It's been a quiet weekend (plus a day off work) on the blogging front owing to us have guests; and to a degree also quiet on the bee front for the reasons outlined below.
Our guests were very special - amongst them was my 3yr old niece, Chloe, who named Holly for us. Since the loss of Lucy (Lucas) last week, Holly had changed behaviour. She came out of her nestbox and started sleeping "outdoors" in the tub overnight. And her activity levels had begun to drop. Prior to the arrival of Chloe we were concerned for Holly's wellbeing, desperately hoping she could hang on for wee Chloe to meet and enjoy watching.
Thankfully Holly clung onto the last, although she became very slow and inactive over the weekend. At one point we had a major scare, when for the first time she managed to get trapped in amongst the stones in the box.
Chloe had the pleasure of seeing her outside of the nestbox (and inside for a short while) over the weekend and walking a little, though most of her time was spent resting under moss. Sadly tonight, though, is her last at the grand old age of 67 days. 67 days of joy, amusement and often bafflement. She's followed the pattern we now recognise - become very still during the day; shaking or moving a little, gradually less and less; unsteady; curled up a little, tongue out; but unable and unwilling to drink anything.
A tiny, stripy ball, barely perceptible below the moss that was keeping her warm and feeling safe. Holly was rescued quite unexpectedly and we had to develop and perfect our techniques and care for her and her siblings on the fly; and she has taken a lot of our attention over the last few months, so she will indeed be missed. After our standard 24 hour minimum confirmation period we will give her a fine burial in the lavender where the next generation of bumblebees will forage next year.
The other sad news is the final demise of our Koppert Hive in the garden. Over the month we noticed the sound inside the nest changing from a busy buzzing to a crackling sound. We had no real explanation for this at the time, although I now think it was the onset of Wax moth. Over the last week the activity in the box has signifcantly declined to the point where yesterday there was an average of about one "Motion" event every hour - which probably represented at most one or two bees actually active and foraging.
The Hive has just made it to 10 weeks old - it was quoted as 10 - 12 weeks lifetime, so there is the possibility this is a natural conclusion and not caused by the wax moth. However, there is no denying the fact that not only did I see moths on the CCTV outside the box on occasions, but sadly over the last two days I have seen (at least) one inside the box. This is just such a bad omen. It's very upsetting to think that the colony might have been destroyed by this parasite, whose larvae destroy the waxy honey pots inside the nest and thus destroy its ability to survive. I really hope they have been able to produce new queens before this devastation, but I'm not too hopeful that was indeed the case.
If I'd known about the wax moth when we got the hive I would have taken stringent measures to try and better protect it. As it is, I knew no better. My plan for next year is to find something natural to try and discourage the moth (Mint has been suggested) as well as look at technology solutions. My preferred option at the moment is the wireless entrance controller by Koppert to close the box overnight.
This is not the end of our project - aside from being sure the colony is fully inactive, there is still some data to collate from the CCTV system and also much writing up to be done. Then there are preparations for next year; I want to design something for queens to hibernate in later in the year. I also want to adapt our nestboxes in various ways. There is quite a lot of photography to sift and organise, and I have several other creative ideas too. It's going to be busy!