Bumblebee nests are not at all like honey bee hives. Because the bumblebee life cycle lasts only one season, bumblebees approach homeownership in an entirely different way than honey bees, which can survive for several years.
What Does a Bumblebee Nest Look Like?
The bumblebee nest does not resemble the honey bee hive at all. Honey bee hives are elaborate, well-planned structures that are constructed with the aim of housing the colony for several seasons. Hexagonal cells are formed to store honey and bee larvae, and the hive itself must be able to accommodate several thousand bees.
Bumblebee nests are less complex. They’re lined with leaves, animal fur, and other materials that will serve as insulation. There may be a few wax cells and honey pots, but there’s no need to spend time and energy on a complicated system meant to conserve food. The bumblebees will die after a few months, and so they plan accordingly.
How Big Is A Bumblebee Nest?
Since bumblebee colonies include from 40 to 400 bees, they are a lot smaller than honey beehives, which contain around 50,000 bees. Nest size is dependent on the time of year and the particular species, but generally, the size of a bumblebee nest is only as large as what is needed to house the number of bees inside. Some of the bumblebees that make smaller nests are Bombus pratorum and Bombus hortorum.
What Do Bumblebees Look For in a Nest?
Bumblebee queens are opportunists and will try to find an existing hole for their nest rather than build it from scratch. Specifically, she looks for a location that has adequate shelter and enough shade to keep the temperature regulated. Most species choose dry, dark cavities.
Some of the common places where bumblebees choose to make their nests include rodent burrows, piles of leaves or lumber, tall grass, birds nests, and even the gaps behind the siding. While most species select a location that’s close to the ground, some bumblebees find a satisfactory home in the hollow of a tree or other high, lofty spots.
What Are The Signs Bumblebees Are Looking For A Nest?
Early in the Spring, the queen bumblebee will begin her hunt for a home. The search starts when she’s about ready to lay her eggs. Below are some of the signs that the queen is looking for a nest :
- When a bumblebee is zig-zagging its way along a path, that means that the queen is looking for a suitable nest. She’ll also be flying low to the ground to inspect all prospective sites.
- The house-hunting bumblebee will explore all kinds of shady areas, particularly holes in the ground or crevices in walls. A compost bin may be an ideal location for her nest.
- The queen who is looking for real estate at a higher altitude may be hovering near or bumping into the house’s windows especially if the windows are in a shady spot.
How to Prevent a Bumblebee From Nesting at the Property?
Filling in all holes and sealing all cracks can help to prevent bumblebees from nesting on someone’s property.
If the queen has already decided to build her nest, here is how to encourage her to relocate:
|Boil a pot of water and throw some slices of oranges, lemons, or limes into the pot. Once the water has boiled down by a third, let it cool and pour it into a spray bottle. Spray nests, flowers, and plants where the bees have been spotted.||Sprinkle ground cinnamon around the nest for at least two weeks. This will encourage the bees to relocate because they don't like anything spicy.|
|Citronella candles are not only mosquito repellent. Light some of these candles in places the bees have been spotted, and repeat this for a few days. The bees will eventually decide to move elsewhere.||Just like people, bees don’t like the smell of mothballs. By hanging the mothballs in the garden or other places where bees gather, they will move to a different location.|
|Keep the lawn and garden well-watered. Since bumblebees prefer dry and sandy locations, they’ll want to leave if it becomes too wet. This is also a good method to use to prevent them from building nests.||Grow bee-repelling plants, particularly mint and evergreens that emit a piney scent. It also makes sense to include plants that do not require pollination - like ferns and mosses.|
Will The Bees Damage the House?
Bumblebees are not like Carpenter Bees. They won’t chew through wood or boreholes. They won’t cause any kind of structural damage because they only use available material to build their nests. If bumblebees do happen to get into the house, it is likely just an accident, and they will probably try to find an escape route very quickly.
How Long Will A Bumblebee Nest Remain Active?
The bumblebee lifecycle is only one season. At the end of the summer, the original queen and her offspring (worker females and male drones) will die. Any new queens will leave the nest to find mates, and then find a place to hibernate until the next spring. When they do emerge, they will look for a nest to lay their eggs. So, it is only a few months that the nest is active. Prevent the new queens from using the nest that is left behind, by sealing up the entrance hall. It is important to make sure that all of the bees have exited before it is closed off.
Is a Bumblebee Nest Dangerous to Pets or Children?
Bumblebees act defensively only when their nests are disturbed, but children and pets usually have little awareness about the consequences of their actions. But unless your little ones have bee allergies, it is best not to instil fear about bumblebees.
The best thing to do is to put a barrier in place a few yards from the nest to ensure children and pets do not accidentally disturb the colony. If it is not possible to put up a barrier, there are ways to divert the entrance to the nest so that the bees can come and go in a way that won’t interfere with the activity of your two-legged and four-legged loved ones.
Can a Bumblebee Nest Be Moved?
Most experts agree that no one should not attempt to move a bumblebee nest unless there are extreme circumstances. It would be up to each individual to determine what would make such circumstances extreme, but there are many reasons why one should not move a bumblebee nest.
First, they are very difficult to move. Most nests are in inconvenient locations. Second, it is quite dangerous to try to move a nest. The work would need to begin in the dark because that is when the bees will be the most “tame.” Bumblebees do not fly in the dark but human vision isn’t exactly ideal in dark conditions.
But the most sensible reason we shouldn’t move a bumblebee nest is that it probably won’t be worth the trouble. Bumblebees are not likely to pose a threat unless their nests are disturbed; they are not actively trying to wreak havoc on the human race. Also, the nest will be viable for only a few months since bumblebees either die at the end of the summer or the new queens leave to mate and prepare for hibernation.
If it is absolutely necessary to move the nest, several precautions will have to be taken. As mentioned earlier, the move should take place in the dark, and protective gear should be worn. Since bumblebees don’t see red light very well, try to place red plastic over a flashlight or use a red L.E.D rear cycle light.
Make sure to have an alternative site to place the nest – preferably one that is shady. The nest shouldn’t be moved too far from where it was originally. The bees will need to reorient themselves to the new location. It is probably best to hire an expert, but pest control companies are not recommended since they will likely give little care to the health and safety of the bees.
And bee health is vitally important. Many bumblebee species are in decline, and the loss of these pollinators would be devastating for our ecosystem.
How to Protect a Bumblebee Nest and Support Queen Bees?
Most people have heard that bumblebee species are currently facing threats like habitat loss, disease, climate change, and pesticides. But humans can play a role in helping to save bumblebees. There are ways to make the outdoor space a favourable environment for bumblebees.
First, by providing good nesting locations. Some experts have recommended planting hedgerows since they are essentially physical landmarks that pollinators use to navigate their way from the nest to foraging grounds. Additionally, hedgerows provide sheltered habitats, offering protection from wind and rain.
Planting flowers that are rich in nectar and pollen can also help. Native plants are ideal because they have co-evolved with indigenous bumblebee species. And plant flowers that are early bloomers. The queen will be out early in the season to search for a proper nest, and she will need nutrition and energy to do so. She will also need food to help her produce her first eggs.
Taking good care of the lawn and yard also makes a difference. Avoid raking, tilling, or mowing until April or May. If it is absolutely necessary to mow before then, keep the mower blade at the highest level. And though it is tempting to want to rid the lawn of dandelions and clover, these weeds are good early-blooming resources for bumblebees.
Of course, most people cannot tolerate dandelions in their lawns, so when removing them, try to replace them with a different flowering resource. Avoid using insecticides – especially neonicotinoids. Bees are exposed to this poison long after it is applied when they feed on these plants.
When planning the landscape, consider adding rock piles, which could provide a good nesting location for bumblebees. Another way to aid nesting is to prepare possible nesting locations with a layer of bedding or to add rock piles to the landscaping.
Besides planting early blooming flowers, it is just as important to have food available for the new queens at the end of the summer and late fall. Here are a few late-blooming flowers for your consideration:
- Balloon Flower (Platycodon grandiflorus). A member of the Campanulaceae family, it grows in Zones 3-8 and is a prolific bloomer. Colour varieties are blue, white, pink, or purple. Little maintenance is required.
- Blue Mist Shrub (Caryopteris x clandonensis). It grows in Zones 5-9 and is very attractive to bees and butterflies.
- Goldenrod (Solidago). Despite what some people believe, Goldenrod does not cause hay fever – it’s ragweed that is responsible for the allergy. There are more than 100 species of Goldenrod, and they thrive in Zones 4-8.