- “Drones aren't brave; they're just incapable of feeling fear.”— Bungie.net's description of Drones.
Yanme'e (Latin Turpis rex, translated to "Ugly king"), known by Humans as Drones or buggers, and are a race of sentient, flight-capable insectoids who make up part of the alien religious hegemony known as the Covenant. Their mastery of antigravity-assisted flight has given them an almost insurmountable strategic advantage in combat.
The Yanme'e are human sized, insectoid creatures that are covered in a natural chitinous exoskeleton that affords them limited armor protection against modern weaponry. Yanme'e typically mount small antigravity devices on their exoskeleton to assist them in flight. It seems, like the other Covenant species, that Yanme'e share a ranking system from the colored plating of their exoskeletal armor. The Yanme'e do not interact with the other species except to trade and serve in a military capacity. The Yanme'e's exact position in the Covenant Hierarchy is relatively unknown, although it is reasonable to speculate that they are higher in rank than Unggoy and Kig-Yar, but lower in rank than Sangheili and Jiralhanae. Yanme'e are often used as mechanic crews on ships when Huragok are not available, though they aren't as effective as the Engineers. In jealousy, Yanme'e have even killed an Engineer named Lighter Than Some which was assigned all the drones' tasks aboard the Covenant vessel Rapid Conversion. After the Great Schism began, almost all of the Yanme'e took the side of the Covenant Loyalists.
The Yanme'e are an eusocial species, meaning their society usually consists of a single reproductive queen, reproductive males and non-reproductive female workers and/or soldiers. Because of this, the Yanme'e can be extremely dogmatic and hive minded; something that may have made for an easy conversion into the Covenant hierarchy. The Yanme'e were one of the newest races to join the Covenant, and are respected by the other Covenant species for their natural intelligence, obedience, and technological skill; the latter skills set has brought them into an often violent rivalry with the Huragok, as seen in Halo: Contact Harvest. The Yanme'e fought for the Covenant Loyalists during the Covenant Civil War in 2552.
The Yanme'e joined the Covenant in the year 1112. Much like the Unggoy and the Mgalekgolo, they are a conquered race that was forced into service by the Covenant. Despite this, unlike the two former species, they remained with the Covenant Loyalists during the Great Schism. They strictly follow the Covenant religion and obey any command without question, yet do not partake in social norms due to communication difficulties with other species. They view the Prophets as "Queens," a remnant of their former hive lifestyle. The Queens of the Yanme'e have been described as "enormous" and had to be supported by multiple wingless Yanme'e males. The Yanme'e's language is a cacophony of high-pitched clicking or whining from the rubbing of their waxy, leaf like wings. They are also known to communicate with loud shrieks and screeches. Some ideas are conveyed through the use of pheromones.
Anatomy and physiology
The Yanme'e are not true insects, as they do not share a common ancestry with Terran life, but they share many similarities with earthly beetles and colonial insects. The Yanme'e have hard exoskeletons made from a glossy chitinous substance, as well as two pairs of veined wings.
Unlike Earth insects, which have three body sections, the segments of the Yanme'e body are broken into five: a head, a cephalothorax, a thorax, a pelvis and an abdomen. The head supports a pair of feathery sensory antennae and a pair of compound eyes. The mouth consists of sets of mandibles like those found on insects. Their hands sport opposable thumbs and dextrous fingers. The first pair of legs are attached to a pelvis like structure, while the second pair is attached to the abdomen. The last set of limbs allow the Yanme'e to latch onto ceilings and hang down vertically during sleep.
The exoskeletons of the Yanme'e are brightly colored, with different hues representing different ranks or stages of maturity. Adolescent, or pupal, Yanme'e are luminescent yellow and orange, workers are a green hue, soldiers are pale blue, and Yanme'e majors are dark red.
There seem to be a number of different varieties or ranks of Yanme'e, including copper, green, blue, silver, red, and gold. Drones have also shown variation in other characteristics than color, including differences in mandible, limb, and antennae structure. Whether these traits are indicative of different tasks or functions, or simply a result of genetic variation, is unknown. When the Drones sleep, they do so hanging upside down from the ceiling, similar to bats.
The weight of the Yanme'e's exoskeleton prevents them from flying in gravity without the use of antigravity technology. This is presumably the purpose of the mechanical nodes that are integrated into the Yanme'e's carapace.
Social behavior and caste structure
As mentioned before, the Yanme'e are an eusocial species. They live in colonies built around a single reproductive queen, several reproductive wingless males, and many workers and soldiers.
The queen is the central figure of the hive. Her primary role, as with ants, bees, and termites, is to propagate the species. Being a sentient species, the queen likely serves as an absolute matriarchal leader, making her a queen in the literal sense as well. The queen has been described as being large with the distended, egg producing abdomen seen in queen termites. This extra bulk would likely limit the queen's mobility. This is further reinforced by a Queen present for the ascensions of the High Prophets of Truth, Mercy, and Regret being carried on a litter supported by at least six wingless male drones. It is unlikely that a single queen could support an entire species so there are probably multiple, though possibly subordinate, queens.
- Wingless males
These are drones in the true sense of the word. They are the reproductive male caste of the hive, like drone bees. The term "drone" is often incorrectly used for the worker caste of many eusocial species. Little is known about their appearance other than that they are wingless. To prevent inbreeding, the drones might have to come from an unrelated hive. It's likely that they have wings earlier in their lives so they can travel, but they are later lost or removed after mating with the queen. This behavior can be seen in ants and termites. Like the males of eusocial insects, they might possibly lack any natural weaponry and have enlarged eyes. The males most likely exist for the sole purpose of fertilizing the queen, as well as caring for her and move her from place to place. The lack of wings may also render them "mute" as it seems the Yanme'e use their wings to communicate.
- Workers and soldiers
As with many species of ants, there may not be a true division in the worker and soldier caste, but the two may simply be different sizes of worker. Most insect workers are biologically female, but incapable of reproduction. Within the worker/soldier caste, there appear to be many ranks. Minors are the most common form and have a very low (as low or lower than the Unggoy's) position in Covenant society. Majors could represent a separate soldier caste: they have larger wings, fly faster, are more skilled in combat and often carry Needlers.
- Unmutuals/Incapable of socialization
These are Drones that are unable to work in concert with the rest of the hive, and, in fact, have been known to go on the rampage and destroy nests, smash eggs, and murder their own species. They are generally imprisoned to prevent them from communicating with the rest of the populace and, on at least one known occasion, have been sent to mine helium-3 on planets captured by the Covenant. The Yanme'e in these penal colonies are often guarded and worked to death by Kig-Yar. On one occasion a Kig-Yar actually removed the legs of a drone who was named by Spartan Team Black as Hopalong hence his missing legs. He helped the Spartans get into the camp and later released all the other drones.
Organization and Ranks
Though a sense of organization or leadership is usually unclear among swarms of attacking Yanme'e, rank structure can be surmised based on the color of a Drone's exoskeleton and the strength of its defensive armor. The reason for the association of color with strength and rank is unknown, but one possible theory is that it is based on age. Yanme'e, like many real-world insects, may grow by molting their skins. The color changes could occur after each molt, when the Drone becomes larger and stronger. Regular Drone infantry are composed of following ranks:
- Minor - Drone Minors are the most common type of Yanme'e encountered and are by far the weakest.
- Major - Drone Majors can be distinguished by a light blue or brown-red exoskeleton, though some may also appear identical to the Minors below them. They typically command a small unit of 2-3 Minors. In Halo: Reach. They have a set of three horns
- Ultra - Drone Ultras are moderately common on the battlefield but are slightly stronger than their Major counterparts. They are distinguished by their blue and cyan or silver-white exoskeletons. In Halo: Reach. They have a large Stag Beetle-like horn on their head.
Among these infantry ranks, the rank of leader Drones have also been seen on the battlefield, utilizing Plasma Rifles and low-powered personal energy shields to make them more capable in combat.
- Captain - Drone captains Are extremely capable warriors compared to the rest of their brothers and feature weak energy shields. Captains regularly appear on the battlefield to command large units of infantry.
- Leader - Drone Leaders represent the peak of the Yanme'e ranks which features more stronger energy shields, Leaders command vast numbers of Yanme'e and have been rarely seen on the battlefield outside of a hive. They occur in slightly less numbers than their Captain brethren.
An attaché is selected from each Yanme'e combat unit and is tasked with interfacing with the other Covenant races in order to organize the swarm. Due to the difficulty in communication among the Yanme'e and the other Covenant races, these attachés do not socialize with their superiors. Instead, they are expected to become familiar enough with their allies' modes of communication that they can keep their unit mates coordinated effectively.
Reproduction and life cycle
Almost nothing is known about the Yanme'e life cycle beyond the fact that the queen lays eggs. It's possible that the Yanme'e go through a complete metamorphosis including an egg, larva, pupa, and adult stage, as it is known that the Yanme'e life cycle does include some form of pupal stage, as in Halo 3: ODST when pupal Drones are encountered. They are weaker than other varieties of Drone, and are notable for their bioluminescent carapace, which glows bright green and orange.
Yanme'e are an eusocial species, and therefore their intelligence is geared toward working in concert with large groups. They can accomplish tasks swiftly and efficiently when working together, and their knowledge of machinery is rivaled only by the Huragok. However, they lack individuality because of their hive lifestyle, and their instincts and societal conditioning suppress creative thought and encourage total obedience to authority. No examples of Drone names have yet been discovered, which could be another sign of their lack of individuality. They do not appear to experience higher emotions; It is suspected that they are able to feel jealousy, as seen when they killed Engineer Lighter Than Some when he unintentionally usurped their role as technician on board the Rapid Conversion. The Halo 3 Campaign Scoring description of Drone Majors states that Drones are incapable of feeling fear. In Halo: Evolutions, Unmutual Yanme'e are seen to be capable of independent thought and strategic planning.
Yanme'e are deployed in battle situations, such as aerial insertions, often alongside other Covenant forces. They have been seen to be used for surprise aerial ambushes and assaults, such as catching infantrymen off guard and causing them to shoot upwards as a diversion so that their allies may attack on the ground. This is a common Covenant tactic that can be used to wipe out a whole squad of Marines. They can also be seen lifting their enemies off the ground to impressive heights despite their frail appearance. This likely shows that the strength of the Yanme'e in general is underestimated and that they can lift greater than their own body mass in flight for a short time.
Yanme'e generally build their hives into cavern ceilings deep underground, and they are able to build a fully functional hive within a single day. A defining characteristic of Yanme'e hives is that they radiate heat to their surroundings from vent-like openings, elevating the temperature over a large area.
- Main article: Palamok
The Yanme'e homeworld is Palamok, a planet similar to Earth, but twice the size and about twice the gravity (2.2G).
- Palamok in Tagalog means "increasing of mosquitoes," which may have relevance to the Yanme'e's body structure and behavior.
- During concept stages for Halo 3, a Yanme'e was planned to have an animation where it carried off a Marine. This was cut from the final game but one does pick up a Marine for a short time at the beginning of the first swarm attack in Crow's Nest.
- On the Bungie.net Game Stats for Halo: Reach, Yanme'e are referred to as "buggers" rather than their more common nickname, "drones."
- The weight of Drones averages around 77 kilograms, a reference to Bungie's love of 7.
- The lower bar of the average height of drones is 177.8 centimeters, the .8 signifying .777 rounded.
- In Halo: Reach there are three different types of Drones, and they all have different types of horns. The green Yanme'e, which do not have anything except two antennae, the red-shelled Drone, which has two horns that are facing backwards on its head, and the blue-shelled Drone, which has a big horn on its head pointing forward.
- In Halo: Spartan Assault, Yanme'e make the same sounds Huragok make when in combat and upon death.
- Concept art shows that Drones were to originally appear in Halo 4 and appear to be holding two handed weapons with their hands, but never appeared in the final game.
- Halo 2 (First appearance)
- Halo 3
- Halo 3: ODST
- Halo: Reach
- Halo: Ghosts of Onyx
- Halo: Contact Harvest
- Halo: Evolutions - Essential Tales of the Halo Universe
- Halo Legends
- Halo: Spartan Strike
- Halo: Spartan Assault
- Halo: Fireteam Raven
- Halo Encyclopedia - page 148-149
- Halo: The Essential Visual Guide, page 51
- HBO Forums
- Halo 2 instructional manual
- www.halo3.com - Species Bio.
- Halo: Contact Harvest
- Halo Encyclopedia - page 31
- Halo Encyclopedia, page 149
- Halo 2
- Halo 3
- Halo 3: ODST
- Halo Encyclopedia, page 148
- Halo 3, campaign level Crow's Nest
- Halo 3: ODST - Data Hive