MORE Drones not LESS
For years beekeepers have been teaching beginners that we should
discard combs that contain many drone cells. Their reasoning is
that the drones eat honey and do not contribute to the honey crop that
a colony collects.
Whilst I can see their point from a superficial point of veiw...I think
there are much deeper reasons to consider the oposite case.
When I started beekeeping I followed the method of culling drone combs
to provide a greater foraging force of workers.
As I gained experiance, (I am still doing that!), I started to follow
the idea that bees never do any thing without good reason and even if
we beekeepers did not understand it was the bees that were RIGHT not
These days I actively encourage my bees to produce drones in larger
numbers than they would naturally.
I have been criticised for this by our local bee inspector but I think
I am the one "marching in step" on this occasion.
The first batch of queens that I rear have to be early. I am not
interested in the quality of these queens as they are only a means to
an end. That end reason is for the new queens to head up the mating
nucs to provide plenty of workers to look after subsequent batches of
queens. The role of the first batch is to get the nucs laid up and to
repair and redraw any damaged combs, do the housework and the spring
cleaning..., so quality or breeding are unimportant. When the second
batch is sealed then the first queens are killed as
they have acheived my aim of establishing the nucs under queenright
conditions. I hear some complain that this is callous or brutal,
this it may be but it is practical.
Another good reason for plenty of drones is that the bees themselves
appear to be "more at ease", (I cannot be more objective than that),
when 1000-3000 drones are present.
Yet another reason is the drones are available to keep the brood warm
while a strong nectar flow encourages a high proportion of those bees
that are able to forage to be out in the field.
Steve Taber, in the 1970s said that large colonies in Hawaii had
about thirty percent drones, and had no problem making tons of honey.