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For Queen and Country by Trevor Patterson

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I know it seems really unlikely at my age. After all, I’ve sired two wonderful children in my time. So imagine my surprise when I discovered that I didn’t actually know how bees mate… I mean its crazy. I was brought up during the sixties – a child of the space age – and I can remember my mother sitting me down when I was 10 to discuss the birds and the bees. Curiously, she never actually got round to discussing either species; in fact it kind of turned into a lecture about how her tampons were for….ummm….women’s things, and not to be stuffed with caps, dipped in petrol and used by me as pretend sticks of dynamite. lol…. Who knew?!

Anyway, there I am sitting on a fire escape drinking coffee and eating a cheese and pickle roll. The sun is shining, I’m tired after a night shift at another hotel and I’ve come to this one to help my partner strip some rooms ready for cleaning. I’ve got the next few days off and I need to get back into day mode, so I’m trying to stay awake as long as I can. Then it happened…out of the corner of my eye I see something fly down into the bushes twenty feet in front of me. It’s black and about three inches long – too small for a bird, and very large for an insect. Interest piqued, I go and investigate and am greeted by a sight I suspect few people have ever seen in real life – a queen bee coupling with a drone. Now I say you’ve probably never seen it because as far as I can determine they are supposed to ‘do it’ in flight, but these guys have settled in the bushes, with the queen hanging on to a twig, while the drone is desperately trying to fill her spermathica with his sperm. This is supposed to take him only five or six seconds in flight, but that’s not what I’m witnessing. I watched in fascination for a couple a minutes while these two coupled. Now, the only reason I know what I was seeing is because I looked it up on the Wiki when I got home – at the time I just didn’t know! Up until that point I didn’t know that bees actually mated at all, I’d always assumed that the queen laid unfertilised eggs and that the drones came along and fertilised them afterwards a bit like fish do.

Anyway I snapped out of my reverie and got my camera out of the car and they were still at it when I got back. Sadly, I don’t currently own a macro lens so I tried all three lenses that I do have … a Nikon 50mm f1.8, a 18-125mm Sigma and finally a Nikon 70-300mm VR (which I think gave me the best shots). I didn’t have time to set up a tripod so I’m stuck with the lower f numbers on each lens and each time I swapped lenses I had to move further away to satisfy their respective minimum focus distance limitations. Consequently I’ve had to employ some fairly heavy cropping and sharpening to the pics I got, I had absolutely no control over the lighting and since they were in the middle of some bushes, I had a very limited field of view, so I guess I’m not going to get any of the shots into National Geographic or anything, but I think this one is worth sharing, just in case, like me… your mum was too embarrassed to tell you how bees do it! Bless her!

Oh, and one final thing, just in case you didn’t know… the drone would have died shortly after he’d finished – his life’s work completed, his sole purpose accomplished. and that as they say… Is a fact of life!

South Witham, Lincolnshire, UK

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black, yellow, insect, queen, bee, sex, bees, mating, drone


  • Keith Reesor
    Keith Reesorover 5 years ago

    Amazing capture Trevor!! :)

  • LoneAngel
    LoneAngelover 5 years ago

    outstanding !!

  • Anthony Hedger Photography
    Anthony Hedger...over 5 years ago

    A beautiful shot young Trevor, so on to the birds and the bees…..LOL

  • As you can probably tell Tony… I’m absolutely clueless about the subject, Ask me about cameras or computers or even cars and I’ll give you a pretty reasonable answer… Ask me about women and I haven’t got a bloody clue! lol But I take comfort in the thought that I’m probably not alone! :O)

    – Trevor Patterson

  • Anthony Hedger Photography
    Anthony Hedger...over 5 years ago

    LOL well said

  • TeriLee
    TeriLeeover 5 years ago

    Hee hee….your description is as priceless as this image!!!
    FEATURED AUGUST 20, 2009

  • julie08
    julie08over 5 years ago

    Well – great shot :)

  • Cora Wandel
    Cora Wandelabout 5 years ago

  • Georgie Hart
    Georgie Hartabout 5 years ago

    But…how….good grief! Wonderful capture, put it in National Geographic after all, I say. Thanks for the education Trevor!

  • alienfunk
    alienfunkabout 5 years ago

    One more thing I’d like to say on this subject if you don’t mind, great photo by the way and the reason we don’t know so much about bees is well they are hard to fit with tracking devices haha. Anyway my one more thing, the reason the male bee (drone) dies and I want you to sit crossed legged when i tell you this as it might make you wince, is because his penis rips off and stays put in the queen. Like a cork it stops other drones mating with her.

    Great shot and you are very lucky to get it.

  • bicyclegirl
    bicyclegirlalmost 5 years ago

    National Geo should be begging you for this image and story! Absolutely amazing!

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