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proud to have BB nest in my garden, new queens emerging, what happens to old nest

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Joined 2012-08-19

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Hi I am priviledged to have bumble bees nesting in my garden and new to this and have found lots of info on here and although I know the old queen and the colony die at the end of the year do the new queens ever hibernate in the old nest site and reuse it the following year.

there are several queens that come and go from the site and I think they are the common red tail BB but the tail looks more orange/red. The whole of its body other than the tail is black and until one keeps still long enough I cannot see the legs.

if the nest is not reused will there be any wax in the nest thats worth digging up. they are underground in my lawn.

thanks

     
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Joined 2012-05-31

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As far as I am aware, new queens never hibernate in the natal nest. They fly off to another location to hibernate in a north-facing bank or in amongst tree roots. Somewhere that will maintain a relatively constant temperature over the winter. I have read that they can disperse quite far when looking for hibernation sites as a way of spreading into new areas. I would also imagine that the old nest would be full of pests and parasites so it wouldn’t be a great place to hibernate.

The new queens don’t tend to re-use the natal nest site as they have flown away to hibernate. But other spring queens that have hibernated in that area may find the nest on emerging from hibernation and use it. So if you would like bumblebees back, then leave it as it is, as the scent of the old nest is more likely to attract spring queens.

Not sure about the wax question but the bumblebees do sound like Red-tailed bumblebees (orange/red is fine, colour can be subjective), particularly if the long hairs on the pollen baskets are black.

     
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thank you, will leave the nest as it is as we would like them back next year. I have spent a long time using binoculars trying to see the pollen baskets but they are so busy I have so far not caught one keeping still but will persevere

     
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Joined 2012-05-24

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Hello “beekind”

Congratulations on your nest and I’m glad that you are getting so much pleasure from it !

I have moved colonies of this species (B. lapidarius) to my garden a few times, when they were naturally established where their “human landlord” objected. 
Essentially one scoops up the nest and pops it into a suitable wooden box - and then you try to collect up all the loose bees, which can take ages. 

This species sometimes nests in, or under sheds; and sometimes underground.  To dig out an underground nest is a big undertaking, since the nest itself is likely to be some distance from the place where the bees go into the grass. 

The ones I have moved were in a coal bunker (with scrap wood stored in it where a mouse had nested); in a pile of dead beech leaves that had accumulated in a sheltered place at the base of a wall under a child’s garden bench; underneath the rotted floor of a shed (another mouse nest); and in a mouse nest beneath an upturned bowl on a heap of clutter in a neglected brick-outhouse.  So all of my nests were accessible !

The boxes I use for such re-homed colonies are made with a transparent “ceiling”, so that when you quietly and carefully remove the roof, you can look into the colony and watch what goes on - which is fascinating and can be very time-consuming !!

B. lapidarius produces quite a bit of wax and some of it is used to produce a waxy sheet covering the nest.  There will be pop-holes in the sheet, so the bees can come and go from many places in the nest structure.  The wax is brown and tends to be reinforced by inclusion of pollen etc.  The sheet covering will be quite thin - well under half a millimetre.  It is also rather smelly - since bumblebee ideas of hygiene are rather different to our own ! 
And compared to beeswax it is quite soft - probably softening at about 40C, compared to 64C for honey bee wax..

So, I don’t think you will be able to harvest much wax from the nest - and before this you are going to have to dig up the nest !!

I will add some photos of B. lapidarius nests so you can see what you are looking for - but will have to do this later.

I hope this helps !

Yours                 Clive

PS PHOTOS about B. lapidarius nest, the wax covering they use etc. going into separate posts on this thread - I think this will be simpler to achieve than multiple edits of this Post !        Clive

     
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Joined 2012-08-19

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thank you Clive, I have decided to leave the nest well alone and see if a new colony arrives next year. I can only see one entrance and exit, in fact they must have something like layby because there are so many coming and going.

when we moved to this house there were lots of overcrouded conifers that had to be removed and the nest is just where the branches of one would have been, it is now all lawn and there are no buildings nearby. we have created other dry arears in shade that will not be disturbed and so may have more than one colony in the future.

looking forward to the photos, thanks

     
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Here are some photos of a B. lapidarius nest that I was asked to re-locate from it’s “wild original place” which was beneath a deep accumulation of dead beech leaves trapped by the wind underneath a child’s garden bench, which was up against a panelled fence. 
I had to clear the beech leaves away to expose the nest, then lift it into my BB box, then catch all the bees !

You can see some of the brown wax covering that this species uses to cover their nest, and some of the comb.

Hopefully the photos will allow you to visualise your own nest.

I don’t know how many photos I can add, so it may involve several posts !

The file names of the photos should explain what to look for !!

Clive

     

Image Attachments

DSCN1903_B_lapidarius_nest_in-situ.jpg

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Total Posts: 272

Joined 2012-05-24

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Closer view - original nest location - the waxy cover (integument I think it is called) is much clearer.

Clive

     

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DSCN1903_B_lapidarius_nest_in-situ_closer-up.jpg

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Now here is the colony’s comb much later in the cycle.
It is in a wooden BB box, made to the protocol given in Prys-Jones & Corbet’s book Bumblebees.
Note the silk which is a sign of BB Waxmoth (Aphomia sociella) attack, also the large number of old and now empty cocoons.

Clive

     

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DSCN1947_B_lapidarius_nestbox_showing_Waxmoth_silk.jpg

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Here now is a photo showing a cluster of B. lapidarius workers at the entrance to their new home location.

The dead grass piled around the entrance to the plastic tubing which forms an entrance tunnel to their nest is an old “Beekeeper’s trick” the bees have to crawl through it to get out of the nest - and doing so alerts the bees to the fact their normal landing point has changed in appearance - or location: so they need to re-check where they have just come from when they take off. 

The white plastic blocks are visual pointers to the bees to help them recognise the entrance point, so land safely.

Unfortunately I can’t recall the background time-details of this photo.
For there to be so many bees present at once makes me think that either they were about to fly off on “orientation flights” which are looping spirals and when they learn how to recognise where they are now living.
Alternatively they might be worker bees who are a reception committee of Guard Bees waiting to inspect bees arriving at the nest !
Or they might even have just come out for a “natter” about their recent experiences !! (I’m joking.)

Clive

     

Image Attachments

DSCN1923_B_lapidarius_relocated_-group_of_bees_at_entrance_tube.jpg

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