So, the weekend that marked the beginning of October passed and along with it the uncannily warm weather (still reaching 25 degrees and more) subsided too. I think for our bees this has finally marked the proper transition to Autumn and, if anything, come as a bit of a shock. Temperatures today were down to the 12 / 13 degrees mark - half of what they were a few days ago.
So, it goes without saying, that seeing activity levels drop is to have been expected. To put this into context, here is the data for recent trip activity:
- 28 Sep - 23
- 29 Sep - 17
- 30 Sep - 12
- 1 Oct - 13
- 2 Oct - 28 (-2)
- 3 Oct - 22 (-2)
- 4 Oct - 12
- 5 Oct - 8 (-1)
- 6 Oct - 1
In fact some of these are not "round trips" - i.e. these are exits from the nest that have not necessarily been matched by an entrance (the numbers shown in brackets). This highlights another noticeable fact: we've been losing bees at a fairly sizeable rate. Some of our busiest and most effective bees have left the nest and not returned. Sometimes they do leave near to sunset, timing it just a bit too late to get back to the nest in time, and end up having to stay out overnight. But then you see them come back in first thing in the morning. In fact, for a few weeks we had one bee that did this by choice! It always slept away from the nest.
But my heart always sinks when I count the bees in and out of the nest during the day and as dusk falls there are 2, 3 or 4 unaccounted for. This is always a bad sign. At most usually only 1 or 2 come back the next day.
We lost our biggest bee this week. She was near identical twin to the one that drowned and had been quite a hard worker, making long trips often up to several hours (one we timed at about 5 hours). Maybe these long trips themselves were symptomatic of something - such as old age.
We also lost two new-born bees as well. They were very tiny, like beatrice (who is indoors), so not fully developed. One could definitely not fly, so she crawled over the nest entrance, then fell to the floor. It was only later that we saw this had happened and despite a full search of the garden, by then we couldn't find her. It's such a shame, because it would have been wonderful for beatrice to have a companion. A similar thing happened two days later with another tiny new bee. It's such a joy to see them emerge, and this one was capable of some flight and began her "memorisation" procedure. But she too dropped to the ground, rose again, but then disappeared from the CCTV. We never saw her make the nest again.
So, as of today, we only saw one of our small, regular bees making any trips, down from at least four - and only just one trip at that. No sign of the others at all. It's possible they were bedding down as it has been exceptionally windy, but we've not even seen them inside the nest.
It's not been all "doom and gloom" this week though. For starters, we saw another instance of some kind of larvae/debris being removed from the nest (and later saw some kind of moth inside the nest).
It started with interest from a larger bee (not one of ours) circling around the outside of the lodge, examining the joins and cracks, then finally finding the entrance and creeping into the nest. What's going on here then? Twenty minutes inside the nest before leaving and circling. That confirmed this was not a "native" to the nest and he or she was memorising the location with a view to coming back!
Later in the day he returned, as we expected and went back into the nest, staying for about half an hour. I was convinced he was a boy - was he looking for a Queen? Sadly he was out of luck - our Queen had already been laying and now sadly expired inside the nest.
Out of Luck? How wrong we were.
[To Be Continued...]