extinct, save for people who adapted to working with the wind, instead of insects, to spread their genes.

For all of those years – perhaps 130 million by some counts – the honeybee continuously turned out to be the highly efficient, extraordinarily adaptable, colony-dwelling creature that people see and talk with today. Through a amount of behavioural adaptations, she ensured a high level of genetic diversity from the Apis genus, among the propensity with the queen to mate at some distance from her hive, at flying speed possibly at some height from the ground, having a dozen or so male bees, which have themselves travelled considerable distances from other own colonies. Multiple mating with strangers from another country assures a college degree of heterosis – important to the vigour of the species – and carries its mechanism of choice for the drones involved: exactly the stronger, fitter drones are you getting to mate.

An unusual feature from the honeybee, which adds a species-strengthening edge against your competitors for the reproductive mechanism, would be that the male bee – the drone – comes into the world from an unfertilized egg by the process generally known as parthenogenesis. Which means that the drones are haploid, i.e. simply have some chromosomes produced from their mother. This in turn signifies that, in evolutionary terms, the queen’s biological imperative of creating her genes to generations to come is expressed in their own genetic purchase of her drones – remembering that her workers cannot reproduce and therefore are thus a genetic dead end.

Therefore the suggestion I designed to the conference was which a biologically and logically legitimate strategy for concerning the honeybee colony is really as ‘a living system for producing fertile, healthy drones when considering perpetuating the species by spreading the genes of the finest quality queens’.

Thinking through this model of the honeybee colony provides for us a completely different perspective, when compared with the typical viewpoint. We could now see nectar, honey and pollen simply as fuels with this system and the worker bees as servicing the requirements of the queen and performing each of the tasks necessary to ensure that the smooth running with the colony, for your ultimate purpose of producing top quality drones, which will carry the genes of the mother to virgin queens off their colonies distant. We can easily speculate as to the biological triggers that can cause drones to be raised at certain times and evicted or even got rid of other times. We can easily think about the mechanisms that may control the numbers of drones as being a number of the entire population and dictate what other functions they own in the hive. We can easily imagine how drones look like able to find their way to ‘congregation areas’, where they appear to gather when awaiting virgin queens to pass through by, after they themselves rarely survive more than a couple of months and seldom with the winter. There exists much that individuals still are not aware of and may even never understand fully.

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