Are bumblebee nests nestled in your garden and you’re not sure what to do? Our article provides you with straightforward tips on how to pinpoint these hidden hubs of pollination, protect their fragile ecosystem, and live harmoniously with the bumblebees busily buzzing in your backyard.

Key Takeaways

  • Bumblebee nests are commonly established in pre-existing cavities like abandoned rodent holes and bird boxes, often in dry, protected, and inconspicuous locations, displaying bumble bee species-specific nesting preferences.
  • The bumblebee lifecycle within a nest begins with the queen laying eggs and progresses through colony growth, with the colony producing males and new queens in summer, who leave to mate, and the colony typically lasts for only one year.
  • Human practices, such as gardening with diverse flowering plants and maintaining undisturbed areas, can provide nesting materials and habitats for bumblebees, supporting their survival amid challenges like habitat loss and climate change.

The Secret Havens of Bumblebee Nests

The Secret Havens of Bumblebee Nests

Bumblebees often conceal their secret havens in plain sight. Bumble bees typically prefer to nest in already existing cavities, such as abandoned rodent holes, natural cavities, and bird boxes.

These nests are often situated in locations offering protection and stable conditions, such as dry and dark cavities, areas of long grass, or sheltered spots under structures like sheds.

Although there are common preferences, different bumblebee species have specific nesting choices, like underground burrows or bird boxes. This preference for pre-existing structures showcases the resourcefulness of these buzzing creatures, optimizing their survival by utilizing available resources in their environments.

Identifying a Bumble Bee Nest

It can be a bit challenging to identify a bumblebee nest. Often, these nests can be found by looking for entrance holes in the ground or cavities. Likely sites include:

  • Abandoned rodent tunnels
  • Structure voids
  • Under piles of wood on the ground
  • Under piles of dead leaves and compost piles
  • Abandoned birds’ nests

However, vegetation often obscures many potential nest sites, hiding the entrance holes and making nests less conspicuous.

Thus, careful observation is key. Spotting these subtle ground or cavity entrances can lead you to the secret haven of a bumblebee colony.

The Lifecycle Within: From Queen to Colony

The lifecycle within a bumblebee nest presents a fascinating transformation journey. After finding a suitable nesting site, the queen bumblebee lays her initial batch of eggs on the pollen within waxen pots she’s built and incubates them. These eggs hatch into female workers who undertake foraging and nest maintenance, promoting colony growth to an average of 50 to 500 individuals.

As summer progresses, the lifecycle reaches a crucial juncture. The queen produces males and new queens; males leave to mate and do not return, while fertilized queens gather energy for hibernation, setting the stage for the next cycle.

This continuous cycle of life is a testament to the resilience and adaptability of these tiny creatures.

Constructing a Safe Haven: How Bumble Bees Build Their Nests

Bees building their nests

How exactly do bumblebees construct these intricate nests?

Queen bumblebees initiate nest construction by using dry grass or other plant materials to form an insulation layer before laying eggs. They utilize a variety of materials such as:

  • kapok
  • dry moss
  • wool
  • pet wood chippings
  • shredded paper

forming a ‘ball’ of nesting material.

A bumblebee nest, belonging to one of the various bumble bee species, is typically established in dry, protected, and hidden cavities. These bumble bees nest structures appear more disorganized than those of a bees nest, such as a carpenter bee nest or honey bees nest, and are used only once a year. This unique, single-use nature of the nest mirrors the transitory lifecycle of a bumblebee colony, symbolizing the ephemeral beauty of where bumble bees live.

A Glimpse into Bumble Bee Society

An organized society with a clear social structure exists within the confines of a bumblebee nest. The queen bee is the central figure of a bumble bee colony, responsible for laying eggs and producing pheromones that ensure social structure and unity.

As a queen bee ages, her ability to lay eggs decreases, which can lead to the dwindling of the colony’s numbers and a decrease in overall productivity.

Bumble bee colonies structure themselves with caste divisions, dividing responsibilities among the bees, and worker bees have lifespans ranging from one to two months.

This caste-based organization is a testament to the efficiency of these tiny pollinators, ensuring the smooth running of the colony and maximizing its survival chances.

Challenges in Finding the Perfect Nest Site

Even with their resourcefulness, bumblebees encounter increasing difficulties in locating appropriate nesting sites. Large-scale landscape changes like the expansion of agricultural lands and urban areas often lead to the destruction of their natural environments.

Adding to this, climate change induces temperature fluctuations and extreme weather events, detrimentally affecting the suitability of habitats for bumblebee nesting.

The loss of natural habitats and a decrease in the abundance of wildflowers contribute to the difficulty that bumblebees face in finding both nesting sites and food sources. These challenges not only pose a problem for bumblebees but also threaten environmental health and food security due to their role as significant pollinators.

Attracting Bumble Bees: Creating a Nesting Sanctuary

Although these challenges exist, there are many ways we can support these vital pollinators. Bumble bees, as generalist feeders, benefit from gardens that host a wide range of flowering plants providing nectar and pollen from late winter to fall. By selecting flowers in colors such as:

  • blue
  • purple
  • pink
  • yellow

we can attract more bumble bees as these colors are more visible to them.

But, it’s not just about the flowers. Bumblebee nests can be supported by offering undisturbed spaces in gardens, such as compost heaps or beneath sheds. Less tidy, undisturbed areas of the garden encourage bumble bee nesting, as overly manicured environments are not as conducive to their habitation.

Offer Natural Nesting Materials

Dried leaves and moss, natural nesting materials for bumblebees

We can further support bumblebees by providing natural nesting materials. Gardeners can encourage bumble bee nesting by providing natural nesting materials and creating undisturbed areas in their gardens.

A DIY nesting site for bumble bees can be made using an upturned flowerpot covered with a slate to protect from rain, featuring an underground hose or pipe that serves as an entrance, and filled with a generous amount of old pet bedding for nesting material.

Additionally, lemon thyme and red thyme, creeping herbs, excellently cover garden ground and are also favored as nesting material by bumble bees.

These small adjustments in our gardening practices can make a big difference in supporting our buzzing friends.

Install a Bumble Bee Box

A bumblebee box

Another effective method of providing an artificial nesting site is by installing a bumblebee box. These boxes should be placed in areas popular with nest-searching queens such as:

  • along the bottom of a bank
  • under hedges and other shrubs
  • next to a shed
  • on top of a wall

Avoid all-day sun exposure to prevent overheating. The box should have dimensions of at least 15 x 15 x 15 cm and not exceeding 25 x 25 x 25 cm. It should incorporate a minimum of two ventilation holes covered with netting to prevent ants and modify entrances to deter birds.

Inside the bumble bee bird nest box, create a base layer of pebbles for drainage, use a chicken wire cage to elevate nesting material away from the box sides, insert clear plastic tubing for the entrance, and fill with natural materials such as kapok on pet wood chippings or shredded paper, topped with dried leaves and moss for a natural appearance.

Peaceful Observation

Observing bumblebee behavior from a safe distance provides valuable insights into their preferences and foraging patterns, which can help in making suitable adjustments to nest boxes and fostering a better understanding of their role in ecosystems.

To observe bumble bees without causing them distress, one should avoid breathing directly on the nest as this can provoke defensive behavior, and it is important to note that even large bumblebee nests do not generate significant bee traffic, making discreet observation feasible.

Discovering a bumblebee nest is fortunate since they are not commonly encountered, showcasing their selective nature in choosing nest sites and the broader environmental challenges they encounter.

Creating a simple barrier a few meters away from the nest can protect it from disturbances by pets or children, while still providing an educational opportunity to observe bumblebee behavior without intrusion.

Implementing Non-Harmful Barriers

Garden netting protecting a bumblebee nest

Another significant aspect of cohabitation is shielding bumblebee nests from disturbances. A non-harmful barrier can be created around a bumble bee nest using materials like chicken wire or garden netting with stakes, or by stacking wood or stones.

In cases where bumblebees or carpenter bees are nesting within a cavity wall, it is best to allow them to complete their lifecycle and seal any entry points in the autumn, utilizing mesh to prevent future nesting when bee activity has stopped.

By implementing these barriers, we can ensure the safety of the bumblebee nests and the longevity of the bumblebee colonies.

The Seasonal Journey of Bumble Bees

A bumblebee’s life is a journey that follows the seasons. The annual cycle for a queen bumblebee begins as she emerges from hibernation in spring, searching for a suitable location to establish her nest.

Worker bees, which emerge from the first brood, assume the responsibilities of foraging and nest maintenance in early summer, while the queen focuses on laying more eggs.

As summer concludes, the colony produces new queens and drones who leave the nest to mate, an essential step for the survival of next year’s colonies.

Come autumn, the foundress queen, workers, and male bees die, concluding the annual life cycle of the colony. The fertilized new queens then find places to overwinter and restart the cycle the following spring.

Supporting Overwintering Queens

The survival of bumblebee colonies heavily relies on supporting overwintering queens. Newly-mated queen bumble bees accumulate fat reserves and seek out places to enter a hibernation-like state during winter. Ensuring undisturbed soil structure during the cold season, along with maintaining natural features like rock piles and dense vegetation, can provide safe harbors for overwintering queens.

During the winter months, gently re-cover the queen bumble bee with a substrate to facilitate her return to hibernation. Through these actions, we can make a significant contribution to the survival and continuation of bumblebee colonies.


Frequently Asked Questions

Where do bumblebees make their nests?

Bumblebees make their nests in pre-existing cavities that provide insulation and protection from the elements, such as old rodent burrows, bunch grasses, and man-made structures like bird houses or insulation. This allows them to create a safe environment for their colony to thrive.

Do I need to get rid of a bumblebee nest?

If the bumblebee nest is not in the way and you can find a way to temporarily avoid the area, it's best to wait it out and let the bees thrive in their chosen location.

How long do bumble bees stay in their nest?

Bumble bee nests typically last for about 2 to 3 months. After this period, the original queen, her workers, and her sons will die.

How many bumblebees are usually in a nest?

Bumblebee nests can contain anywhere from 20 to 1700 bees, with an average of 50 to 400 individuals.

Honey bee hives, which can hold about 50,000 bees, are much larger than this.

How do bumble bees build their nests?

Bumble bees build their nests by using dry grass or other plant materials to form an insulation layer and then lay eggs, while also incorporating materials like kapok, dry moss, wool, pet wood chippings, and shredded paper to form a nesting ball.

Coexisting with Bumble Bees: Managing Nests Near Homes

Coexisting with Bumble Bees

A few precautions can enable successful coexistence with bumblebees and management of nests near homes.

Avoid using chemical pesticides in the garden and instead use natural pest control methods to prevent harm to bumble bees. Cover windows with netting when opening them near a bumble bee nest to prevent bees from entering the home.

In situations where a bumblebee nest is too complex to manage on your own, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. The safest time to move a bumblebee nest is at night when the temperatures are low and the bees are less active.

During the process of nest relocation, contain the nest using a large plastic bin or cardboard box to prevent the bees from escaping.

In summary, bumblebees are not just important pollinators, but also fascinating creatures with complex social structures, intricate nest-building skills, and adaptive behaviors. Understanding their nesting habits, lifecycle, societal structure, and the challenges they face is crucial for their conservation.

Creating a harmonious garden environment, providing natural nesting materials, and applying non-harmful barriers can significantly support these buzzing architects. Let’s do our part in nurturing these buzzing wonders and coexist with them in harmony.

Seek Assistance From Your Local Exterminator

If the bumblebee nest situation becomes too complex to handle on your own, A.N.T. Pest Control can assist you. Their comprehensive information on bumblebee nests and overwintering queens can assist in understanding how to safely manage bumble bee nests, ensuring the safety of your household as well as the well-being of the bumblebees.

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New Lenox, IL 60451


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