Crawling, Injured Bumble Bees

Tree bumble bee crawling on the ground.We expect to see bumble bees foraging on flowers, or buzzing from bloom to bloom. Seeing injured bumble bees crawling on the ground may cause concern.


As bees are active from spring, inevitably people come across dead bees, and sometimes injured bees, sometimes crawling around on the ground or in the grass, perhaps with damaged wings and generally looking a little worse for wear - although it has to be said that not all bumble bees found on the ground are dead or injured.

Kind-hearted people who see bees in poor condition crawling about in their gardens often contact me, asking for my view point on this, and wanting to know whether or not there is anything they can do to help bees in such circumstances.

I had another such query from Josh in the UK, who was happy for me to share the text of his email with readers, so that it may provide useful information to other visitors to this website.  Here it is:

Why am I seeing crawling, injured bumble bees?

Hi there,

I have seen 3-5 bees all within 15 minutes of each other about a metre apart each, all with broken or damaged wings, crawling in the grass.

They all seem to be coming from the same direction.

I understand from reading your site that there is not much we can do to help these bees, but seeing this amount of bees in the same condition in such a close proximity to each other is concerning.  I am worried that a predator may have done this?

We have two confirmed species of bee on our property, Mason bees and White-tailed bumble bee, but the ones seen in the grass look to resemble the Tree bumble bee (Bombus hypnorum). Could they be fighting each other or could it be the influence of another species such as wasps?

Any information on this you can send our way would be much appreciated.

Many thanks,

Josh, UK.


A Bombus terrestris (buff-tailed bumble bee) queen on the ground.A Bombus terrestris (buff-tailed bumble bee) queen on the ground. I actually filmed this particular bee engaged in grooming herself.


Here was my response:

    Hi Josh

    Thank you for your email and for caring about the bees :).

    I suspect you have a bumble bee nest close by.  It is possible that the bumble bees have had to fight off a predator, but I suspect it is just as likely to be the case that these are older workers that probably emerged from the colony at around the same time.  It is normal for workers to become ragged, and have wing damage as they near the end of their natural life cycle.  You may even see a few dead bumble bees in the same area.  This would possibly be due to the remaining members of the colony cleaning out the nest, part of which means removing any dead bumble bees. Again, this is normal and natural.

    It is also possible that the nest has suffered predator attack. A colony of bumble bees could easily face off one or two individual wasps, but there may be a couple of casualties in the process.  Had there been many wasps, I suspect you would have noticed the activity.

    At this point, there isn't really much you can do, though it is kind of you to be concerned.  The best thing we can all do is help bees out by having as many bee-friendly plants and shrubs in our gardens as possible, and keep pesticides out of the garden.   It sounds as though you are already doing that, hence the bees in your garden :).

    Hopefully, the bumble bee colony as a whole will survive long enough to produce new queens and males.  If the colony manages to do this, then the colony has been successful, since they are the ones that ensure future generations.

    I hope this helps.  

    Best wishes,

    Amanda





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