New drone emerging from cell A drone emerges from his brood cell.

The males or drones have one purpose in life: to mate with the queen. Nature has given them extra-large eyes to ensure that they do not lose sight of the queen on the mating flight. At the appropriate time, drones meet at special mating areas far from the hive, where they attempt to mate with the queen at heights of up to 100 feet off the ground. (See The Making Of for a description of how the filmmakers got around the height problem to film an in-flight mating.)

Drone hatches The drone's extra-large eyes help ensure that he will not lose sight of the queen during the mating flight.

From birth, males have certain advantages over females (workers). While emerging workers have to climb out of their brood cells all by themselves, baby drones are helped out by nurse bees; and they don't have to do a single thing around the nest. But there are distinct disadvantages to being a male. When food supplies are low or when winter approaches, workers do not hesitate to kick drones out of the nest, where they inevitably perish. And a male who is lucky enough to score with a queen pays the ultimate price. During mating, his reproductive parts get ripped out of him, and he dies.

Photos: ©1998 ORF.

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