Our bumblebees provide an endless source of fascinating entertainment - any organised/social animal colonies are intriguing to see in action in their own right, but the chaotic, bumbly nature of bumblebees adds a Chaplinesque sprinkling of fun to the whole occasion.
We've learnt so much with such observations, but some things still remain a little of a mystery. Here are some of the current ones:
1) We don't know if we have a Queen in our nest or not. We found a dead bumble outside the box when we got back from Holiday, with some pollen on her legs. Could have been a/the remaining queen. But strangely two remaining (and easily identifiable) bees in the nest are still collecting pollen and nectar. This usually suggests a developing brood, though it's hard to see how.
2) Our "nest fixer" bee only occasionally goes out to collect pollen; perhaps once a day, although she does go out more regularly, perhaps to drink. But, we've put a local supply of honey water in the nest for her and she loves it, visiting frequently (e.g. every 2 minutes) until it's run dry. Where is it all going? She can't be drinking it all? We can only conclude she is filling every available honey pot with honey taken from this supply. So, regardless of what mya be brooding, she seems driven to save for a rainy day.
3) Our "pollen collector" bee spends all day going out and collecting pollen. Trips from 15 minutes to 90 minutes are usual. Who is she collecting it for? Is she a queen? We can't quite tell from her size on the CCTV. But, last night she went out at 4.30 and didn't come back. My heart sank: made a break for it? Killed in action? I hate these moments.
Then, at 9am this morning she returned - only to the ledge of the nest though - and didn't go in! And off she went again! I'm at a loss to explain this behaviour at the moment, and so once again, my heart sankk. Thankfully, at midday she returned! So, a total of almost 18 hours away from the nest. Why? Where?
4) While she was gone I saw activity from what seemed to be 2 bees - both thin and stripy like our "nest fixer". The uncertainty arises because of the possibility of a technical malfunction on the CCTV which misses something like a bee coming back into the nest. That could trick you into thinking it was still out and thus miscounting another one that's inside. But these events were just a few minutes apart and I think the CCTV can actually be relied upon. So, perhaps we do indeed have a new hatchling that has joined us. That would be amazing.
The proof in the pudding will be finding when she leaves the nest and whether she performs some navigation circling (memorisation) of location.
If that happens, I'll definitely crack open a shandy.