Great read - many thanks.For those that have not read much about drones, they are mature enough to mate 12 days after emerging. They are at their peak for a week to ten days and then their sperm begins to decline. They live on the average 21 to 32 days after emerging. If they are raised in a colony that has large varroa mite numbers their life span is shortened by 1/3 rd.
They make their first flight to defecate and orient on the colony at 5 to 6 days, this is the average age for all the young to make their first flights. They have about 25 minutes flight time on a full load of nectar, they usually will limit their flight distance to within a 0.5 mile of the parent colony, and from what I have read, their flight speed is the same as workers and queens, around 12 miles an hour, 0.2 miles a minute.
The drones fly to DCAs, Drone Congregation Areas, where they orbit until a queen appears or they must return to the hive to refuel. Once they find a DCA they continue to return to the same one on their later flights. There will be drones from a particular colony in all of the DCAs within flight distance of the colony. Drones tend to ignore virgin queens outside of the DCAs, and some authorities think that the different races of honey bees have their own flight heights within the DCAs, and this is why we have pockets of "mostly pure" races in areas with a majority or other races of honey bees. The flight heights observed in DCAs are 50 feet above ground level up to 200 feet above ground level. The number of drones in a DCA is estimated to be 10 to 15 thousand at any one time.
There is some limited flights made after 10am, but most occur after 2pm and will decrease after 5pm. Most flights occur on bright sunny day with no or light wind. Drones are allowed to enter any colony, but most drone drift occurs during orientation flights within two weeks after emerging.
Drone production stops in a colony when a pollen shortage occurs, and the adult drones are ejected and are not allowed to reenter the hive. Other colonies will no longer allow drones free entry and they are roughed up by the guards at the entrance. Drone production stops in late fall and usually the adult drones are ejected, the pupa and larvae are eaten, and the colony consists of only worker caste bees. I have seen colonies that have allowed a few drones to remain as long as December, not many, just a few.