“Today’s the day!” the drone bee squealed as he woke up that fateful summer morning. He’d made trips to drone congregation areas before, hoping to meet his queen, only to come back to the hive, sad and loveless, every time. He knew he was running out of time – drone bees like him don’t usually live longer than eight weeks! Most drones never find a queen in their lifetime, could he bee so lucky? The odds were completely against him, but that didn’t faze this drone bee that morning. He knew he was going to find his queen and mate with her.
Leaving his hive, the drone bee tried to chat with the worker bees. They clearly didn’t like him, but he didn’t let them ruin his good mood. He knew why they didn’t like him, and why they didn’t want him hanging out in the hive’s core: They had real roles in the hive, and he didn’t. While they worked to keep the hive going, gathering pollen and nectar, doing construction, tending to the queen, or even feeding royal jelly to young drone bees, the drones sat around being pretty useless most of the time. There was only one role for the drone bee, to mate with a queen, and this drone had yet to be successful at it.
Sure, he’d tried to shiver with the colony to keep them all warm on cool days, but that’s about where his efforts ended. Without a stinger, he couldn’t even scare off intruders. This drone, like the other 200 drone bees in his hive, spent his days lounging and eating the honey made by everyone else, and, sure, sometimes searching for his queen. The drone bees helped themselves to so much of the hive’s honey that even if they survived until autumn, they’d be evicted so they couldn’t eat all the ladies’ food come winter.
Nevertheless, the drone held his head high. He knew what he was meant to do that day, and off he went in search of his queen.
On that warm afternoon, the drone bee decided to check out a new congregation area. He’d visited many other congregation areas before, hoping to find “the one,” but somehow he knew he’d find her there that day. His destination was a little bit of a flight away, but was close enough to home that he could fly there and back in under 20 minutes, which was about as long as he could fly without needing to refuel with a honey snack.
When he got to the drone congregation area, there were already at least 25,000 drones from other hives hanging around. How was he supposed to compete?! He tried to shake off his insecurities and decided to mingle with the other romantic hopefuls where they’d gathered, about 40 meters up in the air. The drone bee sized up his competition, seeing that, like him, they were smaller than most queens but bigger than the workers. They had drone bee-bods like him, plump and round. Their eyes were large like his, way bigger than the workers’ and queens’. How would he stand out from this crowd to his queen when she arrived?
The crowd of drone bees began buzzing excitedly, and our drone knew this was it – the queen had arrived, and her mating flight was underway. He breathed in her hypnotic pheromones, designed to attract him to her, and joined the other drones to create a large swarm, or “drone comet,” that surrounded the queen and followed her every move.
“This is it, now or never!” our drone exclaimed as he made his move. He zipped toward the queen, locking her in his sights and tracking her every move with his well-tuned antennas. The drone bee had to fly fast to keep up with the queen, and luckily, his whole body was built to make him speedy enough for this one fateful flight. Once he reached her, he grabbed onto her and held on tight – he’d finally found his queen! The drone bee quickly put his endophallus into the queen’s open sting chamber, not realizing that this brief moment of ecstasy would soon be the end of him.
After he ejaculated into his queen, the drone’s body was ripped in half as the endophallus broke off in her body. The horror! In less than five seconds, our poor drone met his queen and consummated their tryst, but he wouldn’t survive to bask in his accomplishment. Sadly, he wasn’t alone in his tragedy that day. Other drones in the crowd would take their shot, too, and up to 20 drone bees would die while attempting to mate with the queen.
Maybe the worker bees in the drone’s hive were right, maybe he was useless around his hive. But that day, the starry-eyed drone set out to fulfill his destiny and he succeeded – he found and mated with his one and only queen.