Last evening we saw that the ground in front of both hives had a score of drones aimlessly wandering, climbing grass blades and falling off, or just staying still, evidence of a phenomenon we have been anticipating, the eviction of the drones.
Bee lore says this occurs as part of preparation for winter, although it has sometimes been observed in dearths as well. While there is speculation that they may assist in other functions about the hive, the main function of the drones is unarguably to go out periodically and try to mate with a virgin queen. When there is no longer time for a new colony to establish itself before winter, swarming ceases, no virgin queens fly, and the large drones with their large appetites become useless drains on the resources that must last until spring nectar flows. And so the workers eventually stop feeding them (Drones can not even feed themselves.) and forcibly throw them out of the hive.
Naturally we must fret. This eviction is generally said to occur in the autumn and while it is the month of September, the equinox is still a few weeks away. Is this early for the eviction? Is it an indication that the bright goldenrod is not providing a lot of nectar? Is heavy feeding in order? We may learn more at the next meeting of Ann Arbor Backyard Beekeepers this Wednesday.