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Noticing a few crawlers. Advice?

For the last couple of weeks, I have been noticing a few crawlers in my bee yard (3 hives). When I look at these bees, all looks normal with them, but they can’t fly. Are these just old bees leaving the hive to die or something else that I should be treating for? The hives are all very active and seem healthy…not noticing any evidence of mites or other diseases on bottom boards, etc.

I have not harvested my flow frames, as although they are actively being used, I cannot see them filled with honey from the end caps. These hives are all new this year from packaged bees.

Thanks for your help,
Louise (Central Coast, California

Crawling bees might be indicative of any number of viruses. You need to check the mite load with a sugar roll or alcohol wash.

Could they be drones, kicked out of the hive & starving so unable to fly? A sad but normal occurrence for end of season…

Not drones, although I have seen a couple at the hive entrance.

I think from what I am reading it would be a good move to treat with some Mitaway strips. I’m told I do not have to remove honey supers for that.

I seem to get some of these in the early evening. Looking closely, they often have ragged wings, so I am guessing they are older bees whose time has come. They are easy to spot on our brick patio, which is why I think I notice them. They don’t seem otherwise deformed, and my mite counts are OK. However, I agree with @Dee, it is definitely good to do a sugar roll test, and I would do it before treating with anything.

What, exactly, is a sugar roll test? How is it done? Would I remove my flow hive box before doing that?

Here is a link:

The idea is that the powdered sugar forces the varroa to let go of the bees, they fall off and you can count them. As most varroa hangs out around brood, you need to sample bees from a decent frame of brood (but not the queen! :flushed:), so yes, you will have to take the Flow super off to get to a frame of brood.

You know what…I think I will just put in some MiteAway strips. Much easier and seems like it would be less disruptive to the hive. I’ve had good luck with it in the past. Thank you though.

Why treat them if they don’t need it? Surely better to inspect the hive properly, so you can assess what is really happening & work from there, rather than guessing?

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Because I know varroa is an issue around here and I have had infestations that have nearly killed off my hives in the past. Twice yearly treatments are recommended but I only got his hive in late May, so missed the spring treatment. I figure it’s almost time for a fall treatment anyway. My thought is that I would rather treat now before the hive goes into decline.

The treatment is not completely benign. You may even kill your queen. It is certainly more disruptive to the hive than a sugar roll. I would check before treating.



I suppose it depends on when your last inspection was, what season you’re in & how confident you are that nothing else is going on…

I don’t think it is applicable in this instance: but apparently sometimes when you see a bee weakly crawling on the ground- it has simply made a poor calculation and run out of fuel on its journey. If you pick it up and feed it a tiny bit of sugar or honey it will immediately regain mobility and fly away. Apparently they only take enough fuel with them to get to a given destination- they don’t always take on a full load before a mission- just what they think is necessary.

I saw this on this old film City of the Bees- the relevant bit is around the 11 minute mark:

I can’t wait to find a weak bee on the ground to try out the theory!

I’ve had a few the past couple of days, suns out, lots of early flowers but really cold. A couple I’ve picked up and warmed in my hands & they’ve flown away, & some I’ve also given some honey…it doesn’t take long for it to work, I had to recapture 2 which took off inside the house before I could get back outside

Interesting. I might just give that a try. Have decided to hold off on the mite treatment for now. You have peaked my curiosity. Today, I too a closer look at a crawler…seemed to look just fine. Then she flew off, but didn’t go too far before grounding out again. Will have to keep a supply of sugar water handy. Thanks ladies! (Semaphone and Kirsten)

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I just posted this. may help


Thanks for posting this. I like it and will give it a try. It seems much better than having to disrupt the hive…at least for initial inspection! I look at the bottom board regularly and have not seen any mites; but maybe the Pam is the trick. Looks like they can crawl away fairly easily. I’ll report back.