The constant exchange of food and pheromones (scents) between bees keeps the hive functioning smoothly. As their name implies, workers do most of the work in the hive, such as depositing nectar into the honey cells. The nectar ripens into honey in a few days, after which the cell is capped. Drones (which can be distinguished from workers by their larger size and enormous eyes) get free board and meals. Their main contribution to hive life is to mate with the queen, an event which happens only once in each queens life.

Drone brood cells are larger than worker cells and are domed.

Cell size helps determine whether the queen will lay a fertilised egg (producing a worker) or an unfertilised egg (producing a drone).

One of Nature’s riddles: each drone has a grandfather but no father, grandsons but no sons!

From “The Amazing Bee”‘ written by Raewyn MacKenzie for the New Zealand Geographic, June 1989. Courtesy of Ivan Pederson.