What's up with the Queens?

Finally back from holiday and catching  up on updates. I've been a bit "light" on updates recently anyway as the first part of May was almost as miserable as April, and there's been such little activity in our colony we've just been leaving them to get on with it. (Partly I have been sidetracked by the technical elements of the project too ☺).

Anyway, finally this weekend I at least got chance to do a quick traverse along my favourite transect and see what bumbling was happening out there in the wild. 

Not much - is the answer - but not nothing either. I've been a little baffled that there are so few bumblebees about in general; really not seeing much of any shape and size, though the flowers have been late coming, many only starting to bloom now (our lavender and "love in the mist" finally broke out this week). 

I did see, however, quite a few queens; mainly redtails (4 or 5) but also 2 bufftails. One was cruising along the ditch at a height of about 1.5 metres just minding her own business. Another was burrowing into moss (see video). She wasn't the only one showing nest-searching behaviour - most of the redtails were too seemingly "nest searching too". Here's a video of the "moss-burrowing" - I welcome explanations, since there is no obvious nest hole they are clearing out!

This all seems a bit odd - by the start of May last year pretty much all the Queens were safely alreadu building their nests - but of course the weather has been atrocious and it seems this may have delayed the successful search and establishment of nests. The other compounding factor is what may have happened with "early queens". Our own colony produced about 20 new queens in April - which have all left the nest - so what are they up to now? Perhaps they are just biding their time outdoors, waiting to mate when males appear.  (I still need to review the CCTV and figure out when they actually started leaving the nest permanently). 

I also saw an unusual bumblebee - black with whitish stripes - almost getting into a fight with some other identified buzzing animal. I think it may have been a cuckoo bee of some sort (e.g. Barbut's). I'll post the video later.