I wasn't at home today, but BCW was holding the fort and later in the afternoon went bee hunting. She first caught a bufftail and took it to the back nestbox. Prior to this we'd discussed putting something in the box to try and tempt the Queens to stay in there, such as some bee pollen. So BCW had done that inside an upturned bottle-top, with some netting across it.
It seems BB18 was keen to explore this pollen and showed quite an interest in it, exploring it and getting a bit covered in it. Intially, perhaps, this gave signs of being a positive move. Then she seemed to go a bit beserk about it and basically shot out of the box and away, without any circling or landmarking at all :-(
We discussed this afterwards and concluded that perhaps the pollen in the nest gave the impression another bee was already resident. Or maybe she just got too covered in it and it freaked her out somehow. Either way, she was not hanging around!
I arrived home almost simultaneosly with BCW bringing home a second bufftail (BB19) - again, a very bright and vibrant specimen and extremely placid. We took a decision to try the rear nestbox again. Now that we have an infrared camera in there that we can see on the main TV it's pretty convenient to monitor. And it's a quieter box in a more peaceful setting. And we haven't really tried it much to date because we couldn't monitor it. So all in all it seemed like a good idea to try. We removed the pollen that caused BB18 to desert and BB19 went into the box quite happily.
It was about 6.30pm - a time when she would probably be thinking about bedding down and also a time when we wouldn't really be able to find another bee, so we decided to temporarily block the entrance to keep her in there till it was a bit cooler and darker and so she would stay the night.
It's fair to say we are quite equivocal about the strategy of trapping the bee in the box, even for a short time. We did this to begin with (as advised) and it appeared to have no beneficial effect. And, we felt that maybe it caused the bee more stress and more likelihood of not feeling the box was the right environment; so we really did dither over this decision. However, we knew we were doing her a favour in terms of a safe, dry, warm place to stay overnight and that to allow her to try and go find somewhere else in the wild at that time of night was probably not fair.
For the first hour it did seem like she was hunting every nook and cranny of the box to try and find the exit. It was quite a bitter-sweet sensation: a certain amusement in her behaviour, zigzagging around the nestbox, but a certain pang of guilt that we might be causing her some stress :-( I didn't know a Bumblebee could cause such emotions!
Once the light had faded and temperature dropped a little we decided to unblock the entrance and cover it with some grass. Our logic was as follows:
- we'd seen her burrowing around in the bedding in the nestbox with great ease, so the idea was to give her a chance to burrow out of the box tomorrow morning of her own accord
- the grass will keep a lot of light out but will probably allow some of the morning sun through, giving her an indication of where the exit is
- we're hoping that by giving her the chance to exit herself she will be less concerned that the box is unsuitable (ideally she'd think "Oh, Silly me, why didn't I realise this grass had just fallen and blocked the entrance", but I think that's unlikely)
As with all the exploits to date we are just experimenting and observing, experimenting and observing - hopefully adding to the body of knowledge of Bumblebees (well, our own anyway!) At the time of writing she is very peaceful and still, our of camera shot, buried under a load of bedding, but presumably sound asleep.