Over the past couple of months I’ve come across 4 Bumbles that have been unable to fly. The wings beat as normal (as far as I can tell) & some have managed to lift off, but they always fall off my hand. I think I’ve noticed odd head movements associated with this. They move their heads in a jerky movement. Much like dragonflies do. Could there be a link, or am I imagining it?
I have seen some bumble’s that fly but it like their abdomen’s aren’t co-ordinated with their thorax and it seems to be jerking and affects their flight. I wonder if they have been parasitised and this is the effect.
I hope someone replies to your post Mandy, very interesting.
I wondered about parasites too. These ones that can’t fly also spend a lot of time grooming & waggling their abdomens. I am very new to the “bumble-scene” but I can’t help but think there’s a connection.
The ones that you describe, alibumble, how is their flight affected? Can you explain?
Yes Mandy, it’s like their front half of their body is flying normally but the lower part, abdomen is moving backwards and forwards really quickly and they can’t gain height. It’s like their abdomens are separate from their thorax and have a mind of their own. Very strange.
I’m so glad you are rescuing bumble’s already Mandy, being a newbie, well done
Hi Alibumble and Mandy,
Over the last few years I’ve re-located a number of bumblebee colonies to my garden - I’m a bumblebee-mad beekeeper.
A good number of times I too have had bees walking along the grass looking agitated, trying to take off and not managing to do so.
And last year someone I know who worked as a professional bumblebee researcher mentioned the same thing as happening with a wild colony which he had found in his garden.
I can think of several possible causes - and there will almost certainly be others :-
1. The bee is cold and needs to warm up more before it’s wings have the strength to fly. They are warm blooded in flight and at full activity, but need to warm up from cold if inactive.
2. It is too heavy to fly, so needs to defecate first.
3. It has deformed wings - due to Wax Moth damage, or poor humidity control after it hatched, so the wings don’t have enough area (not big enough).
4. It might have some sort of nervous system, or muscular system incompleteness - or other poor genetics.
5. Bumblebees can get virus diseases, as do honey bees; and in honey bees some virus diseases affect flying ability.
6. Sick bees take themselves off, away from the colony to die - which has the effect of reducing any pool of infection.
You could try cosseting the bee to help it recover.
If it doesn’t, give it a peaceful end by popping it in a freezer for a couple of hours.
Or, you could give it a swift end by putting your foot on it !
Sorry for the gruesome end !
Thank-You Clive. I have tried “reviving” the affected bees, sadly to no avail. Death is swift though! I can’t agree with death by means of a freezer. This has been shown to be an extremely cruel method of despatching animals. The internal organs developing ice crystals etc. Fish keepers once favoured this method, but due to research, it is almost never practised nowadays.
Thank you Clive for your interesting response.
I agree with Mandy about killing bumble’s in a freezer, just not humane. If they are dying and can’t be saved i kill them quickly by squashing their heads. Gruesome yes but quick and painless for them.
I think freezing is still used by tropical fish keepers, dropping tropical fish into almost frozen water kills them instantly. Slow freezing, no.
Are you in a cereal or rape seed oil area? The symptoms could be down to Neonicotinoid pesticides used systemically on these crops.
Interesting! Thanks for your reply. There are a few fields within a 2 mile radius of me. The only one I know of for certain is corn on the cob. Do you know what kind of “range” might be applicable by any chance?
<scuttles off to research Neo-wotsit pesticides>
I live in a town but not far from countryside, although i have no idea what might be grown in the fields around here.
My garden backs onto several fields (I can see 7 from the bedroom window) and this year they are planted with wheat, expect one of maize.
Last year the crop was mainly oil seed rape but as this is my first year of serious bumble watching I am unable to say if there was any unusual behaviour last year. I have seen nothing strange this year either so perhaps the wheat is not sprayed with nicotinoid pesticide.
I suspect that next year the majority of these 7 fields will be planted with rape and, presumably, sprayed with this pesticide which is of great concern.