Bumblebee nests 2016 in my wildlife garden, successes and failures

July 4, 2016

in A selection of my garden wildlife videos, Bumblebees and their ecology, Gardening For Wildlife

Six queens persuaded to nest 2016…. not all were successful

I derive great pleasure in attracting queen bumblebees to nest in my wildlife garden. Its a part of spring/summer for me! This year I persuaded 6 to start nesting. I had two successful nest boxes. By successful I mean when I attract a queen to nest, she is successful in producing queens. Two were ‘wax mothed’ (Aphomia sociella) and therefore only partially successful but still enjoyable. Two died before actually establishing a nest and workers.

B. hortorum nest with wax moth larvae

B. hortorum nest with wax moth larvae

Partially successful

Two were wax mothed. They had no protection from wax moths. I have had probably dozens of nests over the years ‘wax mothed’ when unprotected. One of these nests was on the ground. Although I have seen these moth larvae destroy a nest, it has usually been after queens were produced. However this year these two nests did not produce queens, because the larvae had severely diminished the nests and it was early June when I noticed the lack of activity. I suspect the wax moths were a little earlier this year around here and I was shocked at the B. hortorum nest which only had 3 bees inside even though I saw them busy foraging and returning with pollen earlier in the year.

Failed nests

I had a B. terrestris queen which visited a likely nest site several times. She did not nest in that particular box, although this attracted a cuckoo B. vestalis (slo mo video) to investigate the site. Not long after a B. hortorum started a nest inside it. I saw her make several visits with pollen laden legs and walking around the top of the nest and walls of the box itself. After a couple of weeks or so a large spider had crept inside the entrance hole and made a web inside and under the roof of the nest box. Strands of it covered the nest entrance hole, which I cleared away but eventually she stopped visiting. On examining and ejecting the spider, I found her head, wings, a few legs and that was basically it amongst the bedding.

The other failed nest was a B. terrestris queen that accepted a nest box and I caught her doing her orientation flight and then she started her nest. But she never made it. She either abandoned it or died somewhere along the way. Video shortly.

Bumblebee Conservation Trust

For info and link to buy an excellent book Field Guide to the Bees of Great Britain and Ireland by Steven Falk

An extremely useful resource supports this book by a special web site feature within Steve Falk’s Flickr web site which furnishes extra photos and other useful resources to assist with identification.

Interested in Citizen Science and Pollinators, visit the Buzz Club




{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Theresa July 11, 2016 at 1:20 pm

Hi We had a bumble nest in our bird box which contains a camera.It was thriving until 10 days ago when the larger food gathering bees declined in numbers. Last Sunday we noticed the larva came out to the top of the nest wriggling about. There were still smaller bees tending them but not many bringing food. Everything now seems to be lifeless and no large bees in or out. Is this normal. Theresa


nurturingnature July 11, 2016 at 10:17 pm

Hi Theresa, its likely the larger bees were young queens which do forage and return to their natal nest. Once they have left, the nest does deteriorate rather quickly. Check there are no wax moths inside with your camera. HTH, Cheers, George


Theresa July 16, 2016 at 1:11 pm

Hi George, we took the nest box down today and low and behold above the camera was a wax moth nest with loads of cells containing large caterpillars. The nest was destroyed with dead bees lying about, but only one of the large bees. How do the wax moths kill the nest? 10 days ago we saw swarms of little white maggot like things on top of the nest. Were these the wax moth larvae?


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