I put it on my glove to keep track of it while I went to fetch a camera. It was falling around and was unable to right itself if it fell over.
I didn't notice at the time but the other striking abnormality on the photos is that the metatarsus on each hind leg is transparent, so that you can see the pollen brush on the inner side from the outside.
Then I noticed another honey bee crawling on the lawn. This one looked physically normal but was also making no attempt to fly.
Here are the two of them to show the stunted abdomen in the first bee.
Another thing I noticed was that on both sides it had a K wing deformity - where the fore and hind wings are disconnected and held in an abnormal position.
The first bee was unaware of what was going on but the second one seemed to sense that the first had a problem.
So we have a small sick bee with a stunted abdomen, bilateral K wing deformity and transparent metatarsus and tarsus on its hind legs. I had earlier been watching the hives and all seemed normal. Today I have inspected all four hives and everything seems fine. I did 7 day varroa counts last week and they were the lowest I have ever had, after Bayvarol treatment last autumn.
So what is the explanation? I have read that K wing is a sign of acarine (tracheal mite) infestation but none of the other bees seems sick. Deformed wing virus can produce a stunted abdomen but this bee doesn't have deformed wings. And what about the transparent metatarsi? One other puzzle is that this bee was clearly incapable of flying and yet it had fallen out of the sky and landed on my head. The hives are on the other side of the house about 40m away. And what are the odds of it falling on my head?
I don't know what the answer is. If the bee went to see her GP (family doctor) she'd be told "it's probably a virus". If you have any ideas or suggestions please do leave a comment.