I took a closer look at the small number of photos we took during our first hive inspection on July 31st, specifically this photo (which, by the way, shows an excellent brood pattern; the queen in that hive is doing well). I looked closely to see if I could spot the queen. I couldn’t, but I did notice a drone bee. So for your edification, here’s a drone bee. Drones are easy to spot because they’re thick and have a big black head. Drones are male bees whose only purpose is to mate once with a queen. If they don’t mate, they just hang around the hive and get fed. All the drones are kicked out of the hive to freeze to death as winter kicks in because they’re useless over the winter. The colony, through a laying working bee, will produce new drones from unfertilized eggs in the spring for any new queens who need to mate in a hurry. ‘Tis the life of a drone.
UPDATE (Nov. 18/10): I posted this video of a drone bee walking around my hand. It shows in more detail how dark and thick drones can be. A worker bee looks like a little baby next to a drone.
UPDATE (Dec. 22/10): I recently learned through a comment that our bees are a hybrid of Italians, Russians and Carniolans. Carniolans produce large drones with all-black abdomens, which is apparent in our drones.
PHOTOS NOTE (AUGUST 2015): The photos in this post may not display properly because they were uploaded through Google’s Picasa online photo album service, a service I no longer use because certain updates created more work for me instead of streamlining the process. I will eventually replace the photos with ones hosted on the Mud Songs server. This note will disappear when (or if) that happens.