There are not drones present in the hive all year long. In the late fall, the remaining drones are forced out of the hive and starve or freeze to death. The winter cluster of a honey bee colony therefore only contains workers and the queen bee. The queen lays new unfertilized eggs to replenish the drone population in the spring.
Drones are the male bees in a honey bee colony. They develop from unfertilized eggs and are therefore haploid or have only one set of genes that comes from the queen. In other words, drones do not have fathers, only grandfathers. Drone cells are larger than worker cells because drones are larger than worker bees and have larger eyes. Drones also take longer to develop into adults than workers (24 days vs 21 days). This is one reason Varroa mites prefer to reproduce in drone cells.
Drones have one job, to find and mate with virgin queens. They do so in drone congregation areas (DCAs) which are specific sites in the air high off the ground used year after year. Drones from many local hives will visit the same DCA. Drones use their large eyes and powerful flight muscles to spot and catch a virgin queen out on her mating flight. When a drone mates with a queen, his sex organ (endophallus) will break off inside her and the drone will die.
More Information: https://www.perfectbee.com/learn-about-bees/the-life-of-bees/role-of-the-drone-bee
Jen Haeger is a new master beekeeper and board member of A2B2.