Drones are recognized from worker bees by their large wraparound eyes besides and their bigger size. They make a small percentage of a colony’s total population. For example, in a hive the average number of drones varies from 2,000 to 6,000. The lifespan of a drone is about 50 days, but it might be less.
The drones are usually born near the end of the rain season in the large cells located at the lower side of the brood comb. For this reason, in Kenya as in many parts of the tropics drones may be lower in number than in temperate regions like Europe.
Transformation occurs in four phases within a period of 24 days. In the first three days the larvae are fed with royal jelly, and thereafter with water, pollen and honey. Six to seven days later the bees seal the cell and the larvae inside turn into pupae. Having turned to adults, the drones leave the cell twenty four days later and start their normal lives in the hive. At this point they are fed by worker bees although they can be able to feed themselves.
Drones start flying 10 days later. They are ready to copulate with the queen bay after 20 days but this tends to happen after 35 to 40 days. Once the mating season comes to an end, the worker bees kill or expel them from the hive where they eventually die if they cannot find another colony for accommodation. Drones can move from one hive to another without causing fighting with the next new families. These seem to tolerate the presence of the strangers. This does not occur with the worker bees and the queen.
However the drones are always present in the colony throughout the year. Procreation is the drones’ primary purpose. Despite their high maintenance, drones are tolerated and allowed to remain in the hive because they may be needed to mate with a new virgin queen when the old queen dies or she needs to be superseded. The drones’ special morphology means they are not fit for any other activity in the hive. For example, drones have no sting so they cannot defend the colony. They are also unable to perform any of the worker bees’ tasks such as fanning the hive or collecting the nectar. However in certain circumstances, occasionally drones perform some other tasks beside procreation such as helping to feed the brood and keeping them warm.