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Tree Bumbles are becoming a problem

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Hello all.
In common with most people I am happy to see bumblebees everywhere. But tree bumblebees are becoming a pest in my hometown, which is Chelmsford, Essex. There are hundreds of tree bumble nests in houses under the eaves or in ventilator grilles, and because the nests are made visible by the constant flying of bees outside the nests to warn away predators, the owners of the house thinks that they have got honeybees. This is because it is very difficult to identify bumblebees when they are 15 feet up.
As a beekeeper coordinator I have to deal with people who think they have honeybees, who are not very happy when they are told that there is nothing that can be done, and this has reached a proportion in my hometown where it is a great nuisance to beekeepers. Phone calls of this type are running at about 12 each day which is to say the least of it: inconvenient.
Many householders do not take no for an answer and continue to pester other beekeepers in the hope that someone will come and remove their bumblebees.
Unfortunately we are reaching the situation where our friends are becoming a pest, and this is a situation which I feel has to be accepted. As far as beekeepers are concerned it would help if this unfortunate situation was accepted and made public in order that householders who have this problem can identify what they are and be aware that nests will disappear in the autumn.

     
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Dear Mr Beesy,

Firstly, welcome to the Forum !

Secondly gosh, Chelmsford BKA is getting off lightly at only 12 calls a day: my BKA was getting about 40 calls a day at one time a couple of years ago, most of which were about tree bumblebees !  However, things seem to have died down quite a bit since that time for us.

I agree that there is a massive need for education of the public; but also of the beekeeping community.  I’ve written two articles for beekeepers on this species, the first one came out a couple of years ago in BBKA News, but most recent being for the May 2013 edition of BeeCraft.  This is available on the BBCT website, but is a bit hidden, so here’s a link:

http://bumblebeeconservation.org/images/uploads/Bee_Craft_May_2013,_Bombus_hypnorum.pdf

I suggest that you take a look, because what everyone is seeing is not Guard Bees, but males (drones) hanging about waiting for an opportunity to mate with a virgin queen.

In the Aylesbury area there is a Pest Controller who for a fee was removing bumblebee colonies to a Bumblebee Sanctuary.  Perhaps Chelmsford needs something similar !

Yours     Clive

     
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Clive,  That’s an interesting concept - a bumblebee sanctuary.  Are you able to give more details of the one in Aylesbury please. 

Best wishes

Sparrow - Sue

     
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Hello Mr Beesy,  Clive , Sparrow and everyone,

The tree bumbles do seem to be taking advantage of all the bird boxes we put up this year.  I am not a bee keeper.  I have had several bumble queries via our local Wildlife Trust and have encouraged all those new potential “bumble guardians” to really appreciate and enjoy their wild “pollination staff” [parallel system to your honeybees], that are doing a fantastic job at the moment on the flowers and soft fruit - raspberries & blackberries - in my garden at least.  You are right Clive about the bumbles that gather at the entrance to the colony.  It’s that “whoopee” time of year , when all the fellas [drones] come visiting from other colonies, to hopefully fly off into the wide blue yonder to mate with the newly emerging daughter queens.  The workers can come and go into the nest but not the drones, they are kept outside - hence they mill around the entrance.  [pass the word at this time, that the drones do not sting!]. The newly mated queens will then find places to hibernate until next spring and the other bumbles in the colony, including the old queen, the remaining workers and any drones will die off by autumn.  At that time, when all the bumble activity has ceased , is when you might consider blocking off the entrance holes to prevent other insects accessing the same site the following year - or moving the bird boxes to another place .  Personally, I just love having bumbles humming/ working hard around my wildlife garden.  P.S. the tree bumbles in my garden this year did not re-use the one that was occupied last year!
Definitely what is needed is more education - do your best to spread the word, stop the unfortunate panic.
best wishes,
urbanbumble

     
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Sparrow - 28 June 2013 09:31 AM

Clive,  That’s an interesting concept - a bumblebee sanctuary.  Are you able to give more details of the one in Aylesbury please. 

Best wishes

Sparrow - Sue

Hi Sparrow,

Take a look at Bees Knees Pest Services

http://www.beesknespestservices.co.uk

The company is heavily into education and promoting gardens for bumblebees that they call Bumble bedzz.


Clive

     
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As I approached the porch eaves with a wasp killer at the behest of SWMBO, I immediately realised that the buzzing insects were bees. After identifying them as B.Hypnorum using the Natural History interactive assistant, I joined here to learn more. I am quite happy to have these insects in my roof, although as they are immediately above the front door, the swarm of hopeful males can be intimidating for visitors. I note that it is possible to encourage nests in birdboxes, and will attempt to do so, presumably I will have to wait until next spring, and then try to identify a queen.

     
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Hello Chris,                  Welcome to the Forum !

The cloud of bees should begin to thin out over the next few weeks and you are likely to be left in peace around the end of July when the colony (and the drones) die out.

Bumblebee biology is based on what is known as a “Colony Cycle”, which means that Queen bees emerge from hibernation in the spring, then feed-up to restore their strength, then look for somewhere to set up home, then build her family.  The home has to be snug, so that the bee doesn’t loose too much body heat when she starts incubation her eggs / larvae / pupae.  Her children then take over the foraging and when the colony gets really strong in numbers, “reproductives” are produced - males and females.  And once this has happened, the colony is on the skids and will die out fairly quickly.  Mated new queens can then hibernate and repeat the cycle next spring.

In the Tree BB, the males hang out outside the nest “flight point” hoping to mate with a virgin queen.  This is unusual behaviour amongst bumblebees, since most species arrange things differently.  The males do not have any sting apparatus in their body, since to have this you have to be a girl bee - so males pose little risk, but do look a bit intimidating.  It is these “clouds of males” hanging around that cause people to realise that a nest is present.  Before this you would be extremely lucky to notice any flights, because it is likely to be several minutes between “air-movements”. (Somewhere between 60 min to 5 mins, depending on colony strength.

The Tree BB frequently chooses to set up home in Bird Boxes, and also in house Soffit boxes (behind the gutters) or at the eaves.  The nest might be close to where the activity occurs, or could be several feet away.

In the spring, queen Tree BBs will want to find a snug home and the old nests of Blue Tits etc seem to be ideal: so if you want to attract a queen, leave the old bird nest in the nest box: but make sure that the box is fixed to a vibration-free substrate (ie. a brick wall, not a shed) otherwise the developing nest can get stroppy in response to the vibration.

You’ll find a reasonably good article about Tree BBs on this website at the link in Post 1 above (I wrote it) but it has been written to inform Beekeepers, not the general public.  I suspect that I / BBCT needs to prepare an article / download for use by the General Public.  This looks like it is going to be a project for me in coming months !

I hope this helps.            Meanwhile, I hope you can enjoy your bee-tenants !        Yours           Clive

     
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Hi all,

We’re in the Midlands and for a number of weeks now we’ve had tree bumblebees nesting in the wall cavity next to our bedroom window and have happily let them carry on thanks to the advice of sites like this.  We’ve heard then throughout the night in the cavity buzzing around (I’m sure they never sleep!) Keeping the window closed so they don’t get into the house has been a minor inconvenience we’ve been prepared to live with.  Although it’s been difficult to estimate the number of bees in the nest the number hanging around outside the entrance has grown from 5 to 20 over the past fortnight.  I have to confess to bursting out laughing more than once when I’ve been out in the garden and seen the efforts of the largest bees to get airborne after they’ve left the nest (and I’ve had to duck several times for fear of being knocked over!)

Unfortunately we have some sad news.  At the weekend the people renting the house next door complained to us about the ‘wasps nest’ and said they couldn’t leave their window open as they were getting in the house.  We explained that they weren’t wasps, that they wouldn’t be around forever and the best thing to do would be to leave them alone etc.  They seemed to accept this but have been round this evening to confess that while we were out at work today they called in a pest control company who have (they think but can’t confirm) sprayed the nest.  Bar a few confused bees hanging around the rest seem to have gone.  To say we’re angry, sad and disappointed at their actions is an understatement but also surprised that the pest control company agreed to respond to our neighbour’s request.  The fact that they’ve accessed our garden to get at the nest without our permission only makes their actions worse in our opinion.  We made our neighbour give us the contact details for this company, perhaps we should post those details on here so someone can educate them too? 

     
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I have a nest of Bumblebees living in the eaves of my house.  Not sure if they’re Tree BBs or not.  I often notice two just outside the entrance.  When it starts to rain, I’ve watched quite a lot of bees flying back to the nest.  The two outside are usually the last ones to go in so I always presumed they were guard bees.

I’ve lived here for 13 years and every year the bees take up residence in the same spot.  Occasionally, one comes in the bathroom window but soon finds it’s way out again and goes “upstairs” to the nest.

I love having them here and I hope they continue to come year after year - they won’t be harmed in any way here smile

I wish people realised just how important these lovely little animals are.

One thing I find worrying is that I haven’t seen any wasps, ladybirds or hoverflies this year.  Not good :(

I won’t harm wasps either as they are valuable pollinators too and also endangered I think.  If I do get one in the house, I carefully catch it in a jar and release it outside.

     
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daisydi - 04 July 2013 07:30 PM

Hi all,

We’re in the Midlands and for a number of weeks now we’ve had tree bumblebees nesting in the wall cavity next to our bedroom window and have happily let them carry on thanks to the advice of sites like this.  We’ve heard then throughout the night in the cavity buzzing around (I’m sure they never sleep!) Keeping the window closed so they don’t get into the house has been a minor inconvenience we’ve been prepared to live with.  Although it’s been difficult to estimate the number of bees in the nest the number hanging around outside the entrance has grown from 5 to 20 over the past fortnight.  I have to confess to bursting out laughing more than once when I’ve been out in the garden and seen the efforts of the largest bees to get airborne after they’ve left the nest (and I’ve had to duck several times for fear of being knocked over!)

Unfortunately we have some sad news.  At the weekend the people renting the house next door complained to us about the ‘wasps nest’ and said they couldn’t leave their window open as they were getting in the house.  We explained that they weren’t wasps, that they wouldn’t be around forever and the best thing to do would be to leave them alone etc.  They seemed to accept this but have been round this evening to confess that while we were out at work today they called in a pest control company who have (they think but can’t confirm) sprayed the nest.  Bar a few confused bees hanging around the rest seem to have gone.  To say we’re angry, sad and disappointed at their actions is an understatement but also surprised that the pest control company agreed to respond to our neighbour’s request.  The fact that they’ve accessed our garden to get at the nest without our permission only makes their actions worse in our opinion.  We made our neighbour give us the contact details for this company, perhaps we should post those details on here so someone can educate them too?

That is disgusting.  The company concerned has trespassed on your property, sprayed whatever harmful chemical on the nest, not only killing the poor bees but also contaminating your property with whatever harmful chemical they’ve used.

I believe trespass is a criminal offence and the use of chemicals could be construed as criminal damage.

As for your neighbours, all I’ll say is it’s a good job they’re not my neighbours.

I would get some legal advice on this.

 

     
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Lovebumblebees - 05 July 2013 10:30 PM
daisydi - 04 July 2013 07:30 PM

Hi all,

We’re in the Midlands and for a number of weeks now we’ve had tree bumblebees nesting in the wall cavity next to our bedroom window and have happily let them carry on thanks to the advice of sites like this.  We’ve heard then throughout the night in the cavity buzzing around (I’m sure they never sleep!) Keeping the window closed so they don’t get into the house has been a minor inconvenience we’ve been prepared to live with.  Although it’s been difficult to estimate the number of bees in the nest the number hanging around outside the entrance has grown from 5 to 20 over the past fortnight.  I have to confess to bursting out laughing more than once when I’ve been out in the garden and seen the efforts of the largest bees to get airborne after they’ve left the nest (and I’ve had to duck several times for fear of being knocked over!)

Unfortunately we have some sad news.  At the weekend the people renting the house next door complained to us about the ‘wasps nest’ and said they couldn’t leave their window open as they were getting in the house.  We explained that they weren’t wasps, that they wouldn’t be around forever and the best thing to do would be to leave them alone etc.  They seemed to accept this but have been round this evening to confess that while we were out at work today they called in a pest control company who have (they think but can’t confirm) sprayed the nest.  Bar a few confused bees hanging around the rest seem to have gone.  To say we’re angry, sad and disappointed at their actions is an understatement but also surprised that the pest control company agreed to respond to our neighbour’s request.  The fact that they’ve accessed our garden to get at the nest without our permission only makes their actions worse in our opinion.  We made our neighbour give us the contact details for this company, perhaps we should post those details on here so someone can educate them too?

That is disgusting.  The company concerned has trespassed on your property, sprayed whatever harmful chemical on the nest, not only killing the poor bees but also contaminating your property with whatever harmful chemical they’ve used.

I believe trespass is a criminal offence and the use of chemicals could be construed as criminal damage.

As for your neighbours, all I’ll say is it’s a good job they’re not my neighbours.

I would get some legal advice on this.


An update on our situation:
I spoke at length yesterday to the company involved to try and understand their rationale for spraying our house.  Sadly they were told by both our neighbours and their letting agency that we’d agreed to this action.  As we’re not here during the day however they were unable to check with us.  I’m slightly reassured by the fact that had they known our views they would not have proceeded and have blacklisted the address next door if they make any future calls.  T0 their credit they were very upset but none of this will undo what happened to our bees.  We are still getting the occasional bee flying up to the nest but they move on again so I live in hope that perhaps a few of them have managed to set up home elsewhere.

The company did tell me that for some unknown reason they’ve found bees more aggressive this year.  I’d be really interested in hearing other views on this statement.  As for the neighbours, I’m yet to find a pest control solution for them…

Thanks for your response
Di

 

     
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An update on our situation:
I spoke at length yesterday to the company involved to try and understand their rationale for spraying our house.  Sadly they were told by both our neighbours and their letting agency that we’d agreed to this action.  As we’re not here during the day however they were unable to check with us.  I’m slightly reassured by the fact that had they known our views they would not have proceeded and have blacklisted the address next door if they make any future calls.  T0 their credit they were very upset but none of this will undo what happened to our bees.  We are still getting the occasional bee flying up to the nest but they move on again so I live in hope that perhaps a few of them have managed to set up home elsewhere.

The company did tell me that for some unknown reason they’ve found bees more aggressive this year.  I’d be really interested in hearing other views on this statement.  As for the neighbours, I’m yet to find a pest control solution for them…

Thanks for your response
Di

So they lied.  I am so glad I’ve got good neighbours who, even if they’re doing something on their own property, tell me what they’re doing - and vice versa.  One of my neighbours is a young man.  He had brambles growing so cut them…along with one of my honeysuckles.  I wondered why it suddenly died back.  He said he thought it was bramble too so I told him the difference - brambles have thorns, honeysuckles does not.  It’s grown back again now and is just coming into bloom.  He can be forgiven as he knew nothing about gardening but is learning by asking me and our other neighbour.

I find many people these days are incredibly selfish, arrogant and ignorant, a sad reflection of the times we live in.

As for bees.  I have two nests, one in the eaves of the house (my regular house guests who’ve been coming for at least the past 13 years) and my new guests in the compost heap.  Both myself and my son work very close to the new nest and all the bees do is have a look to see what we’re doing then go back to doing whatever they were doing.  I haven’t found any of them in the least bit aggressive but if some of the bees are aggressive, it’s little wonder with the cold and wet weather we’ve had until recently.

It is very sad about your bees and I hope a new colony sets up if not this year, then next.  Perhaps you should consider getting a CCTV camera system.  They’re relatively inexpensive and can be linked now to your PC and mobile phone so you can see what’s going on wherever you are.  With the house next door being a let, you’re never sure who’s going to move in and it would enable you to watch the activity of the bees wherever you are if one’s trained on the nest.  Just a thought.