A couple of days ago we "lost" Lucy (TinylittleBee) under one of the pine cones in our indoor tub. We politely woke her from her "outdoor" slumber and she (perhaps grumpily!) returned to the nestbox. But at least we felt she was in the best place for the night.
It left us wondering why the change in behaviour and whether she was feeling ill or slowing down: After all, when your life expectancy is measured in a few weeks, every day can be like 5 or 10 human years.
We came down in the morning and once again Lucy was not in the nestbox - clearly she had ventured out during the night/dawn and hidden again. We suspected the pine cones, and there indeed was her small behind poking out, twitching slightly as she breathed. Once again we very gently encouraged her out from the cones and offered her a drink.
Now, you might wonder why we would disturb her and possibly stress her more than necessary and generally we would indeed leave well alone? But there are times when behaviour seems a little bit out of the ordinary and we have to make a judgement on whether to leave her (or any of the bees) alone or check whether she is in trouble - e.g. run out of energy, stuck on her back etc. Intervention is a last resort, but the whole point of rescuing and saving these otherwise helpless bees was to extend their life and give them some "quality" (if it's possible to measure such a thing in the bee world). Lucy has always been a bit weaker than Holly in general, despite having a full complement of wings and legs; so we tend to be on the lookout for her wellbeing.
We concluded that since Lucy had come out of the nestbox during the night, and gone back under the cones, something might be amiss: we saw both BLB and LBB "go off alone" when they were close to the end. Here's the video of us finding Lucy under the cones in the morning. You can see she accepts a drink willingly straight away, with no sign of warning or retreat. In fact both Holly and Lucy are becoming very receptive and placid to our existence and intervention.
Lucy finally goes back into the nestbox, albeit rather slowly and we resolve to try and keep an eye on her during the day and check her behaviour.
About an hour later, BCW called me down from the office with great excitement! Holly was out of the nestbox! This really was quite something - over the weeks she's been in this environment she's never really left the nestbox. She did at first to come out and explore the area around the entrance to the nestbox itself, but she never explored the full tub. Basically she just did a bit of door patrol. That soon stopped too - so seeing her come right out into the tub and explore the whole area was both delightful and baffling!
I shot some video of them out in the tub together and turned it into something a little more playful to celebrate the moment!
Over the last few days we've monitored Lucy closely. She has slowed down quite a lot: her "active" day seems to have significantly reduced, starting much later in the morning; and we are finding her asleep/hiding during the day outside the nestbox. That wasn't the case a week ago, when she was exploring non-stop. Today we found her embedded head first under some soft tissue by the side of the nest box. We coaxed her out with some honey water which she drank furiously from the end of a little cardboard stick. (It's actually quite a privilege to feed her directly.) After that she did a quick mini-tour of the tub and then went into the nest, so we killed the lights to encourage her to stay in there overnight.
So - her pattern of behaviour has changed and although she doesn't seem weaker as she moves around, she seems to rest a lot more. BCW compared this to any human who gets old and needs to rest more, falls asleep in the armchair and so on!
I guess she has a point.