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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 us.

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.

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