Yesterday was another one of those days where it was showery and blustery without good warning.
The lavender is now proving such an attraction that it is swarming with bees for most of the day, and they actually seem reluctant to leave it.
So much so, that when the rain comes, they keep on foraging. We are regularly seeing the bees continue to work even while raining and sometimes quite heavily. The Common Carder bees are the most dedicated: they will continue flying in almost anything, meanwhile their cousins begin to cling to the underside of the lavender and (especially when windy) hang on for dear life. (We've never yet seen a Carder do this: they always seem to manage to keep on going or head off home).
Yesterday the showers came and those unlucky "clingons" (6 buff-tailed and one red-tailed) had to hang on for hours.
By 8.45pm they were looking decidely miserable, their colourful bands dull, flattened and matted, and their wings so soaked that flight was impossible. They lock their grip round the lavender in the bee-equivalent of a bear hug and just hold out for as long as it takes.
We found seven and took them in a large plastic storage box to the garage where we could heat and dry them with the infra-red patio heater.
Within a few minutes the first few were twitching, then cleaning, then doing the "bum dance" (they stick their behind in the air and straighten their legs and clean their head, legs and thorax), shimmying as they do so. This is usually the sign they are about to take off soon. Sure enough, off they went, taking off in slow-motion VTOL-style.
The remainder were more bedraggled and it was a longer process. They don't really like letting go of the lavender either, even when they are warming up and drying out - it seems like an instinct for them to cling on until they are almost ready to fly. Interestingly, they each in turn made their way to the bits of gaffer tape we had stuck some paper towel down with. We checked and discovered that the temperature of the tape was greater than that of the paper towel - they do like their warmth, these bees, especially after a drenching! So, we have now also found the perfect surface for warming up chilly bees!
It was getting late - about 9.30 (official sunset was a 9.20) and we were concerned that the light levels were no longer conducive to a safe flight home. We had one tiny little redtailed bumble still remaining in the box, quite unkeen to leave. So, we filled an old jelly pot with artificial nesting material and moss and placed her on top of it, then placed it in the secure tub on top of our beehive shelter. Within moments she had buried herself so deep into the pot that we couldn't see her - obviously choosing a safe, warm dry bed for the night over a precarious flight home.
We were pleased to see that this morning she had gone - quite possibly staight back to the nearby lavender where the redtails are in abundance.
Seven rescued in one go, that's a record so far!