Bumble bee habitat options

  What is a Bumble Bee Nesting Box?

Designed specifically for the newly emerging queens which are coming out hibernation in early spring. At this time, the queen bee is searching around for pollen to increase their energy levels, and quite often they can be seen flying at low levels, zig-zagging backwards and forwards – a sure sign that she is looking for a suitable habitat in which to start off a colony.

The Bumble Bee Nesting Box is basically an artificial cavity. They’re stained on the outside and left natural on the inside. It’s important to highlight the point that the queen bumble bee herself won’t bring nesting materials to her nest, therefore she is looking for suitable nesting habitats.

She’ll be looking for a hole low to the ground, therefore the hole on the Bumble Bee Nesting Box is positioned as close as possible to the ground level, upon final placement.

Bumble bee nesting box

 Where should I place my Bumble Bee Nesting Box?

It is suggested to place these boxes in your garden, preferably choosing to dot more than one in various places to increase the chances of encouraging bumble bees to your place. It is advised to place them away from midday sun, instead opting for partial shade to ensure the exterior of the box doesn’t overheat and subsequently ensure the larvae inside doesn’t cook.

If the queen decides to use your nesting box as a suitable habitat, she will create a colony of which needs to be maintained at a cool temperature wherever possible. It is also strongly recommended to keep the boxes away from prevailing winds.

Research shows the queen bumble bee will use old rodents’ nests, therefore if you provide a Bumble Bee Nesting Box around your garden, it is likely the queen bee will take residence as a viable option going forward. If you’ve happened to leave the box or boxes out during winter, it may be possible a mouse has chosen to nest in there and actually, that’s not a bad thing.

The mouse odour left behind serves as an attractant to emerging queens, and more often than not, will help increase the overall chance of them selecting the habitat as an ideal option to nest.

 What is the general uptake of these artificial nesting habitats throughout NZ?

There’s currently millions of dollars being put into bumble bee research concerning New Zealand, and other worldwide trends. Through our own statistics at BeeGAP, our past records reveal an uptake of more than 30% on these boxes. Everyone has their own story, but essentially while you may not get guaranteed uptake in year one, it’s likely within a three year period your chances remain higher every year. Of course, increasing the number of boxes around your garden will also increase the likelihood of encouraging bumble bees to your garden, and overall the nesting box provides an ideal habitat for emerging queens.

The other thing people quite often think is that bumble bee queens only emerge in spring. While this is true, it pays to remember that once these queens have set up a colony, these colonies will naturally last around 12 weeks. Towards the end of the colony’s natural lifecycle, the queen will produce many more new queens that will then leave that box, and search for a new nesting habitat. The nesting box will present itself as a perfect opportunity from early spring through to late autumn.

 Should the Bumble Bee Nesting Box and Bumble Bee Abode be raised from the ground?

Without doubt, the nesting box and abode should be clear from any ground contact to ensure the product remains dry. However, it is imperative to keep the hole close to the ground as possible to ensure the virtual simulation of a rodent nesting hole, which typically form close to the ground.

Something as simple as digging out a small amount of soil, placing a few stones in the hole and siting the box on something solid will help lengthen the life span of the box. It’s important to ensure the hole remains clear at all times to enable full access.

 Can I get close to the hive, or should I keep some distance?

Absolutely, but take care. While the bees are mild-mannered and non-aggressive, it always pays to take a cautious approach wherever possible. In fact, the bumble bee colony presents itself as a brilliant educational tool for children to observe and study the going-ons in the hive. Of course, this type of activity should be under the close supervision of an adult.

Simply wait until the end of the day when the bees are less active before lifting the lid of the abode. You will see how the queen is creating her colony and the nest and nectar cups. Where possible, do not breathe on the hive as this will unintentionally activate the bees and make it more difficult to observe how the whole colony is developing in its entirety.

Gently remove the lid, kneel down and enjoy the hive nicely self-contained within its unit.

A truly fascinating learning experience for any age.