Two weeks ago I marked 4 worker red-tailed bumblebees using a bird nest-box in our Northiam garden so that I could recognise individuals and try to see how hard they were having to work to gather food. A plastic tube, rudely placed over the entrance hole forces the bees to halt allowing the colour, and number of the disc to be recorded on the way in and out of the nest.
For the past two weeks two bees have been observed regularly leaving the nest box, with a third making an occasional trip. The fourth has not been seen, either the disk has fallen off, it is staying in the box, or it has died. It may yet put in an appearance.
This morning saw the sudden appearance of several unmarked, slightly larger workers. The first co-hort of bees are often very smaller, with larger workers appearing as the nest develops.
I hope to compare the time taken to gather pollen and nectar with other bumblebee species in the south-east to see if species such as the nationally scarce brown banded carder bee Bombus humilis have to work harder to find enough food – a likely reason for their scarcity.