La Humla Suse, the Norwegian Bumblebee Society.
May 2013, I was invited to give a presentation in Oslo by members of the newly formed Norwegian Bumblebee Conservation Society, La Humla Suse.
Toril Mentzoni and Atle Mjelde of the Norwegian Bumblebee Conservation Society, La Humla Suse, examining the bumblebee nest box
Review of the bumblebee nest box from Nurturing Nature
By Atle Mjelde, bumblebee biologist.
Nurturing Nature has designed a very nice and good looking bumblebee box. I have looked very critically at the box to see if fulfils all needs of the bumblebees. Can you expect to get bumblebees in the box and what kind of bumblebees can you to get in this box?
I have experience with bumblebee nest boxes since 1968, and have about half of the Norwegian species in domiciles. Each year I have had from 50 to 100% of my domiciles occupied by bumblebees. I have tested a lot of different designs and nesting materials. By studying the bumblebees, observing their behaviour and nesting biology I have had a quite extreme high occupation rate in my nesting boxes. Together throughout all these years I have had a few thousand domiciles in gardens, forest, in meadows and all kind of locations.
The nest box from Nurturing Nature is one of the very best design I have found on the WEB and seems to be much better than most of the nest boxes you can find in shops or sold elsewhere on the Internet. This is a nesting box where they have thought about nearly everything. Of course there are still a few things that can be made better, but I will start with all the really good features!
The nest chamber is quite large. This has several important factors. It allows the nest to expand to its maximum, it allows for a lot of air, nesting material and drainage material. This is important as nectar contains a lot of water, and bees feaces consist of a lot of water that needs to evaporate. A lot of space also gives room for suitable material to absorb the humidity and permit it to evaporate. The height of the nesting box permits a good air circulation. Fresh air enters the box through the lower ventilation holes and as the now warm air rises, leaves the box through the upper holes. The ventilation holes are covered with a very fine metal mesh to prevent parasites and different types of unwanted guests. The entrance is protected by a bumblebee flap door (like a pet door). This is an excellent solution for preventing some of the worst enemies of the social bumblebees like the Cuckoo bumblebees and the bumblebee wax moth (The bee moth (Aphomia sociella). It is an excellent solution to stop a lot of bumblebee parasites and enemies.
The nest box is made of very robust material and is very tight so no parasites are able to enter, and all air circulation has to come through the ventilation holes and the entrance. This is important to give an optimal success with the bumblebee nest.
You also have a parasite trap beside the entrance, and every parasite and unwanted guest can be caught here if the try to make their way into the nest box.
Then comes one of the best features, and that is the red Plexiglas that enables you to observe the bumblebees in the nest without disturbing them. The bumblebees can’t see in red light so they will not fly up towards the light in anger as a sudden exposure to light means a predator is attacking and exposing the nest. That was really smart, and I’m a little shameful I never got this idea myself.
With the box you will get absorbent material on the ﬂoor and excellent nesting material (kapok). To maximise the probability that the queen will find the nest chamber and nesting material, mouse scented material is added if available. This is one of the really smart aids to succeed.
The nest boxes have a removable mouse excluder that in winter can allow mice to enter the box and make it more attractive for bumblebees. In spring you can put it back so that the bumblebee queen can have the nest box for herself.
One extra feature is that you can add a tube to the entrance allowing you to emulate an underground nest. By this extra feature you probably can get all the bumblebee species in UK into the bumblebee nesting box.
In front, the nest box have a large platform in front. This could be good for an easy landing and take-off, and could probably increase the probability to find the entrance for the queen. It could also be good if you want to feed the bumblebees outside the box or add some extra supply and it keeps the vegetation from blocking the entrance.
Conclusion: In the design of the bumblebee box nearly everything has been thought of, so I can really recommend it. This is one of the very best bumblebee nest boxes I have ever seen. So if you only prepare the nesting material properly you have a pretty high chance to get a bumblebee nest in the hive. But you also need to have nest searching bumblebee queens in your area and place the box so the queens do find the nest box.
For more details of my award winning bumblebee nest box
For more information about the British Bumblebee Conservation Trust