Bee nest removal is not an easy task. It needs to be undertaken carefully, especially where bumblebees are concerned.
Bees nests, depending on the type of bees, vary greatly. Bumblebees like to make their nests in tussocks of grass or in abandoned rodent holes. However, due to modern farming practices, many bumblebees are having to compromise, and a colony may even inhabit a bird box, an old upturned plant pot, or a space under the garden shed - or some places that humans would consider to be 'inconvenient'.
Bumblebees live in small colonies – however, in the early part of the year, the queen will establish the nest on her own, so that workers only emerge from late spring and through the summer.
If you see a number of similar fluffy bees entering and leaving the nest, it’s likely to be bumblebees.
However, to find out about bee nest removal for other species, such as carpenter and honey bees, see the link below.
Bee Nest Removal: Some Considerations Before Attempting To Move A Bumblebee Nest
If you’re thinking about the removal of a bees nest belonging to a bumblebee colony, first consider the following:
Bumblebees are actually very docile – a sting is exceptionally rare, and only ever accidental. The 'malicious' bumblebee simply doesn't exist.
Removal of a bee nest due to fear of stinging is unlikely to be necessary.
In the same way that it is perfectly possible to go for a walk in the park without being stung by any bees that happen to be busily going about their tasks - mostly unnoticed.
Bumblebees are having a very hard time – some species have already gone extinct whilst others have suffered major or catastrophic declines.
Bumblebee nests only last a season. By the end of the autumn, the colony will have moved on and abandoned the nest.
Most people, if they really think about it can wait that long.
Your actions count.
Fewer than half of colonies are successful, with many figures as low as 18% - only 18 colonies out of 100 as a survival rate is very low.
In order to be considered successful, the colony MUST produce queens, because it is the new queens that secure future generations. New queens are about the last to emerge from any bumblebee nest.
Note that only the new queens survive the winter, mating first before hibernating. Meanwhile, I’m afraid the rest of the colony actually dies.
In other words, if you disturb a colony before queens have had chance to emerge, a whole generation of bumblebees is destroyed.
This is clearly a great shame.
If colonies of bumblebees are killed, then populations can become fragmented, and this accelerates extinctions.
It’s like this: destruction of bumblebee colonies, can quickly result in large areas of land space between populations of the same species. Often the distances are too great, so that new queens are unable to find mates from different broods. This means that queens may mate with males from their OWN brood. This in-breeding causes all sorts of complications, such as producing males instead of females.
Males do not perform the important tasks in a bumblebee colony that are undertaken by worker females – for instance, worker females collect nectar and pollen to feed the young – males do not do this! Hence, producing males instead of females is disaster! Males are usually produced later in the season.
Is there anything you can do to delay removing the nest for as long as possible? If you live in the UK, know that the Common Carder bumblebee could provide a vital pollination service until November if allowed. Seasons and species vary, but if you can leave the nest alone until late October, but preferably November, then you will be helping bees a lot.
They provide a vital pollination service – not all insects entering a flower are actually pollinating it! Bumblebees can ‘buzz pollinate’ so that they are excellent pollinators of fruit and bean crops.
Instead of moving the nest, why not consider participating in a bumblebee nest survey. Contact a relevant conservation organisation for guidance.
Although I am providing guidance about how to move a bumblebee nest, moving one is not always successful - especially if you have not had practice! Please try to leave it alone if you can. If you disturb one, do your best to protect the nest as it was before, then leave them alone. If you must move them, try your best to increase their chances of success by following the instructions below.
If, having read the information above, you have decided not to disturb the bees, then on behalf of bees, I thank you sincerely!
If, however, you still need to remove the bees nest, then take the following steps:
Bee Nest Removal: Steps for Removing a Bumblebee Nest
1. First prepare an alternative nest site. A large wooden box, or very large, sturdy ceramic plant pot, would be ideal. It will need a covering to keep the rain out, yet it will also need space for the bees to fly in and out. Place some dry moss, grass and leaves (free of pesticides and weed killers) into the box.
2. Locate an alternative spot for the nest. Ideally, this needs to be 2 miles away to prevent confusion, and worker bees attempting to return to the original nest site. Perhaps you have a relative or friend who would happily allow the bumblebees to live in their garden? Try to ensure they do not use pesticides. Alternatively, contact a local wildlife organisation to see whether they have any appropriate suggestions about where the nest could be moved to.
The bumblebees' new home needs to be in a sheltered spot – perhaps a space under the garden shed, or a spot among some thorny brambles is possible? They also need plenty of flower material for collecting nectar and pollen.
3. Wait until the evening, until it is dark. Wear gloves and protective clothing. Bumblebees rarely sting, but moving the nest could cause them to feel threatened. Wear sturdy clothing strong enough to protect you from stings.
4. Have a box or your replacement bees nest box at the ready. Now carefully, calmly, and very, very gently, use a spade or shovel to lift up the nest. And place it in the box.
5. IMPORTANT! Here is a mistake to avoid: do not tip the nest! Keep it upright and level, otherwise their nectar pots may spill – these are vital resources for the bees! Be gentle so the pots do not get damaged.
6. Take the bees to their new location, and gently place them there. Hopefully, they will take to their new place, and will thrive.
Bee Nest Removal and Beekeepers
If you are concerned about removing a bumblebee nest, by all means you could try calling a beekeeper, however, bumblebee nests are very different from those of honey bees. There is no reason for anyone to expect a beekeeper to remove a bumblebee nest, and they may be (understandably) reluctant to attempt it.
If you really cannot wait for the nest to be moved, and you cannot do it yourself, you could also consider calling a wildlife conservation organisation.
If they are a charity, be prepared to make a reasonable donation to cover their expenses. (Remember, they have to find the cost of salaries, fuel and any other expenses). But again, many organisations may be reluctant to remove bumblebee nests, or they may simply not have the resources.
Should You Call in Pest Control or the Council?
Some pest control companies will seek to remove the nest without harming the bees. But check first - and also, how do you know they will be telling you the truth?
I have come across pest control companies who will not carry out bumblebee nest removal - and they try to dissuade potential customers from taking this action. I have also come across a few who will attempt to relocate the nest.
However, some may prefer speed over caution, and some pest controllers spray the nest with poison, killing the whole bumblebee colony.
Whatever their methods, you'll still have to pay! If you feel you must go down this route, ask questions.
A similar scenario applies to your local council. They will probably charge you. Do find out first how they would deal with the nest.
Additional Resources for moving Bumblebee Nests
If on discovering a bee nest removal is your only option, you may find it interesting to read some of the lother inks about bee nests on the is website.
However, there is seldom a very good reason to remove a bumblebee nest. When pressed, most people could wait if necessary, and given the problems faced by bumblebees, I wonder if it may one day be illegal to disturb them. Surely we can all do our bit to help bumblebees, even before legislation?
If you want to find out about carpenter bee nest removal, follow this link.
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I get feedback from people telling me that having read this page, they have decided to leave a bee nest alone.
Most people considering destroying a nest are not aware the nest is only temporary.
Please help raise awareness by sharing this page on social media (especially Facebook), and by emailing it to your friends.
On behalf of the bees
- thank you!