Hi, thought I would introduce myself as I am new to the forum.
Have been a member of the BBCT for several years and have been interested in Bumblebees (and ants and wasps) since I was young.
I have lived in wales for 6 years, previous to that I lived in Hertfordshire.
My garden houses about 10 bumblebee boxes of different types, one currently been occupied by a B.pratorum colony , which is doing well. I also had two other boxes occupied by queens (B.terrestris and B.hortorum) but these have since perished.
I often introduce nest searching queens into my boxes in early spring, with varying success.
I think this year I observed the lowest number of nest searching queens in my garden in six years, although I seem to have good numbers of bumblebees foraging at present.
I look forward to getting involved in the discussions and learning alot more.
Welcome to the forum Kevin
Welcome to the Forum - and thanks for joining !
Your experience at introducing queens to artificial boxes sounds very interesting, could you let us know a little about this more please ?
I’ve tried this a couple of times this year. It was with B. hypnorum and details are in the hypnorum 2013 thread. One of these seems to have worked, but the colony soon died out. Prof Dave Goulson refers to this technique in his book “Sting in the Tale” but gives just a general comment.
It seems to me that it would be very useful to many of us BB-affectionados if we could understand to limitations and possibilities here, since many of us would love to have a colony to watch.
I have been introducing queens for many years now, with a varying degree of success. This year has been poor due to the lack of nest searching queens in my garden, but last year was very good.
I will try to give a brief descrption of what I do:
I constructed a container, which is a small platic tub with a cardboard tube coming out of what would normally be the lid. The lid with the tube is removed to catch a queen and then replaced and the tube is then put up to the entrance of the nest box. The theory is that the queen will travel down the tube into the nest box on her own accord. Doesnt always work and if the queen hasnt gone into the nest box within 4/5 minutes I release her. I only ever capture and introduce queens that are actually nest searching at the time.
If the queen enters the nest box I block the entrance for 10/20 seconds just to keep it dark. Often if you let light in to quickly she will rush torwards the light and fly off. Once she is in and entrance is unblocked I just observe, from a distance, the entrance until she comes out. Normally they are in the box for around 4/5 minutes before they come out , but occasionally they may take 10 minutes or more before coming out. If she flies straight off she has not accepted the box, but if she walks around entance and hovvers in front, and then proceeds to make an orientation flight she may well have accepted the box. The rest is then up to the queen herself and you may get lucky and have a colony but more often than not the queen will perish due to some natural cause. Some species, once the box is accepted, will start to collect pollen within a day or so, but others, especially B.terrestris, will often carry on nest searching, returning to the box over several days before fully accepting it.
In 2012 I was lucky to have 10 boxes occupied by introduced queens but only one nest, a B.terrestris, reached maturity and produced males and females. Once the queen has accepted the box, I interfere very little , except maybe to check that no spiders have got into the box and from time to time check that the box is still occupied. I do not feed the queens.
This year I only managed to get three boxes occupied, one was occupied naturally by a B.pratorum queen (and is still going strong) but the other two became deserted. One was possibly attacked by a mouse or vole.
Sorry for the length of the reply but I hope it was useful. If you want any further information just let me know.
It was a good day on the bee front today - saw two B.hypnorum at my workplace , a B.pratorum pair mating on flowers in my garden and my flower border were buzzing with bumblebees.
Many thanks for the detail !
I find that I don’t have the gift of brevity, but do have an ability of clarity by use of description - but it takes space !
I feel sure that many Forum users will be fascinated by what you have recorded here, but could I ask for some details of what nesting material you have in the box ?
I started out as a Beekeeper and BBs are a recent major interest. My honey bee skills are very useful with BBs.
And as I run my beehives with a Perspex inner lid, I got used to doing the same for the BB colonies I get asked to move / re-home.
So, how about trying using a clear plastic “ceiling” to your boxes - and a removable roof ?
I think you would enjoy the extra bee-watching opportunities that it gives.
If you were to try this, you might like to fit the box with a plastic tube “spout” of a metre or so long, so that you are not in close proximity to where the bees fly to/from. You are then much less likely to cause bee-upset when you peer into the box.
Another useful trick is to watch at night, using red light. (A sweet paper over an ordinary LED torch works fine; or a cycle rear light.)
Thank you for this most interesting thread and thank you Clive for your (as always) informative notes.
Kevin could you describe your boxes and their positions in your garden please.
Sparrow - Sue
I use a variety of nest boxes including purchased boxes. I have the following in my garden:
5 x Schwegler overground box
2 x schwegler underground box
2 x oxford bee company boxes (one occupied by the B.pratorum colony)
1 x wooden box (on tree)
1 x home made wooden box
I generally use pet sawdust in the boxes as a ‘base’ and place the nest material in a depression within the sawdust. The nest material is a fibre based underlay which I obtained when some carpets were being replaced, but I also use kapok and hamster bedding (ferplast used to make a good hamster bedding but I find it difficult to obtain from pet shops)
All the nests have removable lids and the Oxford bee co. boxes came with a plastic window but I removed them as I found they caused condensation. How do you prevent condensation ?
I find the schwegler overground boxes the best in general but they are extremely expensive to purchase now.
I am hoping to make a box and fit a camera inside for next season. I may place the box in my shed and have an entrance tube out through the wall. I could then observe with a red torch and have a camera as well. This will be my winter project ! Do you know of anyone who has fitted a camera to a box ?
When I suss out how to post photos to the forum I can send some of the inside of the nests and my ‘queen capture container’ if you are interested ?
Do apologize Sparrow Sue but above thread should have been for you not Clive.
Sorry Clive and Sparrow Sue, certainly new to this forum thing and I am getting confused who I am sending what reply to.
Sparrow - Sue
The boxes are as descibed above on my reply to Clive. A mixture of commercial and made boxes.
I tend to position them under hedges, top of low walls etc. I find the best thing is to watch the queens in the spring to see where the majority nest search and move the boxes around accordingly. Even if i introduce a queen to a box, the box is generally in an area where queens have been observed nest searching.
Hope this helps and apologies for confusion when replying.
You can add photos to a post by composing it and then submitting it; then immediately (or later) using the Edit Post button.
In edit mode you can adjust the text (Bold, colour etc) and also add photos, but there is a savage limit on file size of a total of 300 kb, which can be one photo, or up to three.
I have some feedback on condensation etc, but am going to put it in a separate post.
Thanks for your extra details.
I started out by making some standard BB boxes made from wood in the style of Prys-Jones & Corbet’s book Bumblebees.
There seem to be issues about water in BB boxes of at least two types:
1. Their faeces are very fluid, and if the box is not able to drain, the nest can eventually start to float. The OBC plastic box I’ve got is particularly bad for this; but I’ve had to same problem in the past by using a box made of expanded polystyrene.
2. The bees will probably be evaporating their nectar, so that the %RH in the box goes up above the dewpoint.
Here’s some solutions that have worked for me.
1. Put a layer of Cat Litter Granules in the outer chamber to mop up the fluid. You may need to dig these out and change them if they get saturated. (The Cat Litter idea comes from the USA book “The Natural History of Bumblebees A source book for Investigation” by Kearns & Thomson.
2. Cover the perspex with some removable IR aluminised reflective sheet, like is used for packaging biscuits, or sticking on the wall behind radiators.
3. Make some holes in the box and cover them with metal gauze / mesh to get some ventilation throughput. And you may want to give these an outer cover (tunnel-like) to exclude light.
Nest box access tube: 25mm plastic electrical conduit pipe works fine. 25 mm flexible hose allows corners etc.
One of the Forum users called Ron has a bird box with a hypnorum colony in it and a camera: but the colony has recently gone down with Wax Moth.
George of Nurturing Nature seems to have the technology to keep the moths out, using a door the bees can open: but I’ve not been able to do this myself.
I hope this helps !
Kevin, No apologies needed, the information is the most important thing, and thank you for that.
Thank you Clive for your additional information. I see you are a “Super User” now, I wonder what you will be called next!!
Sparrow - Sue
Yes I’d noticed an extra star appear all by itself.
I reckon the title “Old Drone” ought to be coming soon !
Both words have some measure of fit - and the second might also have an appropriate second meaning !
Clive, thank you for your sense of humour, will will wait and see.