We've been keeping an eye out this week for some other queens on the lavender outside the front of our house. Even though it'snow the beginning of November, there are a few remnants of some healthy bunches of Lavender.
Over the last two weeks we've seen a number of Queen bumblebees foraging on said lavender: 2 Bufftailed queens (who were there together at one point) and a Redtailed Queen.
Our main interest was to try and figure out whether one of these was our own Queen, who has been busy foraging and trying to collect pollen. After watching for a long time where they came and went, we concluded this was not the case: these two Bufftail queens had come from somewhere else.
What happened next really surprised us: On separate occasions, two of these queens (one bufftail, one redtail) dived off into the undergrowth where the thick bushy and twiggy remnants of the main lavender "bush" remains. The Bufftail disappeared for a minute or two before coming out and diving back underneath a few feet away. We waited. And waited. And after 10 minutes or so she still hadn't come out. We suddenly wondered, is this where she is going to hibernate?
The terrain, at a first glance, is not entirely suitable for hibernation. While it is underneath the thick bushes of the lavender, the substrate consists of loose stones with a layer of anti-weed fabric, which would prevent the queen burying herself. Furthermore, the site faces south, whereas Bumblebees are believed to favour a North-facing site (to avoid being triggered to come out too soon in the Spring). So, it certainly left us a little quizzical.
Having said there, there is the possiblity she has found a little nook somewhere underneath the paving slabs of the front path. This would be more sandy underneath and we can see even from our external vantage point that there are nooks and crannies that have developed underneath the path over time. I think this would be the best theory if she really is hibernating under there.
There's no doubt that one of these Bufftail queens is definitely in the area - we've seen her several times on the lavender.
And the other morning she spent several hours keeping warm on the frame of the front door, just 2 feet from where we'd seen her disappear into the undergrowth. We've now put a little bit of honey water out nearby, just to see if she shows interest and allow us to see where she is hiding out.
And yes, my front door needs painting!