Building a Space Elevator: gotta start somewhere

Can't believe the weather at the moment - despite an official drought in this (and other) regions, it's been tipping it down the best of a week. The only bright side to this is it means my backlog on the CCTV analysis might not be as insurmountable as it currently seems! 

Not so great for the bumbles though - they've not had a lot of time to get out of the nest! And then they have it's been pretty short trips, often getting caught out by showers. It's been horrible to see them coming back wet, because, of course, it takes them longer to get into the nest via the flap than it would do otherwise (the queens especially have the most trouble). I suspect we have actually lost quite a few - it's one of my usual hunches, which i now rely on to be generally right (they are!) - based on a sense of how many are going out versus returning.

There's not actually a lot of pollen out there either - the rape seed fields have blossomed but the local ones are probably too far for our bumbles to get to from here. There's some dandelion on the roadside - but I had to say, they are doing well to get what they're getting!

All the rain is causing a bit of a backlog in the nest for bumblebees - in particular, queens - waiting to get out. They seem to like the inside front of lodge for waiting/resting. We're not sure why - whether they can sense the outdoor temperature through the wood; or the vibration of the rain; or feel the heat of the sun; or perhaps the warmth from the infra red camera. Anyway, here are some pics

Queens stacked up waiting to get out!It's not just queens of course - here are some workers for comparison - a few fanning too.. These are large workers, but the size different is still obvious.

workers crowding and fanning the entranceWe aso have a bumble that is permanently on door duty. She seems to have a lookout role but also blocks the others (especially the larger ones) from leaving when the weather is not good. She sits there overnight too - right up against the entrance. In fact she often pushes against the wax moth flap to open it slightly, apparently to sense the air/weather. We are still trying to figure out exactly how they sense temperature, because we know this controls the leaving patterns in the morning. Here she is:



Building Bridges

We noticed yesterday that bumbles at the back of the nest, right under the camera, were climbing up some kind of self-made "pole" from the floor of the nest to the first lip (maybe 4 - 5 inches). It's hard to figure out how this construction has come about, because for a while it looked just like the end of a piece of "stuff" lying flat on the base of the nest-tub and protruding into the picture. It got shunted around a bit, then something happened overnight, and next thing we know it's being used like an elevator to get from the floor of the box to the top of it! We can definitely see bees shimmying up and down it quite consciously and occasionally "fixing" it (i.e. messing with it) at the bottom.

It's a bit hard to see in the picture (the video always seems clearly than the stills) but it comes up from the floor in the middle left:

fixing the bottom of the bumble "space elevator"a bumblebee climbing the 'space elevator'

Perhaps they're building a space elevator? ☺cool...