Dead queen Bombus pratorum inside nest box with egg video

April 19, 2014

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

Dead queen B. pratorum foundress inside nest box

Such a lot of activity bumble and solitary bee wise in my garden recently which I documented, luckily!  I sited this particular nest box on 23rd March. On 27th March I saw a B. terrestris queen leave the nest box and undertake a partial orientation flight. On 28th I saw a B. terrestris queen go inside the same nest box. 31st March, a B. hypnorum queen went inside the nest box. 2nd April I saw B. hypnorum leaving nest box, some time later the same day I saw a B. terrestris go inside and leave. Were these queens just checking it out? Were they the same queens? Unlike other nest boxes, this one I had not fully ‘primed’ for a queen to take residence. Obviously not up to their standard! Thus I upgraded it and waited. Work commitments/time constraints started to get in the way of my observations…..!!! Except for a nest box kept as a control, my other nest boxes are all occupied and workers are busy as ever, today I have had time to see what was happening in this nest box. I had not seen any activity for some time. Upon examination I found a dead B. pratorum queen, wax nectar pot, one lump of pollen and one single egg, possibly two. I removed the nest box, upgraded it and re sited it elsewhere. Within the hour I saw a queen enter and leave! Not up to standard? Although I did forget something! Typical!

Known as the early bumblebee, it is a pollen storer whereas some other species are pollen pocket makers. The wax nectar pot is used by her to store nectar and used when she is brooding her eggs. As it empties she will have to venture outside, find flowers that are bearing nectar, store it up in her crop to be emptied into her storage nectar pot. Like a bird she will brood her eggs and keep them warm. This queen died during this stage.Queen inside nest chamber

To date, I have 5 living (!) bumblebee queens nesting, 4 with workers with one late comer setting up.

For more  information about Bumblebees here is some BBCT lifecycle and a BBCT leaflet to download

Refs. Besides my own experiences and observations:

Alford, D.V (1975) “Bumblebees” Davis-Poynter Ltd. with scan from same book

“All my articles and videos, available free, are funded by my  teaching and sales of award winning bumblebee nest boxessolitary bee boxes,  and wormeries. Please help by spreading the word and forwarding this link to your friends and colleagues.  Thank you” George Pilkington

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Kit Welchman April 21, 2014 at 8:59 am

Thanks, George for the fascinating video , which adds so much reality to what before I have only read about in books – the nectar pots, the pollen pile … Sad about the dead queen but that’s reality too I suppose.
Best wishes



nurturingnature April 26, 2014 at 9:02 am

Several times I have had this small bumblebee species die whilst inside a nest…. Cheers, George


George April 26, 2014 at 2:30 pm

Are they bird boxes you have designed George ??


nurturingnature April 27, 2014 at 8:24 am

No!! Mine is still had a queen and workers alive! Cheers George


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