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Why Our Drones Are Doomed

At first glance, a Rogue Farms drone seems to live a charmed life.

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A honeybee colony is a hub of busyness. Every bee has a job to do, except for the drones.

The drones, aka the male honeybees, exist for just one purpose. Their only role is to mate with a queen from another colony. Every day during mating season they head out looking for their one chance to get lucky, while leaving behind the female honeybees to do all the work in the hive. This slacker attitude is tolerated because, without drones, the species would not survive.

But come Autumn, their luck runs out.

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Colony populations vary according to the season. In the summer they peak at 50,000 to 100,000 honeybees per hive. In winter, the numbers fall to 10,000 to 15,000 honeybees.

With no more wild sources of food to gather, the colony has to get by on the honey it stored up over spring and summer. The queen stops laying eggs and the population of the hive falls dramatically during the fall.

Which brings us back to the drones. Mating season is over and the drones no longer serve a useful purpose to the colony. It’s time for them to go.

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In Autumn, the drones are dragged out of the hive and expelled.

The once tolerant female bees grab the drones, drag them out of the colony, and stop them from ever coming back. Since the drones are unable to care for themselves, being expelled is the honeybee equivalent of a death sentence. The culling is so widespread and so quick, you’ll often see thousands of tiny drone bodies littered around the base of a hive this time of year.

As cruel as it may sound, this is how honeybees evolved to get by in the lean times of winter. Even a few extra mouths to feed may endanger the colony’s chances of survival.

At Rogue Farms, we help our 7,140,289 honeybees make it through the cold months by providing them supplemental sweet syrup and pollen cakes, on top the honey we leave behind after harvest. It’s only fair. Our bees help us by pollinating our crops and making the delicious wildflower honey we use to brew our mead, kolsch, braggot and sodas. We love our bees. They take care of us and we take care of them.

Honeybee apiary

Head out to Rogue Farms this fall and see how we grow beer, spirits, ciders and sodas from ground to glass and bee to bottle.

If it’s warm enough, you may even see our honeybees out and about. Just don’t expect to see a drone.


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