Bumbleebees - are they a pest?
Posted on 9th June 2022 at 08:22
Bumblebees - are they a pest?
Are bumblebees a pest and should we worry about them like we do with wasps? Between May and June we get a lot of calls for what people think are ‘wasps’ when in fact they’re bumblebees, now I have a soft spot for all bee species and really don’t want to destroy them at all.
Sadly, from the conversations that I have over the phone, you can tell that the would -be customer will now ring another pest control company that’ll be only too happy to come out and kill off the nest, so I’ve written this blog to explain a bit about bumblebees and hopefully spare a colony or two.
Bumbles, just like wasps have a yearly cycle in that a solitary insect Queen emerges in the spring with rising temperatures and heads out to get a quick fix on a source of sugary nectar before searching for her nest site.
Bumblebees will nest in the ground, under garden sheds, inside bird boxes and up, layered in the loft insulation inside our roof spaces, which is one of the reasons that we get called out to them; people discover buzzing insects and assume that they’re wasps and therefore harmful to us.
Having found her chosen nest site, she collects flower pollen and begins to store this in individual wax cells that are shaped like small coconuts, the pollen is mixed with saliva and begins a form of fermentation, and we know this as bee bread or ambrosia.
Eggs are laid in these cells and from these small yellow larvae appear which now feast on the stored bread. Some nectar is also collected along the way which will be stored in separate wax cells, and this will be the food source for the Queens first brood – the worker bees.
The larvae will pupate into small unfertile female versions of the Queen and their job is pretty much the same as worker wasps; defend the colony, collect food and clean the nest, the Queen is in charge and she bosses them about. All through the early summer months, these bees will now be extremely busy visiting flowers, collecting more pollen and nectar because the Queen will now stay inside the nest, laying loads of eggs and she will require feeding.
As the summer progresses the Queen will begin laying male eggs and fertile female eggs – these are the new Queens, and unlike a wasp colony where males will stay with the nest, both males and the Queens leave the bumblebee nest to mate, feed and fatten up ready for the winter hibernation, buts that’s only the Queens, the males will die at the end of the summer.
The same thing happens to our bumblebee nest as it will come to the end of its lifecycle in the autumn and as they don’t reuse these nests there is no need to remove it, the chance of having a bumblebee nest next year are as good as everyone else’s.
Bumblebees can sting and they pack a punch, but unlike wasps they are not overly aggressive; there is a species of bumblebee called the tree bee and these will be more wasp like in behaviour if you approach their nest and many pest controllers make a big thing out how dangerous they are, but when you consider that they tend to nest in bird boxes, we should be able to leave them well alone and therefore there is little to worry about.
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