Social Instincts

It was a day of mixed fortunes in the nest today.

Everything started badly when I discovered one of our bees drowned in a small glass jar near the nest. It was part of our wasp-prevention 'system' and to date had not been an issue, but it had filled with rain water and for some reason this unfortunate bumblebee had crawled or fallen into it and was unable to escape. Worse still, it was one of our larger "stripy" bees, which was a really hard worker in the nest. One of these had indeed been unaccounted for from the night before - i.e had been seen to exit (at about 4.30pm) and not come back. So, she could have been in there for anything up to 18 hours. I cannot say how upset I was, knowing, of course, that I had unwittingly placed the jar in its position. 

BCW was very nice, saying "remember all the bees you've helped survive", but I still felt terrible. She brought her indoors to quarantine in the customary ice-cream tub before we decided what to do. 

On the flip side, it seems our little "baby" bee (the smallest in the colony) was, quite literally, doubling her efforts to make up for the deficit in workforce. She made over double the number of foraging trips today, 21 compared to 10 yesterday and packed her pollen baskets with astonishing levels of pollen.

Vast quantities of pollen on the tiny legs of our smallest worker

She obviously found an abundant supply somewhere, as she was not returning with mixed yellow and orange supplies, just bright pinky/orange pollen all day long. What a trooper! I decided to calculate her key stats:


  • number of trips: 21
  • mean trip time: 22.4 mins (Stdev 6mins)
  • mean pollen deposit time: 4.73 mins (Stdev 2.12)
  • total flight time: ~ 8 hours
  • total work time: ~ 10 hours (available daylight: 12 hrs 14)


She was basically non-stop all day from start to finish - it's truly incredible to observe.

And remember, she doesn't get paid for this! It's all because of her social instincts.