I made some minor infrastructure modifications this weekend. We noticed that the smaller, new bumblebees didn't seem to find the new wax moth flap system on the lodge as easy as we had hoped, despite it being slightly wedged open with blutac. It was easy for them to leave, but on return we noticed that they showed more interest in trying to get into the nest at the lodge lid join (smell?) rather than via the open flap. I have to say, this is slightly baffling when the entrance hole is easily accessible.
In order to aid memorisation and detection of the entrance, I added some bright yellow tape and blue marking on the entrance flap, in case its transparency was causing an issue:
We'll remove the blutac when there is a sufficient in-flow/out-flow of bees that they can learn from and assist each other working the flap. This way we'll slowly train the.
We also noticed that memorisation procedure was also taking in more of our other features in the garden, particularly the nestboxes and associated features. This stands to reason, since we have created that environment to be highly visible and attractive to queens. I wanted to make sure that we didn't inadvertently confuse our new bumbles; for example, into trying to return to one of the other nest boxes. To that end I painted a clear white line upto our lodge. Last year we painted a runway for fun - but since bumeblebees use linear features and markings for navigation, this clearly has a useful function for them. This should ensure that the bumbles are able to return to the lodge reliably, even if they are a little confused by the flap when they get there!
The weather has been all over the place this weekend - despite being sunny at times it never got above 11C on saturday and about 7C on Sunday. Nonetheless I went out queen hunting, if only to survey activity.
- Saturday: captured 1 redtail very quickly 15:45 - and placed in pilkington box. She stayed in the capture tube, so much so I put the whole tube in there! Eventually left the box sunday. (QB2012-12)
- Saturday: captured a second redtail at 16:30 - she was very placid, probably happy to bed down; went in box 1 very quickly and stayed there still all night, eventually leaving 11am Sunday. She did no memorisation so she won't be back. (QB2012-13)
- Sunday: I went out about 13:30. It had been sunny but, of course, as I left started to drizzle, eventually hail! Didn't think I'd find much but caught (and lost) a redtail, saw another redtail and bufftail and then eventually caught a bufftail. She also went into box 1, but I didn't observe her leaving. (QB2012-14)
On saturday I noticed a few bumblebees out resting and also looking for places to rest, rather than nest. The one in this photo took quite a while exploring this piece of ground. I couldn't understand why as it is not good nest-location ground, but in the end she settled down just to rest. I was intrigued to see how she aligned herself with the features on the ground, as if to achieve better camouflage. (stripe lined up with the white/brown twig; thorax in the shadow). Coincidence or camouflage? It's an intriguing question, but I have a strong feeling that bumbles can use their markings as camouflage and I'm trying to collect as much evidence of this as possible.
For the first few days of the hive, activity levels inside seemed high but we had very few bees showing any interest in the outside world. I think some of those that did may have been lost, as we've not seen many return - although to be fair at this stage I'm not fully tracking all exits & return trips.
There's quite a range of sizes in the nest - small workers at under 10mm ranging up to some that appear to be twice the size. We have seen one or two seemingly enormous bees on the internal camera, which I am still trying to get a good picture of, to establish if we might have seen the queen.
Finally today (Sunday 15th April) we've seen much more interest in the outside world, although they have picked a lousy day for it! (about 6C - 7C, rain and hail showers, and very windy) Nontheless, some of the tiny bumbles have been bringing pollen back, the first time we've seen that. There still appears to be some confusion about finding the entrance hole, even with the flap wedged up, so we'll just have to keep an eye on that and ensure none get "stranded" outside the nest.
Here's a wee one performing memorisation on her first flight.
This year I've started sampling audio frequencies under certain situations to see if there is any pattern - it's purely exploratory at the moment. We've found a queen buzzing at almost a perfect middle C3 (130Hz).
We noticed during the night the colony, while still busy is a lot quietier and when accompanied by crackling sounds (hatching) there is a single sustained note (often 30 seconds or more in length, repeatedly), so far measured at 180Hz.
During the hail storm today, the bumblees went crazy! A high pitched synchronised sustained buzz, almost like a scream, at between 400Hz and 500Hz. We'll do our best to capture more data to determine any patterns.