While cleaning out nest boxes, I came across what seemed like it must have been some kind of nest (do bees have nests?) of bumblebees. As I opened the door, a lot of what looked like the strips of a mouse nest was attached to the door. A seemingly dead bumblebee fell to the ground before I realized what was going on. It looked like several other dead bees in the nesting material (left photo) and I found this thing at the top of the nest (right photo)—perhaps an egg case? (Click on either of the photos to see a larger version.) It was rather brittle and thin-walled; each “cell” (or whatever those round things are) was broken on one side, although the “cells” were all connected. A different box had a bumblebee in it from late June until after early September. (I knew it was there because every time I tapped on the box, I could hear it buzzing back at me.) You can see a photo of this bee below. I checked on this box today as well; although some of nesting material was stuck to door, just as in the first box, I couldn’t see any obvious signs of dead bees (or live bees, for that matter) or egg cases.
We have had weather below freezing at night, although just barely (~31.5o) and probably not for long. I need to find out from some bee people what this might be and whether I should leave it or clean out the box.
This bee—a bumblebee, since it’s so bulky and fuzzy?—was buzzing at me from inside as I knocked on a nest box to check it. I had heard the same buzzing during last week’s box check. But because I had company during that check, I decided not to check it out. This week, I screwed up my courage and opened the box cautiously. (Since I know the rattle of our local rattlesnake species—a bit too well, this time of year—and I’m familiar with the “fake-rattle” of the local bull snake species in dried leaves, I was pretty sure it wasn’t a snake. But hey, ya’ never know.) I found this bee clinging to the side of an old nest that began as a deer mouse nest, then morphed briefly into the start of the Juniper Titmouse nest, and then evolved into a chipmunk nest. It has basically looked like this for a month now, and I had decided I was going to clean it out. But instead, not knowing what might be going on with this bee—since it (or a close relative) has been in that box for at least a week—I decided to leave well enough alone. It may not show up well on this photo (click on the photo for a slightly larger version), but its right wing has several spots of brown that look like—well, I have no idea. Sap? some growth? some other insects? Even if I zoom in on the original photo, I can’t discern what those spots are. Oh, well. Some literature I read said that bumblebees establish their colonies in abandoned rodent nests (usually underground, but maybe the nest box is just fine?). So maybe… It just seems a bit late in the season; most of what I read said that colonies get established in the spring.
I tried to match it to a series of diagrams of bumblebees on bumblebee.org. My best guess is that it’s a Bombus nevadensis. But really, I have no idea. The coloring doesn’t seem to match up perfectly, but it’s close. Maybe, as with birds and bird guides, the real thing doesn’t always match up exactly with the artist’s rendition. Once you have a lot of experience, you get a sense of what’s important and what’s not. Clearly, I’m not there yet. People who know more about bees than I do theorize that this is a queen attempting to establish a new colony.
And speaking of not having a clue—this fly (I guess it’s some kind of fly?) was hugging the corner of a nest box the same day. It was about 2.5 – 3″ long; the wings were very shimmery, although the camera didn’t pick that up well. Again, no idea what it could be. And if one searches on “fly, colorado,” one just gets a series of Web sites about fly fishing. Perhaps if I were a fly fisher-person, I’d know my flies better. As it is, I have no idea even where to start looking. Alas, I guess I don’t have to name every single thing. Even without a label, it surely is interesting. (Since I first wrote this, I have learned that it is the adult form of the antlion larva. More to come on this interesting insect.)