UC Master Gardener Program
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UC Master Gardener Program

White-Eyed Drone

Beekeepers sometimes see a white-eyed drone in their hives--a genetic mutation.

All drones (male) honey bees, have these spectacular wrap-around eyes that are perfect for finding a virgin queen on her maiden flight. After all, the drone's sole purpose is to mate with a queen and then die.  So, every afternoon in spring and summer,  weather permitting, the drones fly from their individual colonies and gather in a drone congregation area and wait for a virgin queen to fly by. The queen will mate with 12 to 25 or so drones in in mid-air, some 20 to 50 feet above the ground. The drones immediately die after mating ("they die with a smile on their face" as beekeepers say). The queen bee? She returns to her hive to lay eggs for the rest of her life.  She'll lay as many as 2000 eggs a day in peak season.

Life will be different for this white-eyed drone (below), a Caucasian (dark bee) at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at the University of California, Davis.  Note that this is the same race that the European colonists brought to America beginning in the 1622. If the color looks unfamiliar, that's because today the most common bee in the United States is the Italian or honey-colored bee, not the Caucasian.

But, back to the white-eyed drone. Like other drones, he will be fed by his sisters, the worker bees. No reproduction for him, though. No gathering in the drone congregation area. No waiting for a queen.

All white-eyed drones are blind.

This is a white-eyed Caucasian (dark) honey bee drone. White-eyed drones are blind. In the foreground is honey. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
This is a white-eyed Caucasian (dark) honey bee drone. White-eyed drones are blind. In the foreground is honey. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

This is a white-eyed Caucasian (dark) honey bee drone. White-eyed drones are blind. In the foreground is honey. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

This is a normal drone (male) honey bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
This is a normal drone (male) honey bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

This is a normal drone (male) honey bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Wednesday, April 25, 2012 at 8:32 PM

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