A visitor contacted me about a bumblebee nest in her roof, and raised a few concerns. Firstly, do bee nests attract wasps, and was there a risk that wasps would move into the nest? In addition, she wondered whether bee nests cause damage.
My response is below. Had the nest been that of honey bees it would have been different, and I would have advised her to call a beekeeper. US visitors with a nest of large carpenter bees may be interested in this page. But in this case, I'm confident the lady definitely had a bumblebee nest in her roof.
It may seem strange, but I must admit, I felt a little envious, because I wish I had a bumblebee nest in my roof!
Firstly, to address the concern about wasps – i.e. are wasps attracted to bee nests and will they move into the nest?
Social wasps are usually busy trying to establish their own colonies, which means worker wasps are busy finding nest material and food for the young (insects and invertebrates such as aphids). This means worker wasps do not take over the nests of bees. However, they may try to raid a nest. This usually involves a wasp or wasps being attracted to the nectar pots, or possibly to kill bees to take back to the larvae to eat. Wasp larvae secrete a substance the forager wasps, will in turn, feed upon. (Wasps will also feed on nectar from flowers, and later on may be attracted to sugary fruits).
Given your bumblebee colony sounds well established, wasps are less likely to be successful in this case, because worker bumblebees would defend the nest and kill the attackers. However, in the worst case scenario, a lot of wasps would arrive.
However, I actually think it’s a little early yet for a wasp colony to be established, but I can understand that lots of wasps would cause concern if that were to happen.
But how can you deter wasps in the future?
Some beekeepers swear by them.
They can be hung up year after year too. I suggest you put the hook in place during the day, and hang up the waspinator in the evening, then leave it there.
With regard to concern for the bumblebees themselves…. well, I’m afraid bumblebees have to cope with predators, and we have to hope they will thrive (it sounds like they are doing well).
Anyway, all this is worrying about something that may not even happen.
Secondly, to address your concern about the bumblebee queen:
The incumbent queen will die at the end of the season. Only new queens survive. It is they who mate, hibernate, and establish a new colony the following year.
I recommend you clear away the old nest at the end of the year, if you want to ensure you do not attract mice. Check there are no queens hibernating in the old nest. You might also want to block the entrance to the nest, to deter bees if you do not wish to have a nest there in the future – but please ensure no bees are trapped inside.
I hope this helps, and thanks so much for caring about the bees."
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