Quantifying Attributes of Drone Congregation Areas

Jacob Shuman
Undergraduate (Entomology)
Dr. Reed Johnson
Agricultural Communication, Education, and Leadership

Drone Congregation Areas or (DCA's) are areas where drone honey bees from many different colonies fly and congregate in anticipation of the arrival of unmated honey bee queens. These locations are thought to be found 50 ft to 130 ft above the ground and located in an open space near a tree line or hill. While landscape factors associated with DCA's have been identified in other regions, little is known about the conditions under which DCA's form in Central Ohio.

During the summer of 2020, I verified the existence of DCA's and determined the conditions under which drone bees will congregate around a virgin queen in Ross and Pickaway counties. To illustrate this behavior, a drone bee fishing net was constructed to capture the drone bees who were actively pursuing a queen out on her maiden flight. For the queen bee simulation, I flew a net baited with the major component in queen bee pheromone, 9-ODA. The net was suspended from a weather balloon attached to a fishing line and launched using helium gas and flown at a range of times in the afternoon. I observed drones captured from the DCA's with the net and determined the total number of drones that were collected. There was an approximate 2:1 or 3:1 ratio mature drone bees to immature drone bees that were caught each time. If a small sample size was collected, only mature drones were found. The resulting data collected included logging the time of day, temperature, wind speed, and flight time. A total of three DCA sites were found using auditory and visual cues as well as topography. The average time of day when the most drones were collected was between 3:30 PM to 4:30PM. Temperature range was between 79F - 90F on mostly sunny to partly cloudy afternoons. The average wind speed was less than 5 mph. The implications of these findings support locating likely drone congregation areas in Central Ohio.