Weekend Update 2

It's pretty much been a bumble-filled day today (sunday) as well. I was determined to catch up on as much as possible. 

Updates to observations

The observations page will probably never be finished, but it was definitely lacking a few items I'd forgotten and some photos and videos. So, I've added some information about trip times, some more video and some extra pictures plus a few other bits and bobs. 

New Tumblr

I decided I wanted an immediate way to share photos, especially those taken in the field, just as a way to get more close up and personal with the lives of our bumbles. Although I can upload to this blog via the iPhone it's not really quite as immediate, and you don't necessarily want to write an article for just a single picture). So, I've created a tumblr page at www.lovebumblebees.com 

More Data

Sometimes life feels like a constant stream of data - mainly because most of my data capture is manual at the moment (though improving in areas). So, I'm constantly playing catch up and this weekend was no different. However, I've managed to skim another 2 full days of CCTV and count all the trips and new memorisation flights. 

So, for 18th and 19th April in our beepol nest (2012B1) we have:


  • total trips = 275
  • total memorisation flights = 44
  • total Queen trips (included in above number) = 18
  • total Queen memorisation flights (included in above number) = 7


If we add this to existing data for the first two days, it gives us a total of 180 memorisation flights (i.e. colony of at least 180 workers) and 12 Queen Memorisation flights (thus we assume 12 new queens!)


Another Patient

I went outside today to cut the grass and just before I did so checked the live CCTV for anything nearby. Lo and behold a small bumble struggling to fly. I went to her rescue and tried to help her to the nest, but she was determined to make a break for it and fell to the floor. I decided I should rescue her and add her to the two we already have indoors.

She has the same disabilities as one of the others - exactly the same leg and wing not developed, so she cannot fly. She's slightly larger though. I added her to the box with the others and all seems to be going well. From what I have seen they are all having a good drink as required. 


Our third inpatient for 2012 - quenching her thirst on some spilt honey water



3 Essentials for Shooting Macro Photography

Throughout the course of our Bumblebee journey I spent a lot of time photographing the bees (alive and dead) and trying to perfect my macro photography. This included buying an extension tube to allow me to get the camera within a few centimetres of my subject. 

I didn't do too bad, as I've already reported, some of my images were selected to go into the Arkive database as a permanent record of the world's species. 

I found the following article which discusses some tips and tricks of macro photography from acclaimed photographer Alex Hyde. 

So how do you get close-up photos of subjects that are literally smaller than a grain of rice, let alone get those creepy crawlers to sit still long enough to take their photo? Straight from the expert, here are Alex’s 3 essentials for shooting macro photography.

  • Be genuinely curious about your subject
  • Make the flash your best friend
  • Always stay aware and think critically


You can read the full article here.

Lying in a ditch was worth it

Garden Bumblebee (Bombus Hortorum) resting in the sunI'm delighted to have been approached by the ARKive project to supply some of my pictures of Bumblebees to their Database. The ARKive project is an initiative by Wildscreen to document and preserve the World's wildlife through the use of powerful imagery. Wildscreen themselves are a not-for-profit, with Patrons including Prince Philip and Sir David Attenborough.

It is a privilege to be asked to contribute and have my photographs alongside greats such as National Geographic and BBC Natural History and other world-class image and film-makers. A large number of big conservation names are backing the project including BirdLife International, Conservation International, English Nature, The World Conservation Union (IUCN), Natural History Museum London, RSPB, Smithsonian Institution, WWF.

It's great to know that all that crawling through 10 foot ditches with the hope of not getting stung was not in vain, and has resulted in images that are worthy of documenting some of our precious Bumblebees for research purposes and for the benefit of future generations.

It's a great outcome to what has been an amazing year of discovery.

Hot under the Thorax

Today I started the process of systematically reviewing our CCTV footage to note down the "first exit" and "last arrival" times of our bumblebees. This is something I am curious to plot - I don't expect to find anything particularly astounding but I'm interested to plot the graph and see if it follows a pattern, such as sunlight times. Or whether there is some other pattern that can be identified. I ended up not getting the job finished, partly because I also started review the footage from when we first installed the DVR and also the camera into the hive. Actually, it was kinda funny - when viewing the footage from when we put the camera into the nestbox, it's like something from Blair Witch project! It's dark and jerky, lots of shots of the ground, flashes of faces, every once in a while you see the stanley knife I used to cut the box, and then you see flashes of my infra-red face while wearing marigolds! 

Early Bumble

It was very windy today, so while out in the garden I saw an Early Bumblebee on the Lavender hanging on for dear life! It was clinging with all its might, legs wrapped fully round the flower trying to stay hanging on. This gave me a chance to try some macro photos of it, although the wind was a nightmare and most of the pictures were pretty blurred. Of course, I could have upped the ISO setting on the camera to use a faster shutter speed, but that creates more noise which is undesirable; and actually didn't solve the biggest problem which was trying to track the focus. Anyway, I still got some reasonable pics:

 Early Bumble Bee - Bombus Pratorum - Male (see the moustache!)Early bumble bee - bombus pratorum

It turns out we are seeing male Early bumbles. We can tell they are males because:

  • they are not collecting pollen (they don't, they just feed for themselves)
  • they have a moustache
  • they have 13 segments on their antenna, not 12 like the females

 At one point one of these males flew onto BCW's bright purple jumper, so I got a great photo of it there:

 Early Bumblebee (Male - Bombus Pratorum)

It's a amazing how bright and fluffy they are! They are very unmistakable!

Cold Bufftail

Shortly after we spotting a Bufftail landing on the grass - we weren't sure if it was one of ours or not, but we suspected at first it was just struggling to fly in the gusty wind and was bedding down in the grass for a few moments. Again, I took the opportunity to get some close up photos, although this little bee was more inclined to give me her warning leg.

Bufftail Bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) resting and warming in the grass - also with some grey (Broad Bean) pollen in her basketswarning leg from BufftailEventually we figured that perhaps she was too cold to fly and could do with some help to warm up as we didn't know if she was one of ours (in which case we could have just transported her to our nest box). So I got the garden patio heater out and started to heat the area where she had landed. Within about a minute she buzzed and did some short flights of a few inches, so we knew she was warming up. The ground around her by this time was climbing, and ranging between about 30 degrees and 50 degrees. Within another 30 seconds she was all warmed up and off! She flew over the fence, so we don't know whether she was one of ours or not - either way, it was great to get her on her way!


The stark reality of nature

I spent a little more time today trying to improve my macro photography of bees coming in and out of the hive. Here's one of my favourite pictures:

Ready for Launch!As the day warmed up there was an increase in activity - right up until 8:45pm when I saw the last bee enter the hive. Most of my monitoring throughout the day was done via a remote camera, but I think I saw at least two or three emerging for the first time and programming their bearings. 

Part way through the day I discovered a very tiny worker on the floor below the hive. On closer inspection I could see she was missing a wing and a leg on her left side and in fact was a little deformed. She was hobbling over the stones on the ground. Once I realised she couldn't fly I used a small tub to pick up her up and try and get her back in the nestbox, but it was very tricky. I decided to provide her some food and drink and take a few photographs too. 

little baby beeIn the picture above she is on the side of a coke-bottle top that contains sugar water. As you can see, she is miniscule and I felt so sorry for her, because unless she is in the nest she has no hope of surviving. (Though, to be honest, I don't know if her chances are any better in the nest).

I made a cardboard funnel and eventually got her back into the nestbox. 

Sadly, a couple of hours later she was back on the entrance of the nest, so I moved her to an emtpy ice-cream tub with some sugar water, pollen and moss and left her alone for the afternoon.

resting on the nestbox edge

I figured I would put her in the nestbox towards the evening so she is not inclined to come out again.

When I next checked on her, about 6.30pm, she had crept under the moss and I was concerned for her temperature, so I brought the box inside and observed. Eventually she showed signs of life so I tried again to get her into the nest. In the end I had to resort to using a spoon and almost gently flicking her into the nestbox entrance, as she would not go any other way. I had no other choice.

I just hope she stays in the nest tomorrow, but I'm fearful she won't. She's programmed to come out and try and find pollen, even though she is incapable of doing so. But, this is the reality of nature.