The fertilized queen can lay fertilized and unfertilized eggs. Drones (male bees) develop from unfertilized eggs.
The main task of drones in the bee colony is to fertilize the queen. In addition, drones improve the work of bees and produce some of the heat in the beehive.
When the queen lays unfertilized egg in the drone cell, it falls at the bottom of the cell at the end of the third day. On the fourth day, the larva is hatched from the egg, which the bees immediately began to feed with royal jelly. The drone larvae is fed with royal jelly for 7 days. This means that at the end of the tenth day from the day of laying the eggs, the bees close the larva in the drone cell. At the end of the twenty-fourth day, the drone hatches from the cell. Bees accept and nurture it like a young bee when it comes out of a cell. When it reaches 12 days of age, the drone becomes capable of fertilizing the queen.
The number of drones varies during the year, and depends on: the age of the queen, the season, the quality of the queen, grazing conditions, the breed of bees, etc. The number ranges from a few hundred to several thousand. Most drones in the hive are during the swarming season. This is also the period when foragers bring most nectar and pollen from nature into the hive. When the intake of nectar and pollen stops, the queen instinctively stops laying unfertilized eggs.
Some beekeepers intentionally reduce the number of drones in the hive, thinking they eat large amount of honey. However, it has been proven that drones get food from bees. The female (worker) bees feed them as long they are needed in the hive. When they are no longer needed, the bees stop feeding them and chase them away from the hive.
This usually happens from the beginning of August onwards. During this period in the hive it can be seen that the drones are sat on the end frame. Then the bees deprive them of food. In a few days, the exhausted drone bees are driven out of the hive where they die.
Some of the drones leave their hives and go on a reconnaissance and search for a hive that is without a queen, or with an unfertilized queen. Any bee colony in which this situation is present will receive a drone, but only until the queen is fertilized. Rarely do drones stay in the bee colony from autumn to spring, and that is only in the hive where the queen did not mate during the fall due to some circumstances.
Drones have glands that can feel the queen coming for fertilization and at a distance of up to 2 kilometers. After mating with the queen, the drone dies immediately.