Why your drones are getting the boot

Drones, male bees, are not physically capable of doing work around the hive. They can’t sting, can’t collect pollen or nectar, can’t take care of the larvae, etc. They pretty much do only two things: eat and mate. Queens are produced when the weather is nice enough for them to mate, preferably over 70 and not windy. When the weather turns cold, drones are unable to perform their sole function. If there are no queens around to mate with, then drones are a suck on resources and worker bees stop rearing drones. Any drones left get booted out of the hive.

In fall, it is common to see drones being pulled out by worker bees or drones lying dead in the grass. By winter, there should be few to no drones left in the colony.  Once the days become warmer and flowers start to bloom again, worker bees start to raise drones. The height of summer is the height of the drone population, as there are plenty of flowers for the bees and good weather.

Drones take quite a bit of resources to raise, so the hive only tends to raise drones if they have ample pollen and nectar. When I look for healthy colonies in summer, I look for a queen-right colony producing lots of drones. Having lots of drones is an indicator that the colony is flush with food. If the worker bees kick-out drones in the summer can indicate that something is wrong, like they don’t have enough to eat.

If you are seeing drones in front of your own colonies this fall, don’t worry!  This is a natural occurrence before winter.

Have you seen drones in front of the colony, drones being pulled out by the workers, or drones congregating on the bottom board?

Drones in front of colony in autumn.

Kicked out adult drones and drone brood in front of a hive in the fall. The drones are more noticeable if the colony is on concrete compared to in grass.


Written By: Katie Lee

Katie Lee has written 53 post in this blog.

I'm a part of the Midwest Bee Team based out of the University of Minnesota. I work with commercial migratory beekeepers in North Dakota and Minnesota to help them monitor pest and disease levels. Before I was on the Midwest Team, I was on the CA Bee Team working for the Northern California bee breeders. I was introduced to honey bees during my last semester as an undergrad when I took a class on social insects with Dr. Marla Spivak. Marla asked me to work in the U of MN Bee Lab over the summer, and have been enthralled with bees ever since. My main interests are bee breeding, Varroa, disease ecology, and extension work. I received both a BS in Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior and a MS in Entomology from the University of Minnesota.


23 Responses to “Why your drones are getting the boot”

  1. Miere de albine

    Indeed drones being pulled out by the workers it’s a natural thing, their ways of life. In my country, they start pulling them out on October and on the end of November no drones to be found in the hives.
    Dan Mitroi

  2. Brian Fishback

    It’s sad to see them go but it’s part of the cycle. After working with Sue Cobey at UCD I really learned the passion and the importance of raising good healthy boys. They are the the seed to raising healthy bees

  3. Katie Lee

    Hi Brian,

    The fellas are really important. The general rule is the more drones a queen mates with, the healthier the hive. Glad Sue taught you well!


  4. Katie Lee

    Hi Dan,

    Are you in Romania? Interesting to hear the timing in different places. Thank you for sharing!


  5. Guest6197857

    Well, R.I.P suckers. i mean in formality.

    R.I.P my friend, my dear drony friend, my dear drony beelike dronelike friend.*cries*
    Regards, Guest6197857

  6. Aaron Bee Good

    I’m curious as to why, if the drones get the boot in the autumn to conserve food stores, we are able to collect honey from the hive. Are the workers unaware of their excesses and could the drone bees, in fact, be left to remain for the winter?

  7. Fanatoli Guyoff

    I like to remove the drones near the end of the season and put them in a “bee resort” that i built, and reintroduce them next season. They are much better at mating because they have more life experience.

  8. Lynne V Cameron

    I have a real mystery as this is July 4 and my Warre Hive girls have been throwing out the drones for 3 days now. I checked the lower box and it is not full so they are not out of room. There is plenty of food around with a lot of bee activity coming and going with pollen seemingly normal. When I checked the bottom box to add a 4th box I found a whole lot of drones on the screened bottom, thick. I do not understand this behavior. Not experienced anyway but haven’t heard of or read of this behavior so early in season. Anybody have a clue?

  9. Ashley

    I’m hoping to run an “adopt a drone” program in the fall/winter as they get kicked out of the hive – rather than just letting them die. I want to adopt them out as “pets” like fish. However, I’m looking into how to care for a drone indoors and replicate their natural habitat but I can’t seem to find any information. If anyone knows anything about this (or why it would be a bad idea if it is), please let me know.

  10. Ashley

    I’m looking into doing this for the first time with my first beehives. Could you email me with info on how you have this set up? What do you feed them? How large is your habitat? I’m thinking of using a 10 gallon terrarium.

  11. The History Man

    The ‘older bee’ is much more sophisticated and his technique has improved? Still a pity he will die as soon as he gets his ‘leg over’!

  12. The History Man

    We are in to autumn here (just) and we have put narrowed entrances on our hives to keep out the Asian hornets. But one colony, just one, has drones desperately trying to get IN to the colony, a fairly weak late swarm we caught in July. Could this be an indication of all not being right in the hive, such as laying workers or no queen? Or is it just that the drones fancy their chances with breaking into the weaker colony (though the narrow entrance is blocking them)?

  13. John Vowcicefski

    Drones are not living things and should not be made to “Help” the bees. We need to push a movement to help repopulate the bees the right way, this can be done by beekeeping at your own home. We all need to do our part into also stopping companies from spraying pesticides on our food crops, that’s a big reason why the bees started to die off in the first place.

  14. Patty wilber

    I live in MN and we had a cold snap last week. This weekend I noticed about 75-100 dead drones outside the hive. Could this be the result of the cold weather or some other problem within the hive?

  15. jac

    This puts the non working bee in the light of day, no welfare in the Bee world, we could learn so much from them.