For the last week or so I've been occasionally seeing a tiny bee in our nest, showing all the signs of being fairly new born and exploring her way around. So, for the last few days I was wondering when was she going to emerge and fly for the first time?
In fact, only yesterday I thought that her lack of attempt to leave the nest might have been a sign she couldn't fly and had resigned herself to permanently helping inside the nest. Having said that, it's a not a behaviour I'd previously seen - all our bumblebees, regardless of capability, have been programmed to leave the nest and "give it a go" - and in the last few weeks, 3 of them have failed. (One, of course, we rescued: Beatrice).
Quite by chance we found this little one on the lawn today as we checked the honey water level. I naturally assumed she'd come out for her first flight and failed, as so many of the tiny under-developed bees have done before her.
So, we rescued her and brought her indoors to warm up and feed, and to see whether she could fly. She showed signs that she might be able to, so after half an hour we took her to outside the nest and took the lid off. She ran around a bit and then clamped herself to the lavender sprig we'd put in the box - just as if she'd been caught out in the rain. I figured that the movement of the tub and the feel of the air blowing might have made her go into "hold on tight" mode!
We put the lid back on and immediately she released from the lavender and started trying to fly in small leaps. We took our moment and removed the lid again, and within a few seconds she was off. She circled at a height of about 2 metres, doing a "mini" memorisation procedure (which makes sense, since we'd been moving her around in the tub), then flew off onto a nearby patio chair, into the bright sun to get warm.
This evening I wanted to go back and check when she had left the nest and when/if she had returned ok. I'll admit to being slightly flummoxed at not being able to identify her at all on the footage. So I can only assume she is actually the tiny bee I saw "mini-memorising" four days ago, and who dutifully began collecting pollen. I have no good explanation for why she was on the grass right outside the nestbox today - there's no real reason for her getting too cold to fly - so, this remains a mystery. And I can only hope she was one of the smaller bees I saw returning later in the day with pollen.