Moving bumblebee nests
We very much hope that people will only try to move nests that are in a particularly inconvenient location. Underground nests will be more difficult to move, as you’ll create a considerable amount of disturbance as you dig down to the nest. These nests can also have long tunnels that lead to the nest, so it can be difficult to find it.
If you do need to move it, you will either need to do this yourself or get help from someone experienced in doing so. Please note that bumblebees can sting and are more likely to do so if their nest is disturbed. If you decide to move a nest, it is done at your own risk. Some honey bee keepers will have some experience in moving bumblebee nests, but this is rare. Pest control companies often destroy the nests (although a few refuse to), so it’s best to avoid using their services for bumblebees unless absolutely necessary.
To move a nest safely it is best to do it in the dark – when all of the bees will be in the nest and docile. They might buzz a bit but they won’t fly in the dark, so it’s safest to do it then. They don’t see red light well, so if you need to see what you’re doing, put some red plastic film/acetate over a torch or use a red L.E.D. rear cycle light.
Bumblebees are less likely to sting than honeybees and wasps are. However, disturbing the nest can make them behave defensively, and precautions should be taken to prevent stings occurring. While a full bee-keepers’ suit is helpful, it is not necessary. As a minimum, a person moving a nest should wear full length rubber ‘washing up’ gloves, and a long-sleeved top, and cover any exposed skin as best they can.
It has also been found that bumblebees can become alerted to the presence of an intruder if they are breathed upon. Accordingly, it is best to try to avoid breathing on the nest.
Moving nests in bird boxes
Some bumblebees, especially the Tree Bumblebee, Bombus hypnorum, nest in bird boxes and lofts. To move a colony in a bird nest box, follow these instructions:
- Wear protective clothing, especially gloves.
- Take a note of where the nest is and how you will reach it when it is dark.
- Wait until all or most of the workers have returned – this is often well after dusk.
- When activity quietens down, block up the entrance hole with flexible foam (e.g. from a sponge or scouring pad).
- Seal up any holes you find around the box using tape, as bumblebees can easily use these to escape from the box when it is being moved.
- Take the box down, without tipping it over, and keep it on a flat surface until you are ready to move it.
- Carefully move the box to its new location. This should be at least 5 ft. off the ground. It should be attached to a surface that is not liable to vibration, as this can disturb the bees.
- Remove the bung the next day, and the bees will leave to explore their new area. It is best to leave it until after midday to remove the bung.
A nesting bumblebee colony was causing concern to a Trunch resident and had to be moved under cover of darkness to their new location by Trunch Beekeepers who were called to help!