When we went to check the nest last night, there were two bees actually resting in the entrance tunnel. This scuppered our plans to have a good check of the nest and really figure out what was going on with our Queen - who we saw inside the nest, still, between the wall of the wooden lodge and inner cardboard box. We have a picture from the previous night though - the Queen is not visible but she's down the edge on the far bottom left.
Given that she's previously spent all her time hidden away under the bedding, brooding, this is a major shift in behaviour; although of course, we've seen her wanting to leave and not succeeding, so we know that all is perhaps not well.
Anyway, we took a decision to partially lift the lid quickly just to look for her, rather than check everything. She was in the same place, still still. The likely prognosis, of course, is that she has sadly died in the box - possibly she's even got trapped between those sides and run out of energy. I cling onto the slim hope she might have started hibernating there, but it's extremely unlikely.
The other bees are still working the nest though - I saw four in action yesterday and three today: large, "baby" and "tiny" (or venti, grande and tall as Starbucks would call them).
They are starting quite late now - 9.52 yesterday and 9.51 today - how about that for timekeeping!? It was another scorching day, in fact the UK record for October temperatures was broken. So, although the bees have wonderful weather for foraging, the light and length of day is not so good. And our nest is (deliberately) in the shadiest part of the day. We already discovered that their behaviour is triggered by light and temperature change, so it's not surprising they are starting significantly after sunrise. They are finishing about 10 minutes before sunset.
Overall activity rates are dropping though, certainly in terms of number of trips. This is not just because they are spending longer on each trip finding pollen (although for some bees that is true: our big bee spent 4.5 hours out foraging on one trip yesterday). But also because they are spending more time in the nest. Whether this is due to temperature or some other reason, I don't know. I don't imagine there is any hatching going on, so there is no requirement for them to be in the nest from that point of view.
There is also no bee collecting regularly honey water (the one that was died) which is use to fill the honey pots. Again, they won't be needing them now anyway if nothing is hatching. So that doesn't explain the time in the nest either. Maybe they are getting old and tired.
The last four days the trip count has been: 23, 17, 12, 13 - quite a tail off. Maybe they've twigged they dont really need the pollen! (Bombus Terrestris are known as "pollen collectors" - they gather pollen all the time, regardless of how much is needed).
What we've also seen the last few days is "fanning" - when the nest gets hot some of the bees will go near the entrance and "fan" air into/through the nest. To be honest, one lone bee doing this in our lodge will have minimal impact, but they are still conditioned to do if needed. The biggest bee in the nest has taken main responsibility for this and actually started at 9:53 - for about 10 minutes at a time.
There's at least one also sleeping near the entrance tonight again - which is preventing us getting into the nest at all. Perhaps they are feeling the heat and like the occasional waft of cool air.