Updated: 23rd February 2021
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. Whilst steps are outlined below, in truth it is rarely necessary to remove or relocate a bumble bee nest.
When people are aware of these factors coupled with the challenges faced by bees, 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.
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 habitat destruction, especially the removal of hedgerows, many bumble bees are having to compromise, and a colony may even inhabit a compost heap, a bird box, a gap 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.
If you see a number of similar fluffy bees entering and leaving the nest, it’s likely to be bumble bees.
In the process of removal, please do your best to keep the nest intact, and avoid tipping.
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 organization 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 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! 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.
Over the years I have provided advice for a number of situations. You may find one or two of these pages relevant:
If you are concerned about removing a bumble bee nest, by all means you could try calling a beekeeper - some are happy to help.
However, bumble bee nests are very different from those of honey bees. There is no reason for anyone to expect a beekeeper to remove a bumble bee nest, and they may (understandably) be 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 bumble bee nests, or they may simply not have the resources.
I have come across many pest control companies who will not remove bumble bee nests, and they try to dissuade potential customers from taking this action. I applaud this stance.
I have also come across a few who will attempt to relocate the nest. Certainly, the British Association of Pest Controllers takes a dim view of removing bumble bee nests these days, and have produced a leaflet explaining why they refuse to remove the nest: We're Leaving You Bee.
I applaud this ethical stance.
However, some may prefer speed over caution, and may spray the nest with poison, killing the whole bumble bee colony.
Whatever their methods, you should check first, and remember, you'll still have to pay!
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
1. Goulson, D. 2010. Bumblebees, behavior and ecology. Oxford Univ. Press, Oxford, U.K, pg 146.