Update 31 July 2017. Thanks Kathy (Langley, BC).
These photos are awesome pictures of bumblebees nesting in a bird house.
This is not an uncommon occurrence. Bumble bees will nest in the ground, inside insulation of a wall, in a bird house or other structure that will keep the weather out. Bumble bees find these places attractive for nesting if there is either moss, insulation or other nesting material collected by mice. chickadees prefer and often collect moss their nests. It dries out into a nice cushioning type material, perfect for their young offspring. By the way, Joe S. says that if you want chickadees to nest in a bird home, place dried moss into the bird house. And yes, I tried it with success. Thanks Joe!
Like chickadees, birds of all kinds bring nesting materials like moss and grasses into their bird house and leave after their young have hatched. This is a great boon to bumble bees. This is also a nice way of increasing the number of bumble bees into your garden.
Bumble bees are such cool creatures, often colourful to boot. Kathy writes “When you see them up close they have an incredible amount of pollen on their back legs. The opening into the bird house is 1 1/4″ so you can see how huge they are.”
The large bumble bee is the queen and she chooses the nest site. She then starts collecting pollen and nectar which she carries on her legs fro her offspring. She collects sufficient pollen for a brood of about 10, and sits on these eggs like a broody hen. After 2-3 weeks, the your bees emerge and they begin collecting food for additional offspring. These cells that the oung bee comes out of, are now used as storage pots for honey and nectar. These pots hold enough food to carry the colony over for 3-5 days of rain. Without these food reserves, a bumble bee colony would be in jeopardy every time it rains.
Once the first set of offspring emerge and begin collecting pollen and nectar, the queen now pretty much stays inside the nest and lays eggs and broods on additional offspring. Offspring can be small or large. Their size depends on the amount of food they were given when they were developing larvae. Often people think they are different species. species are identified by their colour patterns and not by size.
The colony grows for 2-3 months and then starts producing queens and males. Males can be identified by their yellow and fuzzy (no distinct lines of yellow) heads. Females have distinct colours and lines on their head and thorax. When food conditions dwindle, males mate the young queens and eventually the colony dies out leaving moss and debris. A sure sign of the end of a colony’s life is when you can see males in a colony.
If you hear of someone being bothered by bumblebees, let them know that the colony does not have more than about a month left before they all leave. Often the timing to clean out a bird nest or cleaning out a shed can be adjusted to make sure that most bees are produced for the following year.
If we can encourage everyone to do this, work around the nesting times of bumble bees, we will have many more bumble bees in our gardens. What a delight it is to see bumble bees flitting from flower to flower. How lucky we are to see it. Lets make it a common occurrence.
|This is a guard- watching out for predators.
|Bumble bee on the left is cooling the colony with its wings. The bumble bee on the right seems to be ready to go and gather more pollen and nectar for the young bees.
|Coming in for landing.
|Resting after a long flight.
|Making room for a larger colony by removing excess moss material.
Underneath the moss is a bumble bee colony (below). One bumble bee guard is walking on the surface of the colony.