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Bee entering hive that looks different to the rest

I was noticing today that there are some bees coming into and out of my hive that look different to the rest of the bees. The odd ones look like this:

Larger, longer legs, rounded abdomen end, compared to the rest of the bees:
[I was going to upload an image of one of my bees for comparison, but “new users can only upload one picture”]
The rest of the bees didn’t pay it any attention.

I have two thoughts:

  1. Maybe this is a drone? I have seen some pictures of drones that look similar.
  2. Maybe there is some silent robbing going on from a wild colony.

Can anyone confirm one way or the other?

Drones get free passage from hive to hive.
They may be yours or your neighbours


ta. i’ll sleep better now!


Confirming what @Dee has said, it is a drone, a very good photo, you must be quick with the shutter. Drones will be kicked-out of the hive come Winter as they are of no use to the colony. Don’t be too surprised to find him dead outside the hive around you first frost if he is too reluctant to leave.
Regards and welcome to the forum, you will find a lot of help and information as you read through it.


Yep, saw one drone in my hives yesterday and was a bit surprised at this time of year but the weather has been really warm.


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it’s the big eyes that give it away: drone. Supposedly they have such large eyes so they can spot a queen in mid-flight for mating.

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Thanks everyone. All good info. If figure this might also be a good post for other newbies to reference as I couldn’t find anything like this in my searches.

For note, the image is a still from a video. I had to sit for a while to get the focus in the right place when one came in. I learned to try to spot them in the air when I heard them coming in: they sound louder and more blowfly-ish than the others. I’ll have to research the speed needed to catch the buzzing wings because they’re still a blur in the video.

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What about areas that don’t get frost. I’m in Warrimoo, an area it appears you already know, which doesn’t frost. At least I’ve not seen one these last four years. I’m sure you wouldn’t get frost where you are either. Do the drones just stick around permanently?

I know your neck of the woods near the escarpment, I lived at Richmond, which was a freezing place in winters and searing hot in summer.
Drones won’t be thrown out of the hive in your climate but your hive will reduce activities from the end of May through to the end of August and you might get swarming from the end of August onwards. As you only have one hive I would suggest to you to make up another hive in the meantime and have it close by the hive you have so that the scouting bees know it is there, they might just move straight in when they swarm. Don’t put frames in with foundation but have it ready at the first sign it is in use, otherwise wax moth will move in and feed on the wax…
A second hive is really not double the time caring for them and if one of the hives is weak you can switch some brood to increase the bee numbers. You have plenty of native old growth bush there and heaps of wattle with the first sign of spring and the hive will get a massive boost in number very quickly.

I did not know drones get free passage. Thanks for sharing that!

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Great picture of “who is that stranger in my hive” :smiley:

If you are thinking of putting up a bait hive to attract a swarm have a look at this book

Tom Seeley has done a lot of work on bee behaviour.
Basically you need it at least a hundred feet away from your bees, up in a tree or on a roof maybe ten feet plus high. Solid floor and small entrance and around 40 litres in volume. Peters suggestion if no frames is a good one so that scouting bees appreciate the size of the box. I put an old empty brood frame in.


Hi Peter,
One of my hives threw a good pile of drones out a couple of weeks ago. About 60, all dead just under the entrance. Hive inspection next day revealed 2 palm sized patches of capped drone brood on the brood frames. Else, perfect brood pattern, as in spring. No queen cells.

Last year another hive threw out their drones in May, over 3 days.
We never ever get frost. The coldest night last winter was +9C. The coldest I recorded here in 32 years has been +4C one night many years ago.
I’m deducting from those facts that colonies throw out drones even without frost. But these were the only 2 times that I saw a mass drone killing. Both hives are very strong.
Since I only run one broodbox with super, I imagine that perhaps the hives got crowded with a fair bit of nectar coming in. Those drones were taking too much space and perhaps didn’t leave room enough for effective fanning. Else I have no clue why the bees got rid of their boys while breeding new ones.

Your climate in winter sounds similar to what Warrimoo would have in a mild winter, I had a home on Mount Bowen, elev 2280 feet, and about the same elevation and a few klms North of Warrimoo where I would produce a few queens for myself but never enough. I had about 40 hives at one site about 3 klms from a friends site. He asked me about if I had lost drones en-mass recently which I hadn’t. He said he had a hive with not a drone in it but like you had drone cells in the hive. His theory was that drones also have a ‘best by date’ like a queen and are either hunted out and if they didn’t get out the workers would attack them. That from my memory is the only time I ever heard of that happening and reading your thread made me remember that time.
He was a bit partial to the odd rum, several times a day, so thought he wouldn’t know what he was seeing.
Your thought could have something to it, after all the drones are expendable some part of the year, they do take up space and must consume more honey than a worker who has a job to do for the colony. @JeffH What is your thoughts on this Jeff.

My observations are not distorted by rum or similar intake, but just in case my brain goes loopy any time, I put all facts down into my ever increasing apiaries notebooks as observed. Perhaps over time I can see the why.
Just noting the fact that 2 other similar strength hives right next didn’t do the same drone elimination.
Going towards 70 myself, I thought keeping notes keeps me on track of what I’m doing with my 10 hives. I reckon keeping good notes is a good thing any age really. At least you know which frames you put where, and if any trouble pops up, you know where you need to watch.
Might be queen specific, that drone thing.
Those queens give their colonies their own character. I have great respect for my queens.
I have a variety of queen breeds too, that makes observations even more interesting.
Read somewhere that drones make for a happy and prolific hive.

Your last line “Read somewhere that drones make for a happy and prolific hive.” is one that was often said to me by my mentor who was a 2nd generation commercial beekeeper. So the question arises as to why a colony kills off so many drones as in your case and from what I had been told previously I don’t doubt it is true. It seems these events are not common as he came and asked me. I have no answers, a few possibles but no probables. Maybe others have had this happen or have thoughts on the subject.

In my recent case, they had plenty fat drone brood ready to emerge, maybe young ones are better, so they chucked out the geriatric hangers on.
This hive is so clean, it even cleans up the core flute in the lower slot.
I have another hive doing that. The bees fly back there and keep the core flute licked clean.
Not sure if that is normal or if I just picked up extremely hygienic queens with a wider perspective.
I sure have no answer to the drone evictions in subtropical Australia, I just know it happens here as everywhere else, frost and freezing or not at all.

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My hives stop making drones around mid Autumn too, and I have seen a few hundred thrown out in October. Like you, we never get really cold over winter here. No frost at all. In fact, it is too warm for apples and pears to produce fruit, and not great for peaches or nectarines either.

My mentor actually uses the commencement of drone-laying to predict when the first swarms will start in the next season. Last year it was mid-December that we began to see drone brood, and he said that 6 weeks later, calls for swarm removal would start. He was right - beginning of February. :wink:

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Oh, hope that hive doesn’t think of swarming. This Queen Maya is just a year old. Hmm. Thanks for the hint Dawn. She’s a carnie. My supplier says his carnies don’t swarm more than Italians, but then, he requeens each year.

I can’t recall seeing drones in my hives since last year, perhaps early December :worried:
There are always lots about in spring. We get quite distinct seasons here. Spring starts September, summer starts December, autumn in March and winter in June.