Bumble bees in bird house

Kathy- Langley, BC sent me these photos of a bumble bees nesting in a bird house last spring.

This is not an uncommon occurrance.  Bumble bees will nest in the ground, in a wall, in a bird house or other structure that will keep the weather out.  Bumble bees nest within insulation, grass or other similar materials.

Birds bring nesting materials like moss and grasses into their bird house and leave after their young have hatched.  “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.”

Underneath the moss is a bumble bee colony. One bumble bee guard is walking on the surface of the colony.


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.


9 replies on “Bumble bees in bird house

  • Long Distance Grandma

    We were trying to find good pictures to identify the bees that are now in our birdhouse and found your site. I think we have our answer! Thank you for the up close pictures. How did you take them? Have the bees bothered you while you are in your garden? Will they make honey?

  • Margriet

    Hi, Taking close-up pictures of bumble bees is tricky. Any movement by the photographer might end up with a sting, especially when you are so close to the nest. But, with caution and stealth, it is possible. You can see from the photographs that the bees were a little irritated, because the bees came out to guard and defend the nest. Without disturbance, you would see very little activity right at the nest, except bees flitting in and out of the nest. While flying around the garden, they usually dont bother people. Yes they do make honey- placed in little pots- but not enough for harvesting like honey bees.

  • Eric

    Thank you for posting these pictures. This is the first time we have been able to identify the type of bees nesting in our birdhouse. We would like anyone to answer some questions about this type of bees. Is it possible to move the birdhouse to another area so we can use the deck? Will they be attracted to food?

    What is the best course of action to enjoy the summer with people and children on the deck. The birdhouse in right out side of the family room. Thanks.

  • Carol

    Thank you for posting these pictures. This is the only place we found in our search that identified the type of bees nesting in our birdhouse.

    The birdhouse is located right outside our family room. We are concerned that we will not be able to use our deck this summer. We will have children our there too.

  • Carol

    Continued from above:
    I would appreciate any information on the habit and life cycle of this type of bees. I am concerned about being able to use or deck this summer. We will have adults and children relaxing and playing on it. Do these bees have stinger? Will they go after our food? Thanks.

  • Robert Shelfer

    Last year I made several mason bee nests from plywood and put cedar trays in the nests. The bees did not like this so I turned the bee nests into bird houses.

    I’d like to turn the bird houses into bumble nests. What would be a good height above the ground for the nest? I’m assuming straw would make good bedding?

    Thanks, Robert, Vancouver, WA

    • Margriet

      Cedar works but needs aerating to get rid of the phenols in the wood. Old cedar works great. For bumble bees, old upholsterer’s cotton works well but success rate is very low no matter what you use and where you locate the house. I have seen quite a number of bumble bees use insulation in shed walls too. The best way to encourage bumble bees is to have ‘CONTINUOUS BLOOM’ in your garden. These flowers will give bumblebees their nourishment to raise their families. Dr Margriet

  • Glen Buschmann

    Glen Buschmann writes that Bumbles rely on other animal nests and just rearrange the materials to suit themselves. They don’t carry nesting materials like leafcutter bees and mason bees, nor dig a nest out like carpenter and miner bees. Bumbles seem to have a close relationship to the fluffy nests made by mice and other small mammals, as well as to cavity nests left by small birds. “I agree with Margriet’s suggestions about cotton (and success); straw seems a bit too coarse.”

    He continues “When a queens first emerges from her winter hibernaculum, she feeds a bit and then spent a long time searching (both by sight and smell) for underground mouse (etc.) nests, or sometimes for bird boxes filled with old nests. In Olympia, WA the bumble bee we find most often in our old bird boxes is Bombus melanopygus, a very early bumble (Feb emergence is common) who is remarkable for brick-red flanks and large queens. This is one of several red-flanked bee in the U.S., so don’t assume based on color alone, but this bumble is a common early one in the Pacific Northwest.”


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