bees flying past a single bee on the ground

How to help a bee that can’t fly?

Found a bee that can’t fly? Don’t worry we’ve got you and your furry friend covered with our helpful guide on how to help a bee that can’t fly.

Bees fly directly from their hives and nests either to forage for resources or to mate and reproduce.

Grounded bees can be a sign of a greater problem within the colony or simply just a bee resting between flights.

Identify why you’re bee can’t fly

There are a number of reasons why a bee might not be able to fly and the cause will always affect the best course of action for you to take to help the bee.

Is it just resting?

Buzzing from flower to flower can be tiring work, large bumblebees in particular can use vast amounts of calories just by keeping their large abdomen and thorax above the ground.

This energy-intensive work can lead to bees resting between trips to flowers or before returning to the hive with their precious cargo.

Bumblebee queens in particular have been observed resting on flowers and flora for between 30-45 minutes.

Before you take any action to help a bee that isn’t flying make sure you wait at least 45 minutes to ensure it isn’t just rejuvenating between flights.

Helping bees is fantastic when they’re in trouble but trying to help a healthy bee that is just resting will simply distress it and cause it to take flight before it’s ready.

In a worst-case scenario, this could lead to the bee becoming exhausted and disoriented on the flight home and never reaching the safety of the colony.

How can you help?

If a bee is just resting the best thing you can do is simply leave it in peace.

Only move a resting bee if it is in clear danger, this could be due to road traffic, footfall or professional work in the area.

In these situations, you can try and pace the bee on a leaf or flower and move it to a more suitable location.

Try to avoid picking up the bee with your hand as this could lead to a nasty sting (remember the bee doesn’t know you’re trying to help).

In most cases, your bee will simply relocate when you approach but if it happily accepts your offer of transport try to find a wildflower area in close proximity to where you found it.

Colourful flowers rich in nectar and pollen are always a good indicator of suitable relocation spots.

Is it thirsty or tired?

If you find a bee that can’t fly in an urban setting devoid of any suitable resources for bees it may be struggling to find the energy to take flight again.

Bees’ natural habitats are slowly being replaced with domestic and commercial property development leading to a lack of resources for foraging bees.

How can you help?

You can help tired, exhausted bees by creating a simple sugar and water mix.

Learn more about how to revive a bee with sugar water in our helpful guide.

Is it burrowing?

Believe it or not some bees actually make their nests in the ground.

If you see a bee on the ground it may be protecting its nest at ground level rather than simply not flying.

A few species of solitary bees even hibernate in the ground over winter with others opting to place their young larvae in specially created underground nests sealed with a special secretion to create a waterproof layer around the vulnerable young bees.

How can you help?

Bees burrowing and hibernating in the ground are simply going about their normal daily activities.

If you can find a way of cordoning off the area where you’re bees are nesting underground you can reduce the risk of garden work or footfall affecting the nest.

Other than protection simply leave the bees to their own accord and if all goes to plan young larvae or overwintered bees will emerge as spring begins to warm up the ground.

Does your bee have no wings?

Some bees can’t fly because they have lost or have never developed their wings.

Bees with no wings are a concerning site and can be an indicator of DWV, an RNA virus named Deformed wing virus.

This catastrophic virus affects entire colonies of primarily honeybees but also some species of bumblebees.

Symptoms include underdeveloped wings, abdomens, legs and thorax, bees severely affected by this virus will have considerably decreased life spans and in some cases are even ejected from their nest or hive for the greater good of the colony.

Predators can also be the cause of bees with no wings with birds, other insects and even bears predating on bees and their honey stocks.

How can you help?

Unfortunately, bees that can’t take flight due to a lack of or damaged wings have very little chance of survival.

Returning a bee with no wings to the nest or hive could spread diseases amongst the colonies’ other inhabitants and the bee in question may have already been ejected for the nest or hive’s welfare.

The best course of action, in this case, is simply to leave the bee alone, if the bee is at immediate risk you can move it to a sunny spot but sadly this will just prolong the inevitable.

Is your bee wet?

Sometimes a bee can’t fly because it’s wet and its thin diaphanous wings become waterlogged very easily.

Heavy rains or mishaps while trying to drink can lead to bees becoming saturated and unable to take to the skies.

How can you help?

We never recommend bringing any bees inside your house, this is not their natural environment and the lack of natural light and entrapment will distress them.

The best course of action here is to carefully move your wet bee to a suitable location to dry off while still outside.

If it’s raining try and find some natural shelter in the form of a tree or large bush and place the bee beneath it to slowly dry off.

If it’s sunny try to place your bee in direct sunlight.

Waterlogged bees will regularly bask in the sun until their wings and body are dry before taking flight again.

In conclusion

In most cases, the best way to help a bee that can’t fly is simply to leave it be. While we love the idea of helping bees they aren’t pets and human interaction can be terrifying for them.

Check out our other short reads on bees below.

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