It's just over a week since my last update and - as has become the stock phrase of our encounter with bumblebees - it's been another week of surprises.
In the last installment our Queen (the 4th one to brood in succession) had been rescued and brought indoors, though was in a very weak and poor state of health, precariously perched on the lip of the nest.
I was rushing off on business and sadly while I was away she died.
At the time we were still "leaving room for surprises" and we were wise to do so. When I got home I scanned the CCTV as usual and discovered that the day after a small new bumblebee was crawling about inside the nest - a brand new hatchling, the remaining legacy of our queen.
That was the thursday and she was visible for just a few minutes. On the friday she was visible again, this time on the outside ledge of the nest. From the CCTV it was impossible to see how she'd got there and indeed how she suddenly disappeared. My heart sank at the thought she might have fallen from the ledge, and we know only too well that if this happens we inevitably lose the bee. (They typically crawl off into the lawn, never to be found - or to be found by the birds). She was in a very sorry, bedraggled state, so sadly we had to accept that without knowing where she was, there was no prospect of finding and saving her.
On Saturday we then went out to bury the Queen and as a matter of routine I checked around the nest. To my astonishment I saw little new bee flailing deep in the grass (badly needing cutting too!) She and the grass were soaking wet and she looked in terrible condition. We quickly rescued her and brought her inside to warm up. We offered both sugar water and honey water to see which she chose. She totally ignored the sugar water and gorged herself on the honey water - presumably she had been out on the lawn for 2 whole days, freezing cold, without sustenance. We were so glad to have rescued her.
She really perked up and we could see she would unable to fly due to her imperfectly formed wings (slightly bent). We added bedding and after going through the usual stages of exploring her tub, then claiming ownership of it, she took great delight in "nest fixing" - i.e. weaving the hamster bedding into wonderful circular swirls. It is amazing to see, both in action and as an end result. (here's an earlier example).
On Wednesday we woke to find her quite lethargic and uninterested in her food - never a good sign. I took her into my office to keep warm - but as you can see she was not looking healthy, but crumpled and untidy.
Later that evening she died.
You'd think that was the end of the story - I certainly did. But what I discovered going over the latest CCTV footage from the previous two days (I was away from home) was that yet another baby bumble had emerged inside the nest. I feared greatly for her survivial, because on camera she was shaky, fell over on her back and was clearly not in good condition. Not surprising with no food to be had. BCW had a look in the nest to try and find her, we even tried to heat it up with the halogen garden heater to encourage her to get on the move - but nothing. Again we resigned ourself to the fact she was probably buried deep in the nest, destined never to see the light of day.
The today BCW popped her head into the CCTV room and exclaimed - is that a bee??!! It was. She was on her back, miraculously balanced on a plastic rim inside the box. We already thought she was probably dead. Without hestiation BCW went out to scoop her from the nest and bring her indoors. She too was in a very sorry state and we both thought there was no chance for her.
Our bumeblebees are amazing fighters - every one of them has been - several of them have shown Lazarus-like recoveries. This latest addition was no different - within an hour she was scooting round her tub and bedding as if it was silverstone, a remarkable turnaround from what seemed like moments from death.
She is quiet and fairly still again tonight as I write, snuggled up against the warm wheat bag we have placed against the outside of the tub. She's alive, she's had some nutrition, but we don't know if she'll be here in the morning. But at least we know she is safe and warm and not going to freeze to death.
She will never meet her mum, she will never fulfil her destiny, she will never know the thrill of fresh air rushing over her wings, she will have a short life.
But we will give her security and dignity. It's the least, and sadly the most, we can do.