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We created the World's first tweeting bumblebees, and now we've won the Internet of Things Award (Environmental) 2012! Thank you to our readers for your votes!

Introduction

Our Bumblebee nesting project started in 2011 as a bit of conservation to help the declining bumblebee population by encouraging one (or more) to nest in boxes in our garden. We discovered it's not easy, and our project quickly evolved into an ongoing and intimate study of these amazing creatures, which we are sharing here for the benefit of all. 

Amongst our unexpected successes are: 

  • A short clip in the film "Britain in a Day" by Ridley Scott (Broadcast by the BBC in 2012)
  • Featured in Wired Magazine for creating the World's first tweeting bumblebees
  • Winner of the Internet of Things award 2012 - Environmental Category
  • Oldest recorded age we can find of a worker Bufftailed Bumblebee - at 103 days

We've discovered, observed and collected a sizeable amount of real-world data, still being analysed and written up (Overview here). Additionally,

  • We've sourced several live colonies from commercial providers and have been looking after numerous disabled bees indoors.
  • We've learnt to recognise individual bees, spot specific/individual behaviour patterns
  • We measured efficiency and can predict some of their behaviour triggers. 
  • We have some CCTV cameras pointing at the nestboxes and inside
  • You can also follow BeeBoxALula on twitter where our bumblebees tweet live for themselves!

Insights

We're also using tech to monitor the lives of our bumblebees - visual, audio, temperature, sunlight, weather. We can see how the environment impacts their behaviour and understand, capture and share the marvels of their secret lives.

As a species under great threat, we've brought the critical study of Bumblebees into the Multimedia age and revealed intriguing and new insights based on direct observation.

You might want to start with our project summary or project motivation.

Blog:


Wee Hidey-Hole

I noticed a tiny tiny bumble today that couldn't get back into the nest. It was so small, it had no chance of opening the flap - and all the bumbles that were coming and going around her were just buffeting her around and tredding all over her. It was sad to see. Then she fell off the ledge. 

I asked BCW if she would go out and try and rescue her but by then it was a little too late, and she couldn't be found. 

However, in the process, BCW heard a buzzing nearby and when she looked found a queen bee on the gravel and grass near one of our other nestboxes. She was tired, cold and hungry and seemed unable to fly, with a damage wing. 

BCW rescued her and took her indoors to get warm, dry and fed:

Understandably she drank without hesitation and with great enthusiasm from our tray of honey water. 

After she was satisified she decided to explore the Kapok that was also put in her box. Well, she seemed to love this. She burrowed down and made a wee hidey-hole. 

she didn't stop there - she burrowed deep inside - just as bufftails do (especially when hibernating underground).

BCW was concerned at this stage, in case she had gone in there to die. But thankfully she didn't stay there but came out again to explore and have another drink.

She's left us with a bit of a dilemma about what to do with her. It does seem as though she can't fly, in which case if we set her outdoors she will ultimately perish. On the other hand, keeping her indoors seems somewhat cruel - she has an expected lifespan of 18 months, but she will be trapped and unable to fulfil her destiny during that time; or who knows, maybe she will even start laying and nest building! 

That would not be good indoors - so our best bet is to see if she will use one of the nest boxes outside. We may have to put her in there with food supplies and see if that is enough to keep her in there and maybe start nest building. If she does not stay in there, we could consider trapping her - but I really do not like this idea - and there is no guarantee she would start laying either. Plus, since, presumably, she hasn't mated yet, she will only lay boys, so she will not get any help making the nest. It's difficult to know what to do for the best.