T HERE are the drones, their brothers. These fine gentlemen never gather honey or pollen, nor do any work in the hive.
In fact, they are scarcely able to feed themselves, and very much like to have their sisters feed them.
They are handsome fellows, and somewhat larger than their little worker sisters.
They have large round heads, with enormous compound eyes that meet on top and crowd the other three eyes down in front, between them. They have more than twice as many facets in their eyes as the workers. Their antennæ are long and very sensitive. They have large bodies covered with a coat of soft brown down, very pretty to look at, and their wings are large.
That they are so helpless, I am glad to say, is not their fault. Mr. Apis Mellifica has no honey-sac, so he could hardly be expected to go out and try to bring home honey. He could not get it even if he had a honey-sac in which to store it, because his tongue is so short and so weak. He can eat honey from the honey-comb in the hive, or from any easily obtained supply; but that is the best he can do.
So Mr. Drone Apis Mellifica leaves the sweet occupation of gathering nectar to his sister, Miss Worker Apis Mellifica.
As for pollen, the drone has no baskets in which to carry it, so there is an end to that.
And as for working in the hive, he is no better off for tools to work with than he is for a honey-sac, a serviceable tongue, and pollen baskets.
In fact, there is nothing for him to do but to stay at home and be taken care of like a gentleman of leisure.
This he does to perfection. He stands about with his hands in his pockets, so to speak, and lets his little brown sisters feed him, which they do by allowing him to put his tongue into their mouths. On warm, sunny days, he flies out to see the world and to try his fortune.
His little brown sister feeds him
Occasionally a drone meets the young queen of another hive, also out to see the world. When this happens they mate, but she stays with him only a short time, and then goes back to her own hive and leaves him.
The poor fellow has no sting at all, so he cannot defend himself, or avenge an insult. We may pick him up, if we can catch him, with no fear of being stung, and may say anything to him or about him that we please.
Basketless, stingless, with no honey-sac, and no serviceable nectar-gathering tongue, he is almost as helpless as a Chinese lady.
Only she is purposely made helpless, and he is born so.
A Chinese girl baby has as good feet as any baby, and they would grow as large as other people's if it were not the fashion for the mothers to squeeze the poor little tootsie-wootsies into small ugly shoes that hurt the babies terribly and make them as cross as crabs. It serves their mothers right, too, when they are cross. Think of crippling them all their lives so they can neither work nor do anything useful.
In China the people consider it a disgrace to work, and the rich people cripple their girl babies to show that it is not necessary for them to work.
It is not considered a disgrace to work in the hive, however, nor in any other really civilized community.
In fact, all the bees in the hive work very hard, excepting the drones, and they generally form a very small proportion of the whole number.
The drone is an idler because he is so made that it is impossible for him to work.
But he is happy, and flies about in the sun taking whatever good comes to him without finding fault.
His sisters are glad to work for him, and he is glad to have them do so.