Male bees have one purpose; to join the mile high club, but competition is intense. Available queens are pursued by dozens of suitors – only the fittest drones realise their two seconds of glory.
The fitness regime starts with shedding excess weight – and anything that disrupts aerodynamics … which means getting rid of the testes!
Yes, two days before a drone goes out to strut his stuff, his testes shrivel up. They’re redundant because the drone’s seminal vesicles are already fully loaded and ready for love.
Come the day of their first attempted mating flight, preparations are intensive. Eyes are polished to sharpen visual acuity; good eyesight is essential for spotting queens.
Likewise, the antennae are repeatedly combed. These detect the scent of available queens and also monitor flight speed. When in hot pursuit there’s a risk of over-shooting the queen if the air brakes aren’t engaged in time.
With luck the queen will be caught mid-air, and held tight with the legs. Then is not the time to fumble. With perfect alignment the goal can be achieved … but it takes practice.
So for hours before take-off the drones do pelvic-thrust exercises, arching their abdomens and squeezing.
Mostly sorties fail. On warm days drones might go out 3 – 4 times in pursuit of nirvana, each flight lasting 30 minutes before they have to return to the hive to re-fuel.
But as the days pass they hone their skills and some 25 – 60 flights later immortality is achieved. The queen lives on … but ‘The King’ is dead!