Bumblebee Forced Resettlement

Bob's Bumblebee Base - Clay Flowerpot, Tile Roof, Tube Entrance
Bob’s Bumblebee Base – Clay Flowerpot, Tile Roof, Tube Subway Entrance

Common bumblebees had set up house in a stack of firewood produced by removing a diseased ash tree and a couple of storm-damaged crab-apples. The wood, next to the house in our back yard, had been covered by a tarp to protect it as it aged. When I removed the tarp this June I noticed the nest and disturbed it. It ended up as a small, rounded pile of fuzzy, fibrous plant material on the patio stones surrounded by a bunch of scattered fireplace logs. I spread out the pieces with an eight-foot 1 x 2 to isolate the nest, and watched the bees work hard to keep it intact. The bee population is plummeting in Ontario and around the world. It was worth trying to save this little community and set them up somewhere on our long-time pesticide free property.

Scattered wood and patio after moving the nest.
Scattered wood and patio after moving the nest.

It had to be moved to a safer place far from the house and our small woodpile. I got my honey’s permission to move it, if possible, to the back border garden. Anita is allergic to stings, but these little guys seem relatively calm-tempered. Time to learn about bees. The British Bumblebee Conservation Trust website was very helpful. It showed how to build a shelter to encourage new bumblebees to inhabit your garden, and how to move a nest safely to another location. My solution, hopefully, was to combine and adapt these ideas to our situation…

Wednesday I built the structure shown above, then moved the flowerpot aside, using 3 bbq skewers to accurately mark the place where the pot rim would go after the nest was put down in the dark. I moved the nest at about 11 PM by sliding a flat dustpan under the nest while steadying it with the dustpan brush. I covered my flashlight with thin transparent red plastic, red reducing bumblebee vision and was careful not to hold the nest up to my face and breathe on it, since they apparently identify carbon dioxide with an enemy. I expected some noise and was well protected in case they came out, trusting the website that they don’t fly in the dark. No buzzing heard, I safely deposited the nest in the garden and replaced the pot and tile roof. Thursday morning I went out and watched a solitary bee enter under the pot rim. Wanting them to use the tube, I patronizingly shoveled dirt onto the gap. Then I decorated the tube entrance with some bright blooms. Later I saw two bees exploring for another place under the rim. They still hadn’t figured out the tube. Thursday was a rainy day, worrisome because no bees were seen entering or leaving, and we began to doubt if these were, in fact, bumblebees. They were quite small. More research showed that they were of the species Bombus impatiens, the most common bumblebee in Ontario. That created some hope…

Tube area made pretty
Tube entrance area made pretty. The tube is behind an old iron bar once used to secure a crab-apple tree. I spent an hour trying to remove it before giving up. It’s been there since 1985 and has grown roots.

Friday morning – sucess!!!

I saw bees entering and exiting through a tiny tunnel they had made – under the rim. Hopefully they will hang around for the summer and return next year.


Author: mytiturk

Travelbug Minstrel: Strum for my supper, croon for my cuppa Search for a sign, write for my whine

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