She lived for about 7 days, but on November 30th 2011 our last surviving Bumblebee died peacefully. The day before we had decided to name her Poppy to coincide with the month of remembrance.
We had really hoped she would live a little longer having rescued her and brought her indoors - but she had a tough start to life in a very cold nest with little or no food. We rescued her directly from the nest when we saw her on her lying on her back on the nest CCTV.
Of course, there is always the question of whether our actions were a cause, but we'll never know - but we were able to provide warmth, food and (we believe) a sterile environment for her. Indeed, there is no question that with temperatures dropping to a few degrees outside, there was no chance of her surviving outdoors. We had hoped she might live longer, knowing that Holly, our first rescued bumble, lived for 70 days).
It's a particularly sad moment because she is the last of all of our broods and thus symbolic of the end of the 2011 bumblebee season; which has gone on for an extraordinarily long period of time. (September is typically quoted as the end of the season; Poppy almost made it to December).
She, like all our other "in care" bumbles, had her own distinctive personality, though we never got chance to really see it develop as we hoped (and also thus validate our earlier observations). We've seen all our rescued bees go through phases of exploration, adoption, protection and role evolution. Poppy was pretty laid back - after a day or two of warnings and uncertainty when we tended to her, she became much more relaxed and started spending her time overnight looking after her living space and resting more during the day.
She was never especially active, though she could fairly move when she wanted to and she thrilled us with her occasional buzzing (fanning); she also loved to snuggle up near to the warm wheat bag we placed against the outside of her tub, In retrospect it seems she suffered a slow decline over several days, thankfully not (at least from our observations) a distressing one - resting more and gradually slowing down to a stop.
In her final moments she tried to seek shelter under the small piece of card we placed in her box, her instincts for protection of herself and the nest as a whole still intact. She never quite had the strength to force herself underneath it. She curled up with her tiny fluffy white tail looking bright and cheerful. A fitting end.
Outr thougths now turn to cleaning out the nest and lodge - after a week of no activity inside it we can be fairly sure nothing else is going to happen. We already know from a sneak peek that there is a wonderful construction of wax pots and bedding, which I hope to photograph in detail in due course, before a full clean out. After that there is the task of writing up what we have learned and analysing statistics and behaviour before considering next year's project as the new year beckons.
I think we're probably hooked.