Fact Check: The Facts Behind Video Supposedly Showing Male Drone Bee Dying After Ejaculation

Screengrab/More Than.Honey trailer
Screengrab/More Than.Honey trailer


A video authentically shows a male drone bee dying after mating with a queen bee.


Rating: True
Rating: True

Snopes has previously uncovered the costs of mating in the biological world, with some animals essentially spending their whole lives waiting to have sex, and then they die. For female octopuses, laying a clutch of eggs will be her final act. Similarly, after spawning, adult salmon will die, their bodies providing vital nutrients to their surrounding freshwater ecosystems. 

In the insect world, male drone bees spend their short time on Earth – less than two months – fulfilling their life's purpose of mating with their queen. After this, their male member is essentially ripped from their abdomen. Yes, they die, too. 

A video shared widely across social media platforms in 2024 claimed to show this morbid mating in posts shared to X, Instagram Threads, and Reddit, including the post below, which had amassed more than 50,000 likes at the time of this publication.

A reverse-image search revealed the blurry video originated in part in 2013 when several online news outlets – including The Verge, Gizmodo, The Guardian, and Smithsonian Magazine – published the clip. 

The articles above detailed the 2012 documentary "More Than Honey," which included the clip in question. Furthermore, Snopes analyzed scientific literature, and based on our findings, which we describe below, we have no reason to doubt the video's authenticity. For these reasons, we have rated this claim as "True." 

"More Than Honey" was directed by Swiss-born Markus Imhoof and described on the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) as "an in-depth look at honeybee colonies in California, Switzerland, China and Australia." According to the official trailer description, in his documentary Imhoof "tackles the issue of why bees, worldwide, are facing extinction." 

The scene in question can be seen at the 1:51 mark in the trailer and in this clip shared to YouTube on July 31, 2012. A narrator says, "the drone dies during the mating ceremony." 

The Hollywood News also published an interview with Imhoof on Sept. 8, 2013, in which he acknowledged the mating scene as authentic. He described the film as a "realistic sci-fi journey in another world which is the bee world," adding: 

For me it was very important that in the whole story you always also see the point of view of the bees themselves, and so a third of the film is in the hives following the flying bees (and also) the mating of the Queen which is what I call the realistic side of this science-fiction movie.

According to The Guardian, Imhoof used:

… mini-helicopters and high-speed cameras to capture an extraordinary video of the inflight mating of a virgin queen bee. It took 10 days to get 36 seconds of footage at Heidrum Singer's hives in Austria.

A news release from the University of West Alabama archived in April 2023 included a translated transcript of another interview with Imhoof, in which the director noted that the documentary was filmed with 70 pictures per second, essentially slowing the quick-moving bees down to a speed more akin to humans. This allowed filmmakers to capture details that would otherwise be "impossible to perceive," such as the "scrambling of the little legs, the tongues, antennae [and] wings." For reference, bees' wings move at 280 beats per second. 

As we mentioned above, the scientific literature supports the claims made in the video. 

Hives consist of three types of bees: the worker bee, the drone, and the queen. As their name suggests, worker bees are responsible for foraging nectar and pollen to bring back to their hive. A queen bee is responsible for regulating the colony and laying eggs, while drones have one duty: to mate with the queen. 

North American bee queens, scientific name Apis mellifera, practice "extreme polyandry," a "marriage" of sorts to multiple males at the same time. According to 2015 research published in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS ONE, this practice appears to be an evolutionary trait to bolster disease resistance through increased genetic diversity. 

A virgin female queen will mate at only one point in her life but has been spotted doing so with up to 20 individuals at this time. She can contain millions of spermatozoa from multiple partners in her spermatheca, basically an internal sperm purse. 

The term "mating flight of the queen" was coined in 1934 in a poetic article published in The Bee World, in which the author writes that the drone bee "makes amends on behalf of his kind for a life of idleness and comparative ease." Drones mature at about 16 days and are at their most desirable in the 12 days following. They typically die at 55 days – that is, if they didn't mate sooner. 

Bee Health, a group of experts involved in government programs to improve honey bee health, notes that a queen bee flies through a "congregation area" of male drones primed for mating, writing that: 

The drones form a "drone comet" behind the queen, which is a swarm like formation. The drones approach until one is able to mount and explode its semen into the gen*t*l orifice of the queen in a rapid fashion lasting only a few seconds. The drone becomes paralyzed, flips backwards, and propels the semen through the queen's sting chamber into the oviduct. The drone dies within minutes or hours of mating.

Similarly, 1963 research described the mating ritual as involving: 

The drone clasped the queen's abdomen and everted the gen*t*ls into the sting chamber, which must be open. Paralysis of the drone accompanied the onset of gen*t*l eversion; this caused the drone to swing over backwards, attached by the gen*t*ls which everted more completely as the physical restraints inherent in the initial position were released. Finally, as the drone hung from the queen, the mating act was terminated by an audible snap, presumably caused by compressed air in the drone gen*t*ls, and apparently serving to separate the drone physically from the queen. 

And if that wasn't enough gruesome bee sex for you, we should also mention that some drones will blind their queen with toxic semen. That's according to 2019 research that tested whether "ejaculates contain molecules that affect the neurophysiology and behavior of queens in such a way that these queens are less likely to acquire additional matings during subsequent mating flights.


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---. Directed by Markus Imhoof, Zero One Film, Allegro Film, Thelma Film AG, 2012.

---. Directed by Markus Imhoof, Zero One Film, Allegro Film, Thelma Film AG, 2012.

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