We came downstairs on Wednesday morning and confirmed that, sadly, Lucy had indeed died. She was curled in her "ICU" tub, static and fragile as he had been for the last 12 hours or more. She'd made an amazing recovery two weeks earlier when she looked almost the same, but this time it was final.
There at the entrance of the nestbox was Holly, adopting the position we have seen other sentinel bees adopt outside: head poking out of the entrance hole; one front foot in, one front foot out. She was checking something.
A few minutes later she was back in her nestbox, mooching in her moss. The absence of Lucy had caused an immediate change in Holly that was reminiscent of her former behaviour - just sleeping in the moss all day. It was the introduction of the other bees for company that seemed bring Holly out of her shell and adopt a role as head nest Matron and General Floor Scratcher.
We left her to be, slightly concerned, but thankful she appeared to be as energetic as usual, even if her behaviour pattern was different. An hour or so later when we came to check on her she wasn't in her box at all! There she was, poking round the big tub! This is only the second time it has happened; the first time was a week earlier after LBB had died and Holly came out with Lucy. At the time we wondered whether somehow Lucy had encouraged Holly to come out, but following this latest pattern it looks more like a search for a lost friend.
I took this video of Holly exploring round the box. It's quite long because it was such a rare opportunity and we don't get a lot of chance to study her or see what patterns she adopts when she's out of the nestbox.
It was clear she was going to stay in the "outdoors" all day so we made special provision by bring in more lavender and coating it with some honey water. Some of the lavender was wet too, and to our great joy she climbed straight onto it and drank and drank as if she'd just run a marathon. All along we've wanted to make things as natural as possible for all our bees and this was an opportunity to try and teach her something all her siblings absolutely love to do: feast on lavender!
Holly continued to give us a few scares by not going back in her box overnight and managing to hide herself around the tub. This behaviour is concerning because it's in the last few days of life that we've seen the other bees start to change their sleeping pattern. The plastic tube rolling into the centre of the tub was the first consequence of her attempting to push herself into an imaginary cubby hole underneath it. It shocked us when we discovered how far she'd been able to move it - though it probably shocked her more as it set off down the incline! But, she was determined to stay out and burrow into the tube, so in the end we covered her with some moss and to the best of our knowledge she stayed there all night.
She's been doing the same today - traversing round the box, resting at times. We haven't really seen her drink, which is a worry; but she seems to have lots of energy, even though she now seems to be on a 10 hour day, compared to her previous 24! The important thing is that she has been active rather than burying away for extended periods, as if she has lost interest in being a bee.
What's most baffling, though, is the complete change. And the fact that it is syncronised with the loss of Lucy. She has a box with infra-red heating that she loved to sleep in, going empty! It seemed as though Holly was looking for Lucy at first - and now that she can't be found, Holly has changed role. She doesn't need to be Matron (or floor-scratcher for that matter). Perhaps she's come out into retirement!