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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Man Who Poked the Bumblebees' Nest...

Last summer a pair of chickadees nested in one of our nest boxes. I left the abandoned nest, a soft mound of fluff constructed mostly of moss, in hopes they'd return this year.This spring I've seen a pair, perhaps last year's, checking out the nesting box. A half dozen times they've inspected the nest, popping in and out and then going on about their chickadee business.

It's nesting time for our local avian species and the chickadees have apparently decided to relocate. A couple of days ago I think I discovered the reason. I opened the nest box door and noticed the floor of the box was damp and nasty looking.
My thought: I'll clean it out, let the chickadees build a new nest...plenty of building material around, especially in our backyard. I pulled out the old nest and tossed it nearby, went to the outdoor faucet and rinsed out the inside of the box. When I returned to hang the box, I happened to glance down at the discarded nest and noticed a bumblebee hovering around it.

I bent down to investigate. Mid-nest I noticed a number of cocoons the size of hummingbird eggs. I poked around in the moss and to my surprise two or three little bumblebees, like fuzzy baby chicks, emerged: the chickadee nest had morphed into a bumblebee nest.

Doing my best to keep the nest intact, I carefully picked it up, reinstalled the clump in the nest box, and quickly closed the door. I checked the ground for any stragglers. Circling a fragment of fluff was a large bumblebee. The queen, I thought. Her majesty landed on the remnant, perplexed, I'm sure, as to the whereabouts of her brood. I captured her in my glove and after a shake or two dislodged her into the nest and closed her in, hoping she'd set things to right again.

Since the incident I've peeked in the box two or three times and each time saw a couple of baby bumblers prowling about the moss. Yesterday I looked in again. No activity. I poked the nest a time or two, eliciting an angry hummmm from within the moss. Today, hoping for a photo op, I opened the door again and six or eight of the babies came swarming out in full defensive mode. I took my photos and with a couple of  irate bumblers orbiting my head backed quickly away.

As a staunch advocate of all species of bees, I maintain the more plentiful they are, the better for us all. At this posting the outdoor temperature is fifty-seven degrees with a light rain falling. My honeybees, fair weather folks, are taking the day off, in out of the weather. Yet bumblebees are foraging in my black raspberries, setting this year's jam and jelly crop. A nest of them on the property is a blessing indeed.

But I'll miss the chickadees. Print this post

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