Bumblebee nests grow throughout the season, and produce new males and queens in autumn. Throughout the life of the nest a large number of smaller worker bees help the nest to grow by collecting nectar and pollen - these are the bees that you see out and about in summer. These workers only live for a few weeks, and then sadly die. It's therefore quite normal to see a small number of dead bees in the garden. So long as you are still seeing live bees in the area, then it's unlikely to be something new that we should be worrying about.
The reason why dead bees are often found in gardens and near nest sites is simply because that’s there they’ve been living. When bees are close to death, they often cling to flowers and look quite lethargic. When they do die, they then drop off the flowers, and you may find a number of these in your gardens, especially near the most bee-friendly plants. Also, you may find dead bees and larvae near nest entrances, because dead and dying bees are removed from the nest so that disease does not spread.
Sometimes we often find many dead bees under trees (especially lime trees), and this is because these trees often run out of nectar when it is very warm, or when lots of bees have been feeding on them. Therefore, bees often die whilst still trying to feed, and soon fall to the ground.
Bumblebees, like many insects in fact (and humans!) sometimes suffer from different parasites which live inside them. These parasites can make the bees appear slow and sluggish, perhaps even drunk! Again, sad as this may seem, it is a natural process that has been going on for many, many years, and is not at the root of the problem. Equally, bumblebees may sometimes seem very lethargic just because the weather is cold - but they will recover when it warms up. This is nothing to be alarmed about, and is perfectly natural.
“Few people realise just how important bumblebees are. They are charming little things and a pleasure to see, but they also do an essential job which many people take for granted. If bumblebees continue to decline then we face ecological turmoil. Join BBCT today and support their important work.”
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