pretty bee header

We created the World's first tweeting bumblebees, and now we've won the Internet of Things Award (Environmental) 2012! Thank you to our readers for your votes!

Introduction

Our Bumblebee nesting project started in 2011 as a bit of conservation to help the declining bumblebee population by encouraging one (or more) to nest in boxes in our garden. We discovered it's not easy, and our project quickly evolved into an ongoing and intimate study of these amazing creatures, which we are sharing here for the benefit of all. 

Amongst our unexpected successes are: 

  • A short clip in the film "Britain in a Day" by Ridley Scott (Broadcast by the BBC in 2012)
  • Featured in Wired Magazine for creating the World's first tweeting bumblebees
  • Winner of the Internet of Things award 2012 - Environmental Category
  • Oldest recorded age we can find of a worker Bufftailed Bumblebee - at 103 days

We've discovered, observed and collected a sizeable amount of real-world data, still being analysed and written up (Overview here). Additionally,

  • We've sourced several live colonies from commercial providers and have been looking after numerous disabled bees indoors.
  • We've learnt to recognise individual bees, spot specific/individual behaviour patterns
  • We measured efficiency and can predict some of their behaviour triggers. 
  • We have some CCTV cameras pointing at the nestboxes and inside
  • You can also follow BeeBoxALula on twitter where our bumblebees tweet live for themselves!

Insights

We're also using tech to monitor the lives of our bumblebees - visual, audio, temperature, sunlight, weather. We can see how the environment impacts their behaviour and understand, capture and share the marvels of their secret lives.

As a species under great threat, we've brought the critical study of Bumblebees into the Multimedia age and revealed intriguing and new insights based on direct observation.

You might want to start with our project summary or project motivation.

Blog:


Counting not Catching

We were grateful for the day off work today, thanks to the Royal Wedding of Wills and Kate and although we took time out to watch it and share in their happiness that didn't stop us on our bee quest. Some of this was planning for the Koppert Beehive we'll be getting next week (which I'll cover in another blog) and some of this was heading out to hedge our bets at catching another queen. 

The temperature was about 20 degrees but there was a breeze causing quite a windchill factor; and it seemed like a storm might  be threatening, so we weren't sure if we would see any. We are especially looking for a Carder bee; partly because they have a slightly later nesting season, but mainly because they are less fussy about the environment they nest in, so we think the box might stand a better chance with a Carder. 

However, we did see some bees while we were out - here is the full run down

 

  • One bufftail foraging
  • 2 carders - I tried to catch one but couldn't!
  • One redtail - may have been a cuckoo - again, I tried to catch it, but couldn't due to uneven dry ground
  • A vestal cuckoo bee (buftail) showing nest searching behaviour - we didn't even try to catch it
  • 2 unidentified bees that circled us in the field

 

As you can see, there are still some bees about but much smaller in number; also more cuckoo bees now trying to find nests to take over; and, of course, queens with nests out foraging as they start to lay their colony. 

We're pleased that we're starting to be able to identify cuckoo bees without having to catch them; here's the vestal cuckoo we saw in flight. You can identify here by the lack of yellow band across the top of her abdomen as well as a shinier abdomen and thinner hair coverage. 

Vestal Cuckoo in flight