Disturbed A Bee Nest?
A Damaged Bee Nest?

What Should You Do?

One of the most common requests I receive concerns bee nests, and especially bumble bee nests that have been accidentally damaged, disturbed, or are in an inconvenient place.

I have several pages about bumble bee nests, covering topics such as the challenges bumble bees face generally, and in finding suitable nest sites, plus other useful information such as the fact that bumble bee nests only last a season anyway, and they are not aggressive and rarely sting.  Finally, if it is an absolute necessity (and it rarely is) then I offer information on how to relocate a nest

However, if you simply find an active bumble bee nest, it is preferable to leave it alone if you can.


  • What if you disturb or accidentally damage a bumble bee nest, what should you do then? 
  • What if bumble bees return to the site of a previous nest, and...
  • How long will a bumble bee colony be in place?
  • This website also has a separate page with suggestions if you have a query about whether a neighbour can force you to destroy a bee nest.  The suggestions may be useful whether you are in USA, UK, Canada or Australia.

Here are a couple of queries I have had recently, along with my replies.  I add them here in the hope that this information will prove useful to others.

Disturbed bee nests - different scenarios

Bumble bee nest disturbed in a compost heap

Bumble bees nesting in a compost heap is quite common.

In this query from a visitor, the nest has been damaged and exposed:


"Hello, I am buying a plot of land and we knew there was a bumble bee nest in an old compost bin.

I had arranged for the nest to be left until the winter and then I would move the bin, however, the bin has been tipped over and the nest disturbed.


The bees are milling around and I would like to save the nest. What should I do?"

My response:

"Sorry to hear about the accident with the bumble bee nest, and thank you for caring about the bees.

I suspect the most immediate threat will be predators, and potentially being destroyed by some other means e.g. being trampled on, or something falling/blowing on to them.

Bees are quite persistent, however, and I imagine they'll be working hard to save the nest.  By now, they may have salvaged their nectar pots.  If you try to move the nest, there is a risk they'll be tipped over, but you can try.

Personally, in this situation, just for now, I would try to provide some protection from predators (birds, badgers, other insects/invertebrates etc) and the risk that they'll be stepped on - e.g. perhaps use wood or similar, to erect a temporary 'wall' to provide some protection, but ensure the bees can get in and out in the short term. 

Return to the nest in the evening with a large plant pot with a hole at the top.  If the bees are around the colony, place the pot over the top, so they can get in and out of the hole. I suggest not covering the nest completely until the evening when foragers have returned to the nest.  This is to reduce the risk of confusion for foragers returning to the nest during the day.  

My only concern is that the pot can be knocked over, again by predators, (foxes, badgers), so if you can find a way to protect the plant pot and nest further, this would help."

Found a bumble bee nest in the garage

Bees will often surprise us in their choice of nest site.  I find people want to help the bees, but they also want to know how long they need to wait for the bumble bees to have finished with their nest.  It is never possible to say exactly, but one thing is certain - their nests are short term only, and even if 2 colonies are reared, they will usually be gone by November at the latest.  Only queen bumble bees hibernate and emerge the following year, although there is evidence of  winter active bumble bees, but this is not common.  See Where do bees go in winter?


"Hi, today I opened my garage to find that some bees had made a nest in an old kitchen cabinet that I intended to take to the skip. After reading your site I can confirm that they are bumblebees and I'm more than happy to do my bit and let them stay there until they move on. However if you could tell me when they are most likely to move on, I'd be very grateful" -  (May).

My response:

"It really depends on the species and stage of the colony, but I suspect it will be finished by the end of August, possibly a little sooner or later. If you are able to check every now and then, you'll be able to see whether there are any bees tending the colony.  Queens and males will be the last to be reared and emerge from the colony.

Thanks for caring about the bees - it really helps".

Bees in the shed - using an old nest

I am sometimes asked if bumble bees will return to an old nest site.  Since colonies die at the end of the season, what is really being asked is whether the nests are used repeatedly - i.e. by new colonies.

I understand that this can happen, but is not especially common because bumble bees are fussy, and the nest would need to be free of parasites etc.  However, it can and does happen.

If this is inconvenient for you, the best thing to do is remove the old nest (when the colony is no longer present) and block any entrance holes to stop new queens from making a nest there in the future.


"Hello, I had a nest of bees in my shed last year, made from rolled up hanging basket liner. I read your advice and thought that they would go of their own accord so left them alone. I cleared the shed and moved the liner (now stuck to a box) and there was a very loud buzzing so must still be there. What should I do?"

My response:

"Thank you for your email - and for caring about the bees!
Without seeing your situation directly, I cannot be too sure, but possibly:

  • a new nest is now establishing itself
  • you have awoken a queen taking shelter (lots of buzzing or a single buzz?  Lots of buzzing would indicate a colony, a single buzz may mean you have disturbed a single queen).

If you believe you have a 'single buzz', you could first carefully take a look to check whether there is a nest. If not, you may simply have a queen bumble bee from last year taking shelter, in which case, leave her undisturbed for a little longer if you can (hibernation will be over soon) and simply clear away and tidy the area that appears to be attracting the bees.

If you have a nest, you could leave it for now, until the season has finished.  Wait until October/November, or when it appears there is no more buzzing and the bees are gone.  Then tidy away the area that is attracting bees, and block any holes allowing them to get in.

If it is not a single queen, then what has happened here is that you have a new colony.  It won't be the old colony - the old colonies do indeed die off.  You can resolve the matter for the future by clearing away the 'ideal nest conditions' for the bumble bees at the end of the season, to discourage future nests.

I hope this helps.  Again, thank you for caring and allowing them to thrive last year - much appreciated!  Bumble bees are not deliberately aggressive and are so important as a species.  You might have seen this report about the decline of bumble bees, so your help really matters:  http://www.iucn.org/?14612/Bad-news-for-Europes-bumblebees "

Read about help with a honey bee swarm.

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