As spring begins, you may see some bumblebees lying completely still on the ground and assume they are dead.
This is a common misconception, as these bees are often queens which have just come out of hibernation and are resting in between flights.
In 2019, scientists at the Queen Mary University of London found that directly after hibernation, queen bumblebees spend the majority of their time hiding and resting amongst dead leaves and grass.
The study suggested that this behaviour of long rests with short intermittent flights explains how queen bumblebees find themselves far away from their natal nest.
Data collected showed that bumblebee queens were spending most of their time on the ground (between 10-20 minutes on average) and making short flights (10-20 seconds on average) in nearly random directions.
Paul Handrick, founder of the Bee Sanctuary of Ireland, recommends letting resting bees lie for up to an hour before intervening – in case of imminent danger, the queen must be moved carefully to a safe place.
If, after an hour, she is still on the ground – it may be time to carefully move her to a nearby source of nectar in a flower.
In the absence of flowers, researchers suggest you can rescue her by giving her sugar solution made up of half water and half sugar, thoroughly stirred.
Put the solution on a teaspoon and move the spoon gently to near her antennae or mouthparts.
Drinking the solution will allow the bee to warm up its flight motor and have sufficient energy to find flowers on its own.
Data collected by the university also showed that bumblebee queens were spending most of their time on the ground (between 10-20 minutes on average) and making short flights (10-20 seconds on average) in nearly random directions.
Observations of wild queen bumblebees verified this was not due to the antennas but rather natural behaviour of recently emerged queens.