Spring is upon us and it’s time to hunt for drone congregation areas again! While drones fly in DCAs into early autumn, they are most plentiful in spring and it’s a glorious time to be standing under a DCA, listening to that deep sonorous buzz of bees looking for love. Drones get their name from the unique sound they make while in flight, and the only time I’ve been able to really hear it well is in spring.

If you need a refresher on DCA hunting, read here for how to use your UAV to look for drones. Or, check out this great article in Bee Culture’s June 2021 issue by Theresa Martin about her experience finding a DCA near her apiary. (The article begins on page 70 of the PDF, magazine page 66.)

DCA Hunting Tips:
• To keep your thread from getting caught in the UAV propellers, put your UAV on an elevated surface like a small table or stool, with the thread stretched out below weighted by your lure. When landing, try to fly your UAV forward after the lure hits the ground to stretch it out and avoid propellers.
• I recommend using Temp Queen artificial queen mandibular pheromone as an attractant, but if you keep dead queens in a jar of alcohol, you can use the marinated queen juice as a lure instead. Just put some on a piece of coffee filter or paper towel and put it in a pill bottle with holes drilled into it.
• It’s a good idea to fly over your apiary first, to make sure your lure is attracting drones. (In my experience TempQueen lasts a long time but it will get depleted at some point. Same with marinated queen juice.) Drones will fly up to your UAV regardless of the lure, so you’ll want to look to make sure they’re flying around your lure and not just coming at the UAV.
• Fly your UAV at different times in the afternoon, aiming for the warmest time of the day. Drones might be in an area later than you’d think, so circle back to the same spots in an hour if you don’t have any luck the first time.
• Watch which direction your drones are headed when they fly out, then look on Google Earth Pro for landmarks they might use (a treeline, road or waterway) and note where a drop in elevation occurs, or T junctions in the landmarks. Those are good places to start.