It's been a weird rollercoaster of a week.
Last Sunday (it's now Saturday at the time of writing) we consigned all of our bees to a sad demise. Over the prior days our Queen had become increasingly active earlier and earlier in the morning (as early as 3am), constantly showing signs of wanting to leave at that time in the morning. Of course, it was impossible for her because bumblebees can't fly in the dark. However, one morning she had crept out onto the roof of the lodge at about 4.30am, disappeared and then returned at 6.30 when the sun rose. She did this again last Saturday, except it was a much colder day, and she never came back. We went out to look for her, but no luck. And for the rest of the week we never saw her.
Not only that, but each bumblebee that was left in the nest (3) took a trip out that day and never returned. And to top that off, it looked liked a brand new hatched bee also appeared in the nest. She was struggling to climb around, but eventually made it to the entrance. As she explored it, she lost her grip and fell to the ground. I only saw it on the recording a few hours later and dashed out to look for her on the lawn. Again. no luck. It seemed to me she had a problem with her leg and maybe hadn't fully developed, although she was a decent size. I always feel increased sense of loss when the first voyage into the world is not successful.
For 4 days we sat and waited and wondered and hoped at least one of them might return. Nothing.
Then on Thursday I heard the CCTV triggering on and off in the next room. Thought nothing of it, it had been doing so already the last few days due to some flies poking around the nest. I assumed it was them. For some reason, as I went for a coffee, I took a look and was astonished to see a Queen back on the entrance to our nest box. She was cold, wet and tired and very slow moving, but somehow she'd climbed up there. We went out to inspect and I was sure she was our Queen. We videoed it all...
This was actually the best chance we've had to look at her - she is big and bright and beautfully coloured, and had the two distinctive white tail stripes that confirmed her to be ours. We fed her some honey water after which she showed a very rapid recovery and eventually flew off. To our relief she returned later in the day and spent the evening in the nest keeping warm, dry and safe.
That wasn't the only surprise. While all that was happening, BCW spotted another bumble moving in the grass - she was drenched, bedraggled, cold, tired and frail. We rescued her in a jar and brought her inside. I knew instantly she was the newbie we'd seen fall from the nest. How and where had she survived for 5 days in such dreadful weather? We got her in a tub and brought her inside to warm up and she responded well. We gave her honey water and rested her tub on a warm wheat bag. We could now also see that she only had 5 legs - one had not developed. This explained exactly what I saw and her difficulty with movement and holding on. It also adds weight to the theory she has just been born, because the nest is certainly not at the 30 degrees needed to develop properly.
Sadly we came down this morning to find she had died quite suddenly overnight. We have no real explanation, other than she was truly exhausted, and of course not fully developed.
Meanwhile our Queen spent the night organising bedding in front of the infrared camera in the nestbox to keep warm. By early morning she was itching to get back out again and made a few trips to and from the box - but early afternoon she disappeared again and hasn't come back. I hope she can survive tonight and come back again tomorrow.