Such a provocatively entitled article published in 2007 addressed the beekeeping community in the Czech Republic. Along with my co-authors, I addressed 50,000 beekeepers to enable them to test a completely new method of anti-swarming measures. Perhaps this method might be interesting for you too. However, first, we must get rid of prejudices to understand that breeding drones is beneficial for the colony.
Male bees (drones) have a tough life. They do not have a father, worker bees throw them out weak in autumn and they die of hunger. Or die immediately after mating. Drones do not enjoy the attention of beekeepers either. Many breeders consider drones mistakenly as useless eaters and try to reduce them. Drones are blamed of reducing the yield of colonies and threatening colonies by spreading Varroa mites. Cutting out the drone brood is officially recommended as an anti-swarming and anti-Varroa measure.
But when you keep more hives and colonies, you must have necessarily noticed that colonies with drones are usually strong, produce more honey and are in better shape. Should the drones have such a negative effect on bee colony as claimed by many outdated literature, then a colony with a higher number of drones should be in poor condition. But the opposite is true!
If we take a closer look at the problem, we can see that everything is completely different than it is claimed officially. Although drones require care of the worker bees, they are fed mostly by protein foods instead of honey. Therefore drone brood does not reduce the amount of honey storage. Even adult drones suck honey only to a necessary extent, especially before mating flights. Thanks to the consumption of large quantities of raw pollen, drone larvae are highly immune to various diseases. Notice for example that on the Internet you will probably not find a photo of a drone brood infested by American foul brood, while you will find many a photo of infested worker bees. It is because drone brood almost does not suffer from AFB. Drones with their biomass increase the volume of a colony, which can then keep thermal stability more easily. Thus many worker bees are not required to heat the brood, and the flight activity of colonies with drones is higher than of the colonies without them.
The truth is that the Varroa mite reproduces more on drone brood than on worker bee brood. But as long as there is drone brood in the colony, the mites ignore the worker bee brood and multiply just on the drone brood. Thus the drones relieve the pressure of the parasite on the workers and protect them effectively. It is no coincidence that the collapse of bee colonies due to varroasis occurs in late summer after the breeding of drones is terminated and the mites population is then reoriented in distress to worker brood. Therefore, the presence of drones in the colony is broadly beneficial. It is, therefore, no exaggeration to say that the drones in principle also contribute to the increase of honey yield.
But what can be considered most important for practice is that the drones are able to eliminate completely the need for bees to swarm. Their breeding is the most efficient anti-swarming measure of all. Its efficiency is so high that swarming mood does not even occur.
I am not speaking here of the natural rate of breeding drones. What I am speaking about is anti-swarming breeding of drones, known as LBV (Linhart, Bicik, Vagera) in central Europe, where the number of drones is specified accurately and it takes place directly in the brood chamber of the colony rather than on the periphery.
In the next post, I will talk more about why this type of breeding of drones suppresses swarming tendencies, unlike the natural breeding of drones.