Male bees also known ‘Drones’ congregate in special areas called Drone Mating Zones or DMZ’s to mate with virgin honeybee queens. Little is known about these areas, where they are, or even how the drones know how to arrive at these areas to compete amongst many thousands of other drones to mate with the queens. This phenomenon is particularly interesting because the research that is available suggests that these DMZ’s are established mating sites, the oldest recorded is thought to have been in existence for over 250 years.
When you consider that the drones only existed as an egg some ten days earlier and not reaching full sexual maturity until twenty four days, and the virgin queen herself was only a egg around sixteen days earlier and not reaching sexual maturity until around Day twenty three it appears rather amazing that they both know where to fly to mate and be mated. What is of particular interest is that a drone that out competes his rivals dies as part of the mating process when his genitals explode! Horrific as this sounds it means that a successful drone never returns from the DMZ, but the newly mated queen does so the timing and location of the DMZ’s can only be passed onto new drones by genetics passed from the mated queen who decides to lay a unfertilised egg that will become a drone to never return. Considering that the DMZ’s have been reported in the same location for hundreds of years, this makes our amazing honeybee insects even more special?
Because we know so little about the actual mating process (other than the deed itself) Tree Bee decided to carry out our own research on what we feel is a fascinating subject? The research in question is to be carried out at P.h.D level as part of of Andy’s Doctoral Thesis and has already taken Tree Bee into new and interesting areas of our favourite beneficial insect the Western European Honey Bee also known as Apis Melifera. Andy will be posting more blogs as the research develops and just to give a little spoiler this research gets quite high tech.