During my many years of practice, I had to, protecting the bees from their worst enemies - the golden bee-eater, shoot these birds many times. In their stomachs I found worker bees and drones. On the days of the emergence of queens, there were especially many drones in the stomachs of birds, but there were never queens.
The point, probably, is not only that the number of queen bees is hundreds of times less than the number of worker bees and drones. When the queen leaves the nest, she is always surrounded by a whole club of drones flying behind her, each of which, obeying the powerful instinct of procreation, seeks to come closer to her and “like” her more than other rivals. A bird chasing this flying club only needs drones - through their rather close formation, it will never be able to reach the queen.
By the way, this protective role of drones can explain the fact that several hundred drones are bred in each bee colony. For fertilization, a significantly smaller number of them would be sufficient: on average, three queens are hatched in each family, each of which mates with 5 to 8 males. Therefore, the fathers of the future offspring will be at most 24 drones. It must be assumed that breeding several hundred drones in each bee colony just to compete for a female would be too much waste, too inexpedient from a biological point of view. But if we take into account the role of drones in protecting the queen from the feathered enemies of bees, then everything falls into place.
Anatomy of a bee
Mention should be made of the features of the anatomy of the queen bee and drone. They are such that when mating, the uterus sits on the drone, and not vice versa, that is, the possibility of this process depends entirely on the desire of the uterus. The queen bee almost never, except in extremely rare cases, does not mate with the drones of her hive. The biological role of this fact is clear to every breeder. Everyone knows that inbreeding is harmful. But the drones, belonging to the same bee family as the uterus, are her siblings.
The uterus, which has got out for a nuptial walk, flies very far from its native hive. Most, perhaps all, of the drones accompanying her fall behind along the way. The uterus also meets and mates with "foreign" drones - people from other families.
By the way, far from the apiary, she is almost not in danger of being eaten by a bee-eater. This bird preys on bees near hives, where there is a lot of prey. And besides, she does not stay alone for long. She is very soon surrounded by drones from "foreign" families.
In support of my conclusions, I would like to cite data on the observations of the beekeeper P.P. Belov, with whom I correspond. His apiary is located in the Azerbaijan SSR, in the mountains. There are no other apiaries within a radius of 150 kilometers from it. The queens during mating walks fly much further than the drones. Not meeting drones from other apiaries, they return home unguarded, and very often birds grab them. The numbers speak for it. While the birds are sitting on their eggs, up to 60 percent of the queens do not return to the apiary. As soon as the birds have chicks and they begin to feed them, sometimes not one of the queens that have flown out for a nuptial walk returns to the apiary. But in the fall, when the birds fly away from the apiary, all the queens return.
I would like my observations to be verified and confirmed by other beekeepers. After all, they are of great practical importance. Based on them, beekeepers must ensure that the entire territory of the flight of queens is saturated with drones, that is, that apiaries are quite frequent. This is necessary both to protect the queens and to prevent the fertilization of them by the drones of their hive, which is harmful to the offspring.
Find out more on Faterra.