They weren't drones (the male bees that get thrown out as the hive tightens up for winter), I was finally certain. They were just there in the grass and leaves, stumbling around and not lifting themselves back into the air.
I looked closer and they all had tattered, broken wings. That was the reason. They are old bees. It is the end of their lives.
This time of year bees will be dying and leaving the hive and the hive number will be reduced to a bare minimum. Also, if a bee is sick or dying, she will leave the nest rather than risk infecting or inconveniencing her sisters.
I told them 'thank you.'
The hive still smelled like candycorn.