Rescuing Trapped Bees

Updated: 7th February 2021

Recently, I wrote a blog post about rescuing bees, and one of the examples I gave was that of assisting bees trapped in a spider web.

However, there are other places where bees can find themselves trapped and needing help!

A Bee Trapped In The Greenhouse or Conservatory

A common query I get concerns bees getting trapped in greenhouses and conservatories.  I myself have experienced this many times.  Bumble bees especially, enter the greenhouse when the door is open on a warm day to pollinate the tomatoes.  After a while, they sometimes end up flying and bumping against the window - no doubt they have a colony they need to get back to.

Nowadays, I use green netting in front of the greenhouse door when it's open.  This allows air into the greenhouse whilst preventing bees and butterflies from getting trapped inside.

bumble bee on pink flower

Above - Linnaria purpurea is popular with bumblebees and is a plant I often use to coax trapped bees out of greenhouses, but you can use any plant popular with bees.

However, what did I do if bees became trapped before I had the netting?

My solution was as follows:

  • I would try and gently trap the bee under a plant pot and take it outside, but this is not always possible if plants are in the way, or was short of time.  In such cases......

  • I simply place a number of pot plants in the doorway of the greenhouse, ensuring there are flowers reaching both in and outside the greenhouse.

  • Obviously, it's important the plant has flowers the bees enjoy.  I always ensure I have several bee-friendly plants in pots that can be moved around.

  • I tend to go for something with a little height, so that the flowers really can reach up inside the greenhouse, and in my case, be at a similar height to flowers on the tomatoes.  I find Linnarea purpurea, and good-sized lavenders very useful, because quite a lot of different types of bees actually like them.  Some species of geranium (hardy, cranesbill types) can also be helpful. 

What I am really doing, is coaxing the bees outside, and I generally find this works. 

Sometimes however, it is too late.

I get quite a few solitary species entering the greenhouse too, and the image below is, I think, a mason bee all wrapped up in a spider web. At this stage it is obviously impossible to help the bee.

bee caught by a spider

Trapped Bees In The House

Sometimes I have to rescue trapped bees from inside the house.  I don't have a magic formula for this I'm afraid. 

If I can't simply coax them out via the window or door, I usually have to use a plastic transparent cup or beaker, then gently slide this over a piece of card - slowly, to ensure the feet or legs don't get caught or injured.  I use a transparent cup so that I can see what I am doing.  

bumble bee on orange straw flower

Bees Trapped In A Bottle

Just the other day I was walking along the path, when (despite all other noises and distractions) I heard a distinct loud bumble bee buzzing sound coming from near a wall. 

Initially I thought there must be a nest, but very quickly discerned that the noise was that of an angry buzzing, and it appeared to be coming from inside something – a bottle. 

Sure enough, there among the leaves was a bottle with the neck poking upwards. 

I picked it up.  There were two angry bumble bee queens buzzing around the area at the neck, in a frenzy, apparently trapped.  Just to prove that this was a dangerous situation for bumble bees, there were two dead queens in the bottle already.   

There was a little water inside the bottle.  I tipped the bottle upside down, and the water sent one of the live queens and the two dead queens, out of the bottle opening and into fresh air.   The bumble bee queen still alive began grooming immediately, and vibrating her wings to dry off in the sun.  I gently lifted her off the path and into safety. 

One bumble bee remained in the bottle. 

Ideally, a little plain water would have helped.  If I’d had some, I would have trickled just a little into the bottle to help me get the bumble bee out, as I wanted her to be out of there as quickly as possible. 

I first tried a few blades of grass and twig, gently pushed into the bottle to see if I could get her to climb aboard and allow me to pull her and the twigs out of the neck.  No good.  In the end, I had to gently shake the bottle upside down. 

With no other blockages impeding the exit, this did the trick.  Out blustered a flustered, buzzing, bedraggled little creature – a sorry thing of a bumble bee queen.  I lifted her royal highness carefully to safety, and immediately, she got on with vibrating her wings to dry herself off, and other ablutions.

I disposed of the empty bottle into the nearest bin.  A good deed done.

If you have found a bee and don't know what to do
click here

How Can Councils Help The Bees?
Ideas To Share

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