Today was the most exciting day so far in our project so far. I was working away from home so I had to observe on the webcam and get phone updates of activity.
Queen Bumblebum the 6th had been resident in our box overnight of her own accord. Since we had been previously confining bees to the box we couldn't know whether this is usual behaviour anyway - but none-the-less we were excited, especially as we could see her on the camera inside the box.
At 9.42 in the morning she was seen moving around inside the box and slowly she emerged from the entrance to brace herself against the daylight. We didn't know whether she would fly off to go feeding, or nest search elsewhere (after waiting to warm up, of course). I was even more pleased to have a bee that likes to lie in - obviously takes after her adopted parents :-)
To our amazement and delight she stayed there for some time - about 30 minutes, before starting to wander over the (new, extended) entrance and surface of the box. I was able to take a screenshot from my iPhone as she explored.
Sadly the quality of the image is poor, as I was only able to access the webcam over 2G. But you can make the bee out as the larger black blob rightmost and uppermost on the front of the box.
She stayed there for ages too - perhaps an hour and eventually started trying to go onto the front of the box proper. Unfortunately our new extended cardboard entrance made this hard for her as it formed a gap she could not reach across; but she tried very hard, stretching out as far as she could! We assume her instinct was to find some food and explore her surroundings, as she would easily have had time to warm up and fly off if she wanted to. We are not sure why she didn't head down to the ground - perhaps it is instinct not to do so.
It was quite windy and eventually the wind blew a lavender branch near enough to her that she could stretch out and drag herself onto it, quite a sight to behold. Then she explored the lavender, getting as high up as she could. Was she building her navigation points? We don't know, but I'd love to think so!
Eventually she came down the lavender and it bent forward and she was able to be lowered onto the Heather where she began to feed. It was rather windy by now and she was not intent on flying anywhere.
We did a time check at 4 hours and were amazed she was still around - surely a good sign?
Then she tumbled off the heather and landed down on the ground. At this point she tucked herself just right of the heather pot and faced the nest. In fact she faced the nest box whenever she was still. She stayed still on the ground again just looking at the box! We wondered if she was checking to see whether any other animals might be using it. This could be because the hamster litter is very fresh and she might suspect the 'nest' is still in use by a rodent. Certainly it was fascinating behaviour.
As the weather drew more inclement she started to move to the heather pot and then crawled underneath it. Soon after it started to rain. Pure brilliance - we now have a rain predictor in the garden! We wondered why she had not gone back to the nest to shelter - perhaps she thought she couldn't get there in time - perhaps she was still wary of whether it was still in use?
The weather cleared a little and she came out from under the heather pot. This was a decisive moment: we were sure she would now make a decision to either stay or go. As it happens she decided to stay and, again, just sat and watched the box. Truly amazing! (I suppose we all like to watch the box from time to time! :) )
By now it was gone four o'clock and getting colder. At the moment we have observed this is the time the queens stop searching for nests and start looking to bed down for the night, so we thought she would now have to make a decision. Would she return to the box, or would she leave and go somewhere else for the night? To our amazement, as the temperature cooled and became more inclement again, she crawled back under the heather pot to bed down for the night and at the time of writing that is where she still is!
We were quite concerned about this location; whether she would get cold or wet during the night (especially as the heather pot has drainage holes) but we have had to console ourselves with the fact this is just nature and bees must deal with it all the time: they are not guaranteed to get a perfect bed for the night every night. (Though, maybe it is perfect under that pot by her standards!) However, we carefully shielded the pot a little with some bricks, to shelter it from the wind.
We are intrigued that she did not head back to the nest box where it is safe, dry and warm, but that also she stayed in the vicinity - something of a conundrum. It does suggest she was checking something out about the box, perhaps confirming our theory that it fits her needs but that she wants to check it is safe from rodents. It would be amazing if that were true; the life of the bee seems more and more amazing the more we learn!
Can't wait to see what tomorrow brings!