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?