The name of the males
The males are generally called drones on account of their noise in flight, louder than a bumble-bee and quite different. Faux bourdons (false bumble-bees), their name in French, distinguishes them from the bourdons (bumble-bees) of the field.
Details of the male
The males are blacker. The extremities of their bodies are hairier. The legs are without the apparatus for collecting pollen. They have no sting. They have a distinct odour.
Odour of males
At swarm time the males emit a stronger odour. This is a means for the young female to recognise them, more than by the noise they make in flight. Moreover, this odour allows the emergence of swarms to be predicted.
Habits of males
The males are gentle and peaceful. In the hive they seem to always be asleep. They only go out around midday and only during fine, warm weather. They sometimes move from one hive to another without the bees getting angry with them.
Number of males
In colonies in good heart, there can be up to three thousand drones.
Functions of males
All agree that the function of the males is to fertilise the young females. We share the view of certain beekeepers, that the males are also useful to maintain the heat necessary for hatching the brood at any given time. We shall discuss this issue when we speak of the means of reducing their number or eliminating them.
Life span of males
In temperate climates the males live only a few months. They appear at the beginning of the nectar flow. They are killed by the workers as soon as it ceases. They are retained for a time, even in winter, by a queenless colony.
Indication of the presence of males
The presence of plenty of males during the nectar flow seems to indicate that the colony is strong and will give a good harvest if the circumstances are favourable. On the other hand, the presence of males after the nectar flow indicates with certainty that the colony is in a poor state, that it is queenless or has only an exhausted queen.