Bee Nest Removal And Bumble Bee Nests

Red-tailed bumble bee foraging on bird's foot trefoil.Red-tailed bumble bee foraging on bird's foot trefoil.

Bumble bee nest removal is not an easy task. Relocation of bumble bee nests needs to be undertaken carefully and safely, preferably to a spot where the bees will also stand the best chance of survival.

However, in any event, mostly it is not necessary to remove or relocate a bumble bee nest.

Bumble bees are not aggressive - they do not sting unprovoked, nor do they swarm. Therefore, there is no need to be alarmed.  

Colonies are quite small - 100 - 250 bees at most, not thousands.

The nest will no longer be active by the end of the summer (mid-Autumn latest), due to the life cycle of bumble bee colonies.  In bumble bees, a colony can only be deemed successful if new queens are reared toward the end of the season.  The new queens mate and feed, and then hibernate.  The rest of the colony will die.

When people are aware of these two factors, most find they can live with the nest temporarily.

Some simple precautions, such as leaving the nest alone, and keeping children and dogs away from the nest, are usually sufficient.

Some simple precautions, such as leaving the nest alone, and keeping children and dogs away from the nest, are usually sufficient.Some simple precautions, such as leaving the nest alone, and keeping children and dogs away from the nest, are usually sufficient.

When pressed, most people could wait if necessary, and given that they do not cause a problem and given the difficulties faced by bumblebees.

Is it a bumble bee nest?

Bumble bee nests, depending on the species, vary greatly. Some species like to make their nests in tussocks of grass or in abandoned rodent holes.

However, due to modern farming practices, many bumble bees are having to compromise, and a colony may even inhabit a bird box, a space around a fascia board, an old upturned plant pot, or a space under the garden shed - or some places that humans would consider to be 'inconvenient'.

The queen will establish the nest on her own, so that workers only emerge from late spring and through the summer. 

A colony of bumble bees has established itself in this bird box, but the nest will no longer be active in a few weeks.A colony of bumble bees has established itself in this bird box, but the nest will no longer be active in a few weeks.


If you see a number of similar fluffy bees entering and leaving the nest, it’s likely to be bumble bees.

However, to find out about bee nest removal for other species, such as  honey bees, see the link below. 

Bumble bee nest removal: some considerations before attempting to move a bumble bee nest

I provide advice about how to move a nest below, as well as links to specific scenarios.

However, if you’re thinking about the removal of a bees nest belonging to a bumble bee colony, first consider the following:

1. As stated above, bumble bees are actually very docile – a sting is exceptionally rare, and only ever accidental.  The 'malicious' bumble bee 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.

White-tailed bumble bee (male) on clover.White-tailed bumble bee (male) on clover.

2. Bumble bees are having a very hard time – some species have already gone extinct whilst others have suffered major or catastrophic declines.

3. 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. 

As stated above, bumble bee 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.

4. 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 

In other words, if you disturb a colony before queens have had chance to emerge, a whole generation of bumble bees is destroyed.

This is clearly a great shame.

5. If colonies of bumble bees are killed, then populations can become fragmented, and this accelerates extinctions.

Why?

Destruction of bumble bee colonies can eventually result in fragmented populations of the same species. If the distances are too great, new queens may have difficulty finding 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.

Although males are vital to the colony, they do not perform the important tasks in a bumble bee 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.

6. Is there anything you can do to delay removing the nest for as long as possible? A temporary barrier of plants may act as a screen in the short term, to encourage bees to fly in a certain direction.  It is better to place put the screen in place at night when members of the colony are not actively flying about.  

7. They provide a vital pollination service, and bumble bees can ‘buzz pollinate’ so that they are excellent pollinators of fruit and bean crops.


8. Instead of moving the nest, why not consider participating in a bumble bee nest survey? Contact a relevant conservation organisation for guidance.

9. 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:

(Note - see below for links to advice in specific situations - e.g. nest in roof etc).

Bumble bee nest removal: steps for removing a bumble bee 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. If you have a suitable, alternative place in your garden where you would be happy for the bees to rear the colony, you have the possibility to ensure the site is prepared first.  If not, ideally, the location 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 bumble bees 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 bumble bees' 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. Bumble bees 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.


Dealing with bumble bee nests in specific scenarios

Over the years I have provided advice for a number of situations.  You may find one or two of these pages relevant:


Bumble bee nest removal and beekeepers

If you are concerned about removing a bumblebee nest, by all means you could try calling a beekeeper - some are happy to help.

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.  They may or may not require you to cover their expenses.

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 to remove a bumble bee nest?

Some pest control companies will seek to remove the nest without harming the bees.  But check first. 

I have come across pest control companies who will not carry out bumble bee 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 bumble bee 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. Some will not remove bumble bee nests.  If they do, they may charge you. Do find out first how they would deal with the nest.

If a neighbour is trying to force you to move a bumble bee nest, please see this page.  It is based on real queries.


Additional information about bumble bees and bumble bee nests


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  • Disturbed A Bee Nest? What Should You Do?

    Disturbed A Bee Nest, or want to help a nest that has been damaged? How about a nest in an inconvenient place? Here is some advice about what to do.

















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