How to make a bumble bee house

Contents

Make your own bumblebee hive!

By Becca Smithers

The buzz about bees!

Bees are just one group of pollinators that make sure we have flowers and crops year after year. Flies, butterflies, moths, birds, and the wind also pollinate our plants. Pollinator species are declining and they need your help!

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Natural habitats of pollinators are at risk from agriculture and urbanisation. These crucial creatures need to find places to live and thrive in order to be able to pollinate the plants we need. Without our pollinators we would have very little food to eat, there would be no fruit, few grains and no meat as livestock need to eat plants too. Pollinators are vital for our survival, and populations of bumblebee species in particular are suffering.

“If the bee disappears from the surface of the Earth, man would have no more than four years to live.” – Albert Einstein.

Bumblebees are quite picky about where to build a hive. A queen bee will search for a good location and will be joined by her worker bees who maintain the hive and find the pollen needed for food. Bumblebees need a hive in a good area of flowering plants which also protects them. Empty mice nests are a favourite hive site but these can be difficult to find.

Bumblebees need us to make hive sites for them! All you need is a garden and a few bits and pieces.

How to make a bumblebee hive:

You will need:

  • A shady spot in your garden at ground level (bumblebees make their hives at ground level, honeybees and solitary bees like their hives higher up)
  • A terracotta flowerpot greater than 20 cm in diameter
  • A bit of hosepipe about 2 cm in diameter and 30-50 cm long
  • A tile or spare bit of flower pot to cover the hole at the bottom of the flowerpot
  • Some chicken wire moulded to fit the rim of the flowerpot
  • Nesting material (ideally from an old mouse nest or made of dried moss. If you have a rodent pet use some of their bedding and droppings).

Step One – find your hive spot

I helped my Dad build this beehive in my parent’s garden. There was a nice shady spot at the back of the garden by the wall (just down from the hedgehog house!). We placed the mesh of chicken wire on the spot where we would build the hive. Then position the hose to go from outside the hive to inside. Make sure to pierce the hose to make some air holes for the bees!

Step One – decide where your bee hive will go and position the hose and wire mesh

We are trying to trick the bumblebees into thinking they are going into the ground when really they are going into a hose to under a flowerpot. Here we also used a brick and some earth to secure the hose pipe.

Step Two – build up your nest material

Punk and Barney provided the nest material for our bee hive – thanks guys!

The queen bees are attracted to the scent of mice as they know that mice holes make good hives. If you find an empty mouse hole then you could take some nest material from there and mix it with some dried moss you have found in a wild environment (where mice have probably been). Alternatively you can use droppings and bedding from a pet rat, mouse, gerbil, or guinea pig.

Our nest material was kindly donated by my guinea pigs, Punk and Barney. I collected their hay and droppings so the bees will be able to smell that rodent scent that attracts them to the hive site. I then mixed the piggie bedding with some moss that Dad had dried out for a few days before.

Perfect nest material for a bumblebee hive! Build up your nest material on top of the wire chicken mesh to almost the top of the hose pipe. You don’t want any bits of moss getting into the hose so don’t build the nest up too high.

Step Two – Build up your nest material to almost the top of the hose.

Step Three – finishing touches!

We’re almost done! All you need to do now is place your upturned flower pot over the mound of nest material and put the extra pit of flower pot just over the hole at the top of the big flower pot. It’s important to leave enough of a gap for air to get in, but not too much light. We used quite a heavy flower pot so we used a small branch to prop up the pot slightly to make sure it didn’t crush the hose pipe. Just make sure your bees can get through the hose!

To ensure we had properly fooled the bees, Dad surrounded the bee hive base with some extra turf and bricks, which also helps to hold the flowerpot in place. If you choose to do this just be careful to leave the outside bit of the hose exposed so bees can find it!

Step three – put your flowerpot on top of the nest and make sure it’s secure!

And you’re done! Leave this hive in place for several years, it may take a while for a hive of bees to move in but don’t worry, a mouse may move in first which will make it even more attractive to the bumblebees! By making this bee hive you are doing your part to protect some of our pollinators!

To move a nest safely it is best to do it in the dark – when all of the bees will be in the nest and docile. They might buzz a bit but they won’t fly in the dark, so it’s safest to do it then. They don’t see red light well, so if you need to see what you’re doing, put some red plastic film/acetate over a torch or use a red L.E.D. rear cycle light.

Safety

Bumblebees are less likely to sting than honeybees and wasps are. However, disturbing the nest can make them behave defensively, and precautions should be taken to prevent stings occurring. While a full bee-keepers’ suit is helpful, it is not necessary. As a minimum, a person moving a nest should wear full length rubber ‘washing up’ gloves, and a long-sleeved top, and cover any exposed skin as best they can.
It has also been found that bumblebees can become alerted to the presence of an intruder if they are breathed upon. Accordingly, it is best to try to avoid breathing on the nest.

Moving nests in bird boxes

Some bumblebees, especially the Tree Bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum), nest in bird boxes and lofts. To move a colony in a bird nest box, follow these instructions:

  • Wear protective clothing, especially gloves.
  • Take a note of where the nest is and how you will reach it when it is dark.
  • Wait until all or most of the workers have returned – this is often well after dusk.
  • When activity quietens down, block up the entrance hole with flexible foam (e.g. from a sponge or scouring pad).
  • Seal up any holes you find around the box using tape, as bumblebees can easily use these to escape from the box when it is being moved.
  • Take the box down, without tipping it over, and keep it on a flat surface until you are ready to move it.
  • Carefully move the box to its new location which should ideally be within a few feet of the old site or over 1km away – see our nest FAQ for more info. It should be at least 5 ft. off the ground and attached to a surface that is not liable to vibration, as this can disturb the bees.
  • Remove the bung the next day, and the bees will leave to explore their new area. It is best to leave it until after midday to remove the bung.

You can read more about the fascinating lives of Tree bumblebees in this article written by Clive Hill. Click here to read it (pdf, 650 kb).

Nests in other places

Bumblebees sometimes nest in places from which it is difficult to remove the nest without killing it. Porches, wall cavities, air vents, eaves and roof soffits have all been recorded. Because of the difficulty in reaching into these places, removing the nests from them cannot be done without help from someone experienced in moving bumblebees.

In these cases, it is important to remember that bumblebees don’t cause any damage to homes. They do not eat wood (like wasps do), and don’t leave behind a big mess. If you can put up with living with the nest nearby, it should die naturally within a few months, and the bees will all leave or die at the end. If you don’t want bees nesting in the same place the following year, block up any entrances to the nest and other suitable nest spaces nearby. If the bees are being bothersome by entering and leaving the nest (e.g. in porches, where they usually fly at head height), you can try to re-route the entrance of the nest using our advice, below.

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  • Re-routing bumblebee nest entrances

It is much easier to re-route bumblebee nest entrances to make the bees enter and leave in a different place than it is to move the nest entirely. This is especially useful if the entrance hole brings the bees into close proximity with people. To do this, get a length of flexible tubing that is at least 2cm in diameter. The type of tubing used in sink waste pipes works perfectly. Then, attach the tubing to the nest entrance. Make the junction between these as tight as possible, to avoid having bees coming out of the wrong place. Gaps can be plugged with soil. Then place the other end of the tube wherever you want the new entrance to be. Secure it in place as best you can, and place some ‘landmarks’ around it. The bees use landmarks to navigate, and whenever they leave the nest they will fly around the hole to memorise what features are around it. Anything can work as a landmark, but pebbles, plant pots, etc. all work well.

Now all you need to do is sit back and enjoy the bumblebees in your garden!

Bee Nest Removal And Bumble Bee Nests

Red-tailed bumble bee foraging on bird’s foot trefoil.

Bumble bee nest removal is not an easy task. Relocation of bumble bee nests needs to be undertaken carefully and safely, preferably to a spot where the bees will also stand the best chance of survival.

However, in any event, mostly it is not necessary to remove or relocate a bumble bee nest.

Bumble bees are not aggressive – they do not sting unprovoked, nor do they swarm. Therefore, there is no need to be alarmed.

Colonies are quite small – 100 – 250 bees at most, not thousands.
The nest will no longer be active by the end of the summer (mid-Autumn latest), due to the life cycle of bumble bee colonies. In bumble bees, a colony can only be deemed successful if new queens are reared toward the end of the season. The new queens mate and feed, and then hibernate. The rest of the colony will die.

When people are aware of these two factors, most find they can live with the nest temporarily.

Some simple precautions, such as leaving the nest alone, and keeping children and dogs away from the nest, are usually sufficient.

Some simple precautions, such as leaving the nest alone, and keeping children and dogs away from the nest, are usually sufficient.

When pressed, most people could wait if necessary, and given that they do not cause a problem and given the difficulties faced by bumblebees.

Is it a bumble bee nest?

Bumble bee nests, depending on the species, vary greatly. Some species like to make their nests in tussocks of grass or in abandoned rodent holes.

However, due to modern farming practices, many bumble bees are having to compromise, and a colony may even inhabit a bird box, a space around a fascia board, an old upturned plant pot, or a space under the garden shed – or some places that humans would consider to be ‘inconvenient’.

The queen will establish the nest on her own, so that workers only emerge from late spring and through the summer.

A colony of bumble bees has established itself in this bird box, but the nest will no longer be active in a few weeks.

If you see a number of similar fluffy bees entering and leaving the nest, it’s likely to be bumble bees.

However, to find out about bee nest removal for other species, such as honey bees, see the link below.

Bumble bee nest removal: some considerations before attempting to move a bumble bee nest

I provide advice about how to move a nest below, as well as links to specific scenarios.

However, if you’re thinking about the removal of a bees nest belonging to a bumble bee colony, first consider the following:

1. As stated above, bumble bees are actually very docile – a sting is exceptionally rare, and only ever accidental. The ‘malicious’ bumble bee simply doesn’t exist.

Removal of a bee nest due to fear of stinging is unlikely to be necessary.

In the same way that it is perfectly possible to go for a walk in the park without being stung by any bees that happen to be busily going about their tasks – mostly unnoticed.

White-tailed bumble bee (male) on clover.

2. Bumble bees are having a very hard time – some species have already gone extinct whilst others have suffered major or catastrophic declines.

3. Your actions count.

Fewer than half of colonies are successful, with many figures as low as 18% – only 18 colonies out of 100 as a survival rate is very low.

As stated above, bumble bee nests only last a season. By the end of the autumn, the colony will have moved on and abandoned the nest.

Most people, if they really think about it can wait that long.

4. In order to be considered successful, the colony MUST produce queens, because it is the new queens that secure future generations. New queens are about the last to

In other words, if you disturb a colony before queens have had chance to emerge, a whole generation of bumble bees is destroyed.

This is clearly a great shame.

5. If colonies of bumble bees are killed, then populations can become fragmented, and this accelerates extinctions.

Why?

Destruction of bumble bee colonies can eventually result in fragmented populations of the same species. If the distances are too great, new queens may have difficulty finding mates from different broods. This means that queens may mate with males from their OWN brood. This in-breeding causes all sorts of complications, such as producing males instead of females.

Although males are vital to the colony, they do not perform the important tasks in a bumble bee colony that are undertaken by worker females – for instance, worker females collect nectar and pollen to feed the young – males do not do this! Hence, producing males instead of females is disaster! Males are usually produced later in the season.

6. Is there anything you can do to delay removing the nest for as long as possible? A temporary barrier of plants may act as a screen in the short term, to encourage bees to fly in a certain direction. It is better to place put the screen in place at night when members of the colony are not actively flying about.

7. They provide a vital pollination service, and bumble bees can ‘buzz pollinate’ so that they are excellent pollinators of fruit and bean crops.

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8. Instead of moving the nest, why not consider participating in a bumble bee nest survey? Contact a relevant conservation organisation for guidance.

9. Although I am providing guidance about how to move a bumblebee nest, moving one is not always successful – especially if you have not had practice!

Please try to leave it alone if you can. If you disturb one, do your best to protect the nest as it was before, then leave them alone. If you must move them, try your best to increase their chances of success by following the instructions below.

If, having read the information above, you have decided not to disturb the bees, then on behalf of bees, I thank you sincerely!

If, however, you still need to remove the bees nest, then take the following steps:

(Note – see below for links to advice in specific situations – e.g. nest in roof etc).

Bumble bee nest removal: steps for removing a bumble bee nest

1. First prepare an alternative nest site. A large wooden box, or very large, sturdy ceramic plant pot, would be ideal. It will need a covering to keep the rain out, yet it will also need space for the bees to fly in and out. Place some dry moss, grass and leaves (free of pesticides and weed killers) into the box.

2. Locate an alternative spot for the nest. If you have a suitable, alternative place in your garden where you would be happy for the bees to rear the colony, you have the possibility to ensure the site is prepared first. If not, ideally, the location needs to be 2 miles away to prevent confusion, and worker bees attempting to return to the original nest site. Perhaps you have a relative or friend who would happily allow the bumble bees to live in their garden? Try to ensure they do not use pesticides. Alternatively, contact a local wildlife organisation to see whether they have any appropriate suggestions about where the nest could be moved to.

The bumble bees’ new home needs to be in a sheltered spot – perhaps a space under the garden shed, or a spot among some thorny brambles is possible? They also need plenty of flower material for collecting nectar and pollen.

3. Wait until the evening, until it is dark. Wear gloves and protective clothing. Bumble bees rarely sting, but moving the nest could cause them to feel threatened. Wear sturdy clothing strong enough to protect you from stings.

4. Have a box or your replacement bees nest box at the ready. Now carefully, calmly, and very, very gently, use a spade or shovel to lift up the nest. And place it in the box.

5. IMPORTANT! Here is a mistake to avoid: do not tip the nest! Keep it upright and level, otherwise their nectar pots may spill – these are vital resources for the bees! Be gentle so the pots do not get damaged.

6. Take the bees to their new location, and gently place them there. Hopefully, they will take to their new place, and will thrive.

Dealing with bumble bee nests in specific scenarios

Over the years I have provided advice for a number of situations. You may find one or two of these pages relevant:

  • Bumble bee nest in roof
  • Will bumble bees cause damage to my roof?
  • Bumble bee nest by the door
  • Can my neighbour force me to remove a bumble bee nest?
  • Bumble bee nest in the attic
  • Bumble bee nest in the bird box
  • Accidentally disturbed a bumble bee nest – concerned I have ‘broken’ the nest – what should I do?
  • Will this bumble bee nest attract wasps?

Bumble bee nest removal and beekeepers

If you are concerned about removing a bumblebee nest, by all means you could try calling a beekeeper – some are happy to help.

However, bumblebee nests are very different from those of honey bees. There is no reason for anyone to expect a beekeeper to remove a bumblebee nest, and they may be (understandably) reluctant to attempt it. They may or may not require you to cover their expenses.

If you really cannot wait for the nest to be moved, and you cannot do it yourself, you could also consider calling a wildlife conservation organisation.

If they are a charity, be prepared to make a reasonable donation to cover their expenses. (Remember, they have to find the cost of salaries, fuel and any other expenses). But again, many organisations may be reluctant to remove bumblebee nests, or they may simply not have the resources.

Should you call in pest control or the council to remove a bumble bee nest?

Some pest control companies will seek to remove the nest without harming the bees. But check first.

I have come across pest control companies who will not carry out bumble bee nest removal – and they try to dissuade potential customers from taking this action. I have also come across a few who will attempt to relocate the nest.

However, some may prefer speed over caution, and some pest controllers spray the nest with poison, killing the whole bumble bee colony.

Whatever their methods, you’ll still have to pay! If you feel you must go down this route, ask questions.

A similar scenario applies to your local council. Some will not remove bumble bee nests. If they do, they may charge you. Do find out first how they would deal with the nest.

If a neighbour is trying to force you to move a bumble bee nest, please see this page. It is based on real queries.

Additional information about bumble bees and bumble bee nests

  • Read more about bumblebee nests
  • Learn about the bumblebee life cycle

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Bumblebee on Astrantia flower

The importance of bumblebees as agricultural pollinators can’t be overstated. Unlike honey bees, they are able to forage in cold, rainy, and cloudy conditions, so it is possible to see them in all kinds of weather. Even on a cold morning you can find a bumblebee sleeping inside a flower blossom waiting for some warmth to arrive. Some of the crops that bumblebees like to pollinate include tomatoes, peppers, raspberries, blueberries, chives, cucumbers, apples, strawberries, alfalfa, blackberries, soybeans, sunflowers, beans, cherries, apricots, plums, almonds, nectarines, peaches, rosehips, eggplants, and cranberries.

Buzz pollination

Bumblebees are also important pollinators of many flowering plants and are generalists, which means they pollinate by visiting hundreds of flowering plants. Their wings beat anywhere from 130 times to 230 times per second. The beating of their wings shakes the flowers until pollen is released, resulting in what is called buzz pollination.

Bumble bee decline

There is evidence that in North America some bumblebee species are declining and a few are
threatened with extinction. Species that seem most vulnerable are those with smaller climate tolerances and those that emerge later. Many species in North America and around the world, are declining at a rapid rate.

The suspected threats to wild bumblebees include the following:
1. Habitat loss due to agricultural
2. Urbanization or pollution
3. Pesticide use
4. Pathogen spillover from managed bees

Move-in ready

Most bumblebees nest in underground nest, logs or other crevices. You can help the bumblebees come to your property by providing a in nest, just as you would for mason bees.

Since most bumbles nest in the ground or a dark, dry cavity, you can provide a simple ground nest with a clay pot, a saucer, some straw, piece of chicken wire, and a short piece of garden hose for an entrance. The low zig zag flight of a queen searching for a nest can be observed in the spring and is very distinctive.

A mature bumblebee nest can contain up to 400 residents, as compared with 50,000 to 80,000 in honeybee nests. The bumblebee nest is typically located in the shade of a dry location. The straw used is often obtained from a mice nest, as a queen will be attracted to the smell. For complete instructions and diagrams, go to Hartley Botanic. The queen will overwinter in the nest to start a new colony in the spring.

Bumble Bees

TThe common name of bumblebee possibly comes from their large appearance and/or the buzzing sound they make as they fly. Bumblebees are typically found in flowering plants, and they can sting. Bumble bees rarely nest in structures.

Often confused with carpenter bees, bumble bees are characterized by the hairiness of the abdomen (carpenter bees have a smooth abdomen). (Carpenter bees can be observed around and under eaves, decks, breezeways, etc. They drill holes in the exterior of the wood to lay eggs.)

Bumble Bee Appearance

Bumble Bee Biology

Bumblebees are social insects which live in nests or colonies. The adults are represented by workers which are sterile females, queens, and males (drones) which come from unfertilized eggs and usually appear in late summer.

Typically, only inseminated queens overwinter and do so underground. During the spring, bumblebee queens select a suitable subterranean cavity or surface grass clump as a nesting site and lay eggs.

Mature bumble bees nests ultimately contains about 50-400

Bumble Bee Habits and Habitats

As social insects, bumble bees live in colonies. Each spring a queen that has survived over wintering will find a suitable nesting site and establish her colony. Her first brood of eggs mature into workers that forage on pollen and nectar for food.

The workers do produce honey, but it is not edible to humans.

The bumble bees colony grows larger over the summer and is usually discovered while gardening or mowing the lawn. The bumble bees will attack to defend their nest, so they are considered a health concern.

They forage when temperatures are below 50 degrees F (10 degrees C; lowest observed flight at 26 degrees F/-3.6 degrees C) whereas, most bees stop foraging at 61 degrees F (16 degrees C).

Each worker forages independently, and bumble bees never exchange food. Old cocoons are used to store both pollen and nectar. Only enough food (honey and pollen) for a few days is stored at any given time which helps discourage nest predation by skunks, foxes, etc.

During the fall, the colony produces a number of queens that fly out to find protected sites to spend the winter and thus repeat the cycle next year.

Bumble bees don’t make holes or tunnels in wood, but will nest in abandoned rodent burrows, under piles of grass clippings or leaves, stones, logs, ect.
Occasionally, bumble bees will establish a nest above ground in a wall, firewood pile, shed, crawl space or attic.

People sensitive to insect venom should exercise care around bumble bees and their nests.

Bumble bees are considered beneficial insects because they pollinate the flowers of many plant species. However, if their nest is located in or close to an occupied structure or recreational area, then control is needed.

Bumblee Bee Control

To prevent bumble bees from establishing nests on a property, fill in all animal/rodent burrows and holes in the soil.

Seal holes in the building’s exterior and ensure that all vents have tight-fitting screens.

Bumblebees are considered beneficial insects because they pollinate the flowers of many plant species.

  1. During the day find the location of each nest by observing where the bees disappear into the ground, grass clump, or structure.
  2. At night using low background light and while wearing a bee veil, apply an appropriately pesticide.
    • Using an aerosol like D-Force HPX would give a quick knockdown and a residual for 8 weeks. D-Force HPX has the active ingredient Deltamethrin. The deltamethrin is also in D Fense Dust which has a longer residual time.
  3. Dusts, such as D Fense Dust work well when applied around and into the the nest area . The dust particles are designed to flow back into the area. D-Fense Dust is designed to last for 6 months and will kill quickly. It is advisable to use plenty of dust to dust thoroughly into the nest area. There may be hatch outs, further hatching of eggs.
    • Using a duster with an extension such as the B&G 1150 Dust-R with extension tips may make the job easier.
    • If dusting structural nest with D-Fense Dust, but do not seal the entrance until late summer or early fall, when all hatching has been completed.

I have a problem with bees around my house. They come back each year and build a nest in different locations. What is the best way to discourage them from returning to my house?

Bees leave behind a scent that is very powerful and attracts new bees to the area. When a hive is removed, you need to clean the area with strong disinfectants and spend a good bit of time sealing the openings around the outside with silicone caulk. The rule of thumb is: remove the bees and seal the entire side of the building. If you can slip a piece of paper into a crack, caulk it.

Carpenter Bee vs. Bumble Bee: What’s the difference?

Can you hear the “buzz” going around town? Spring is here and the bees are back! The bees are just as excited as you are for the warmer weather, but you may be less than thrilled to see them buzzing around you and your property. Although bees are an intricate part of the ecosystem, certain species can actually cause damage to your home if not properly addressed.

Bumble Bee or Carpenter Bee: Which bee do I have?

Bumble bees and carpenter bees can often be mistaken for one another, but there is one significant difference in their appearance that will allow you to differentiate the two bees.

– Bumble bees have a hairy abdomen that may have some yellow markings.

– Carpenter bees have a bare, shiny black abdomen.

Along with their difference in appearance, carpenter bees have a very distinct flying pattern. You can see carpenter bees darting and diving around as well as “chasing” each other. Carpenter bees are also primarily solitary bees, whereas bumble bees are social bees that nest together.

Do Carpenter Bees Sting?

Unlike bumble bees, who are social bees that will sting to protect their nest, carpenter bees are solitary. Since they are primarily solitary bees, the female carpenter bees will only sting if seriously provoked.

Entomologist Dr. Richard Cooper said he hasn’t heard of an incident where a person was stung by a carpenter bee, but it is possible.

“Male carpenter bees do not possess stingers,” he said. “Female carpenter bees do possess one but they need to be very seriously provoked.”

Dr. Cooper went on to describe why bumble bees readily sting compared to carpenter bees.

“Bumble bees will be very aggressive defending their nest,” he said “Bumble bees are social bees so all of their sisters are genetic clones of one another. If a bumble bee were to die because of stinging someone, the bee is a sterile female so it doesn’t affect the reproduction of the bee. However, if a female carpenter bee stings, her reproduction is jeopardized. At that point, her life and reproduction cycle is finished, so the female carpenter bee won’t put herself at risk for that. The bumble bees will readily defend and sting because they have nothing to lose.”

Nesting Habits of Carpenter Bees

Since carpenter bees are solitary bees, their nesting habits are quite different fromBumble bees. Bumble bees usually nest in the ground, but carpenter bees will create tunnels in wood to lay their eggs. If you notice a number of large bees flying around the eaves of your home, you probably have carpenter bees.

What Type of Wood do Carpenter Bees prefer?

When a female Carpenter bee is looking to nest, she typically prefers bare, unpainted or weathered softwoods.

Types of wood include:

– Redwood

– Cedar

– Cypress

– Pine

Pressure treated or painted wood is less susceptible to Carpenter bee nesting. Although they prefer bare wood, don’t be surprised if you find them nesting on your wood-stained deck as the stain isn’t as much as a deterrent as paint. The wood stains are less reliable than paint but could provide some degree of repellency as opposed to having bare wood.

Common Areas for Carpenter Bee Nesting

– Eaves

– Window Trim

– Fascia Boards

– Siding

– Wooden shakes/shingles

– Decks

– Outdoor furniture

– Playgrounds

Carpenter Bee Drilling

During the spring (April & May) months, carpenter bees re-emerge from hiding in abandoned nests over the winter to mate. After mating, fertilized females will excavate tunnels in wood to lay their eggs (about 6-8 eggs) in a series of small holes. You will notice that the holes are perfectly round and are about the diameter of a finger. Female carpenter bees will create one nesting hole, so if you happen to notice several holes on your property, that means you have multiple bee nests. It’s a one-to-one ratio in respects to bees to nests.

Phil Cooper, CEO of Cooper Pest Solutions, explained that the beauty and nature behind carpenter bee drilling is incredible.

“It’s impossible to think that an insect can create such a perfectly round hole,” he said. “It’s really remarkable when you sit back and think about it. There’s such a beauty to it but it often gets overlooked with the negativity of the drilling.”

Since the majority of damage caused by carpenter bees is purely aesthetic, Phil explained that if the staining from the drilling isn’t bothersome, then leave the bees alone.

“Carpenter bees only cause damage to the aesthetics of a home,” he said. “They often get a bad reputation for the drilling but they aren’t causing any structural damage to a home. If you aren’t bothered by the staining that they leave behind, then just let them keep doing what they are doing.”

Sometimes females may return to the same nesting sites year after year, creating new tunnels for egg laying. If this is the case, aesthetic damage can increase from one year to the next, unless you choose to receive treatment.

Although female carpenter bees may only be causing aesthetic damage to your property by nesting, you may also notice increased woodpecker activity in the same area as the nest. This happens because woodpeckers find carpenter bee eggs to be quite a delicacy. Unfortunately this can cause additional aesthetic damage to fascia boards on your home or property as the woodpeckers are pecking at the wood to get to the bee larvae that’s nested inside.

Nesting Habits of Bumble Bees

Unlike carpenter bees, bumble bees are social bees and live in colonies, usually underground. Every spring, a queen that has survived over wintering will emerge and search for a suitable nesting location to establish her own colony.

Over the course of the summer, the colonies will continue to expand, and unlike carpenter bees, bumble bees will attack to defend their nest. Male carpenter bees do not sting, and females rarely sting unless provoked. Bumble bees on the other hand, can be considered a health concern since they will sting to defend their nest.

Where do Bumble Bees Nest?

Bumble bee nests typically won’t be within structures like Carpenter bees. Sometimes you can find bumble bee nests in abandoned rodent burrows, under grass or leaf clippings, stones or logs. Occasionally, you may notice bumble bees making a nest above ground, such as within a wall, in a firewood pile, shed, crawlspace or even the attic, but this is very rare.

“Occasionally bumble bees will nest in a wall void like yellow jackets, but most of the time bumble bees are nesting under slabs, in ground and between railroad ties,” Dr. Cooper said.

According to Phil Cooper, of the 40k regular services conducted every year at Cooper Pest Solutions, only a handful of services are for bumble bee nesting.

“We only get maybe three services a year for bumble bees,” he said, “They’re not common, and if the bees aren’t bothering your everyday life, then they should be left alone.”

Cooper stated that if they are nesting near a point-of-entry to your home, and becoming very aggressive defending their nest then a professional pest control company should be called.

Bumble bee nests are not to be confused with yellow jacket nesting. Although both bees are ground nesters, they are very different. If you are noticing the bee activity during the spring, then you have bumble bees. Yellow jackets don’t typically appear until July, whereas bumble bees emerge during the spring months.

Even though bumble bees may not cause the aesthetic property damage that carpenter bees do, they can become a major health concern for individuals with bee sting allergies, especially if the bumble bee nests are near an entryway of a property or nested near a recreational area.

Carpenter Bee Treatment & Prevention

As a homeowner, the best way to help prevent any Carpenter bee nesting is to paint all exposed wood surfaces. Wood stains aren’t as reliable as paint, but it still provides some degree of repellency as opposed to bare wood.

Another way to help prevent Carpenter bee nesting is to keep all garage and outdoor buildings closed during the mating season of carpenter bees in which they are searching for a nesting area. If you are choosing to try a DIY method to get rid of your carpenter bees, do your treatment at night because the bees are less active during the nighttime hours.

Fascia Board Damage: What needs to be done?

When carpenter bees nest, they typically nest behind fascia boards along a roofline on a home. If woodpeckers are searching for the carpenter eggs, they can leave damage along the fascia boards as they peck into it for the eggs.

If you’re looking to prevent this damage, follow these tips as described by Cooper:

– If you are looking to replace the wood fascia boards, don’t just put up new wood. Carpenter bees will just re-infest the new wood causing you the same problems.

– If you want to prevent their return, wrap all THREE sides of the board in aluminum or vinyl siding. Do not just wrap the two exposed sides because the bees will nest on the underside of the board. Be sure to wrap the front, under and back side of the fascia board to prevent carpenter bee nesting. Carpenter bees CAN NOT drill through aluminum or vinyl so this will prevent future nesting if all sides are properly wrapped.

Professional Treatment for Carpenter Bees

Carpenter bees can cause aesthetic property damage if left untreated year after year, so it is best to choose a professional to handle your carpenter bee problem if you haven’t already wrapped the wood being damaged. There are a number of ways a pest professional may treat for Carpenter Bees, but a few common ways are:

– Residual Liquid Treatment

  • If you currently have carpenter bees, your pest control technician will spray the liquid treatment in areas where carpenter bees are boring into wood.
  • If you’re looking to prevent carpenter bees, these treatments will be applied in March and early April before nesting begins.

– Dust Product Treatment

  • Your technician may use a dust product inside the current carpenter bee holes on your property as a remedial and/or preventive treatment.
  • For remedial treatment, dusting will usually only work on active carpenter bees, not on eggs due to the walls protecting them within the tunnels.

– Plug Up Carpenter Bee Holes

  • Your pest control technician may also use a cork, putty or caulking compound to plug the holes so that the bees are unable to return to the tunnels for future nesting. This is typically done during July or the summer months once all the active bees have left the nest and prior to the overwintering bees returning.

According to Dave Burgess, Vice President of Operations at Cooper Pest Solutions, prevention of carpenter bees relies heavily on timing.

“We time our services to get done right before the nesting behavior begins, typically in the northeast that is around the 10th of April, give or take a week,” he said. “Sometimes the weather delays or accelerates our date, we watch the weather closely this time of year and adjust our service dates accordingly.”

Receiving effective preventive carpenter bee services can be difficult to find but Cooper Pest Solutions’ carpenter bee prevention is effective for a number of reasons.

“We use non repellent products because we don’t want the bees to avoid the areas we have treated,” Burgess said. “We feel it is best to get close to the activity so we can precisely apply the products where the bees are likely to come in contact with the pesticide. Often the bees are nesting up by roof lines so when possible we will use extension ladders or telescoping equipment to treat those areas. Lastly knowing where the bees are likely to nest helps direct our treatments. Knowing the bees like wood and prefer to chew in a safe area, coupled with the experience of thousands of jobs under our belt helps us quickly locate where the bees are or likely to be and treat those areas.”

Dr. Cooper also pointed out how important timing is when it comes to plugging the carpenter bee holes.

“I wouldn’t recommend sealing holes at the time of treatment,” he said. “Sealing holes at the time of treatment may not be effective because the active bees can still chew their way out. The best time of year to seal the holes is in the middle of summer because all of the active bees are out of the nest and the overwintering bees haven’t gone back in the empty tunnels yet.”

How to Prevent Carpenter Bees

After you’ve had a professional take care of your carpenter bee problem, there are a few ways that you can prevent carpenter bees from re-infesting.

Do It Yourself Items

– Paint all of your unfinished wood on your property, outdoor buildings and furniture. Freshly painted wood is even less attractive for a Carpenter bee.

– Seal all exterior openings, cracks and crevices with caulk.

– Carpenter bees will revisit holes from previous seasons, so be sure to caulk those openings during the fall months to help prevent spring infestations.

– Be sure to wrap all THREE SIDES of fascia boards in vinyl or aluminum to prevent carpenter bees from nesting in the fascia boards.

Burgess added that whether you are painting or wrapping the fascia boards, it is crucial that all sides are painted or wrapped.

“Painting helps, but on the fascia board the same issue exists with painting the same as wrapping the siding,” he said. “The bees attack the wood from behind, so if you just paint the front of the fascia board you will not repel the activity. You really need to take the fascia down and paint both sides for this approach to be effective.”

Prevention by a Pest Management Professional

Have your professional pest management firm treat the areas where carpenter bees have been present in early March. A thorough treatment will deter carpenter bees from drilling more holes. This treatment typically needs to be done annually as carpenter bees will return to areas that have been damaged in the past. Do not wait for Carpenter Bees to reappear as it will be too late to prevent them and you will be back into a reactive cycle.

Bumble Bee Control

Having a bumble bee nest near your home or children’s playground can be a major health risk, especially if any family members are allergic. To prevent any future health risks, getting rid of the nest can be essential. The safest way to remove a bumble bee nest is by having a trained professional take care of it. They will have the proper tools, safety gearand treatment protocols to safely and effectively remove the bees from your home or property.

Even though there are no exact ways to prevent bumble bees, Dr. Cooper said there are a few recommendations that homeowners could do.

Recommendations for helping to prevent bumble bee nesting

– To prevent potential bee nesting, fill in animal and rodent holes. These are prime locations for bees to build a nest so by filling those in you can removing the potential nest location.

– Seal all holes along the exterior of your home or building. Make sure all vents have tight-fitting screens with no access points.

Dr. Cooper said, “These measures will not only help prevent bumble bees from nesting, they will also help with many other pests.”

It’s important to remember that bees play an important and beneficial role in the environment by pollinating flowers and many plant species.

Whether you currently have a carpenter bee or bumble bee problem on your NJ or PA property, give Cooper Pest Solutions a call at 1-800-949-2667. Our skilled technicians have the knowledge and tools to provide you with safe and effective bee removal. If you would like to prevent future infestations, Cooper Pest Solutions offers preventative services that prevent any future bee infestations. Our effective treatments are environmentally conscious and our service is guaranteed! Give Cooper Pest Solutions a call today!

Carpenter bee services can now be scheduled online for fast technician dispatch on the date of your choosing. No inspection needed.

Carpenter Bees

ENTFACT-611: Carpenter Bees | Download PDF

by Michael F. Potter, Extension Entomologist
University of Kentucky College of Agriculture

During the spring, people often notice large, black bees hovering around the outside of their homes. These are likely to be carpenter bees, named for their habit of excavating holes in wood, in order to rear their young. Carpenter bees prefer unpainted, weathered wood, especially softer varieties such as redwood, cedar, cypress and pine. Painted or pressure-treated wood is much less susceptible to attack. Common carpenter bee nesting sites include eaves, rafters, fascia boards, siding, wooden shake roofs, decks and outdoor furniture.

Carpenter Bees vs. Bumblebees

Carpenter bees resemble bumblebees, but typically have a shiny, hairless abdomen. (Bumblebees usually have a hairy abdomen with black and yellow stripes.) The bees also have different nesting habits—bumblebees nest in an existing cavity often underground (e.g., in abandoned rodent burrows), whereas carpenter bees tunnel into wood to lay their eggs.

Fig. 1: Carpenter bee with shiny abdomen (left), bumblebee (right).

Biology and Habits

Carpenter bees do not live in colonies like honeybees or bumblebees. The adults overwinter individually, often in previously constructed brood tunnels. Those that survive the winter emerge and mate the following spring. Fertilized female carpenter bees then bore into wood, excavating a tunnel to lay their eggs. The entrance hole in the wood surface is perfectly round and about the diameter of your little finger. Coarse sawdust may be present below the opening, and tunneling sounds are sometimes heard within the wood. After boring in a short distance, the bee makes a right angle turn and continues to tunnel parallel to the wood surface. Inside the tunnel, about five or six cells are constructed for housing individual eggs. Working back to front, the bee provisions each cell with pollen (collected from spring-flowering plants) and a single egg, sealing each successive chamber with regurgitated wood pulp. Hatching and maturation occurs over several weeks, with the pollen serving as a food source for the developing larvae. Later in the summer, the new generation of adult bees emerge and forage on flowers, returning to wood in the fall for hibernation.

Fig. 2: Entrance hole with sawdust

Fig. 3: Cross-section of wood showing carpenter bee tunnels and brood chambers.

Nuisance and Damage

Though seldom as destructive as termites, carpenter bees can cause cosmetic and structural damage. Female carpenter bees excavate new tunnels in wood for egg laying, or enlarge and reuse old ones. Significant damage can occur when the same pieces of wood are infested year after year. Holes in the wood surface also facilitate moisture intrusion, rot and decay.

Fig. 4: Carpenter bees often repeatedly infest the same areas.

Carpenter bees are less inclined to sting than wasps and bees living in communal colonies. Still, their presence can be daunting, especially during spring mating and nest construction. Male carpenter bees can be especially intimidating, hovering in front of people who are around nesting sites. The males are harmless, however, since they lack the ability to sting. Female carpenter bees can inflict a painful sting but will seldom do so — unless they are handled or bothered by people.

Other types of small solitary bees and wasps are sometimes seen visiting abandoned carpenter bee nests. These insects seldom cause problems and are usually scavenging on remaining pollen or using the tunnels for shelter.

Control and Prevention

The best time to control carpenter bees is before tunnels are fully constructed. Liquid, aerosol or dust insecticides containing ingredients such as bifenthrin, cyfluthrin, deltamethrin or lambda cyhalothrin can be applied directly into tunnel openings. Leave the holes open for a few days after treatment to allow the bees to contact and distribute the insecticide throughout the nest tunnel. Then plug the entrance hole with a piece of wooden dowel coated with carpenter’s glue, putty, or other suitable sealant. This will deter future bees from using the old tunnels, as well as moisture intrusion and wood decay.

Fig. 5: Applying insecticide into a tunnel under construction.

A more extensive treatment of wood surfaces may be helpful when large numbers of carpenter bees are attacking siding, shake roofs, decks, etc. Spraying vulnerable wood with one of the aforementioned insecticides will cause some bees to avoid drilling into treated surfaces. For application use a pump up or hose end sprayer to target areas most favored by carpenter bees (eaves, fascia boards, joist ends of decks, etc.). Longevity of such treatments is only about 3-4 weeks, so reapplication may be needed. Although carpenter bees are less aggressive than wasps, females provisioning their nests may sting. Consider treating at dusk or while wearing protective clothing.

Another tip that may help reduce carpenter bee drilling is to install traps. Carpenter bee traps can be constructed from simple materials or purchased online. Most consist of a small wooden box with ½-inch diameter holes drilled in each side and a plastic water bottle suspended below. In early spring, suspend the traps from eaves and overhangs at the corners of the house, porch, deck, shed, barn, etc. Carpenter bees searching for nesting sites enter the holes in the wooden box, fall into the plastic bottle, and are not able to find their way out, eventually dying. Accumulations of dead bees are disposed of by unscrewing and rinsing out the bottle.

Fig. 6: Carpenter bee traps may help reduce attacks on wood.

Carpenter bees usually will not tunnel into painted wood. Therefore, a more permanent solution is to paint unfinished wood surfaces, especially those with a history of infestation. Stains and preservatives are less reliable than painting, but may afford some repellence versus bare wood. It also helps to keep garages and outbuildings closed when bees are actively searching for nesting sites, which usually subsides by late spring.

Revised 9/7/2018

CAUTION: Some pesticides mentioned in this publication may not be legal in your area of the country. If in doubt, please consult your local cooperative extension service or regulatory agency. Furthermore, ALWAYS READ AND FOLLOW LABEL DIRECTIONS FOR THE PRODUCT YOU ARE USING.

Please note that content and photos in this publication are copyrighted material and may not be copied or downloaded without permission of the Department of Entomology, University of Kentucky.

How to tell a carpenter bee from a bumblebee

They’re big, fuzzy, buzzy… and a little bit clumsy. One’s an important and prolific pollinator, while the other does damage that outweighs any pollination benefits.

Here are some key ways to tell the difference between carpenter bees and bumblebees.

CARPENTER BEES vs. BUMBLEBEES

Carpenter bee appearance:

Carpenter bees have a bare, shiny abdomen that’s all black. They measure about 1 inch long. The thorax on some carpenter bee species is yellow; other species have a white, black, brown or blue thorax.

Bumblebee appearance:

A bumblebee’s head, thorax and abdomen are all fuzzy. The thorax has a thin yellow band, and the abdomen is yellow and black. Bumblebees can range from 3/4 inch to 1.5 inch in length.

Carpenter bee nests:

Carpenter bees make their nests in wood, drilling a hole and then turning 90 degrees to excavate a tunnel in which to lay eggs.

Bumblebee nests:

Bumblebees build their nests close to the ground, in places like compost heaps, wood or leaf piles, or abandoned rodent holes.

Carpenter bee colony:

Carpenter bees are solitary bees and do not form colonies. They live in small nests constructed by one female who bores into wood to lay her eggs in several small cells.

Bumblebee colony:

Bumblebees are social insects that live in colonies of 50-400 bees. There is one queen, and the other bumblebees gather food to serve her and care for the developing larvae.

Carpenter bee habits:

Carpenter bees hover around wood siding, decks, eaves and fences to excavate a nest or feed the larvae inside.

Bumblebee habits:

Bumblebees visit flowers to collect pollen and nectar. They can make flowers release pollen through the fast vibration of their wings.

Carpenter bee aggression:

Male carpenter bees are known for “buzzing” the heads of humans in an aggressive manner, but they cannot sting. Female carpenter bees can sting if the nest is threatened.

Bumblebee aggression:

A female bumblebee can sting, and will do so repeatedly without losing its stinger. Bumblebees are typically not aggressive unless the nest is threatened.

For many, the costly structural damage caused by carpenter bees outweighs any beneficial aspect of their presence, which is why we created the TrapStik® for Carpenter Bees. Just hang the TrapStik® horizontally near untreated wood or wherever you notice carpenter bees hovering, and you can catch them before the damage is done.

Spring is the best time to catch carpenter bees before they mate, but TrapStik® can be used throughout the summer and early fall to get rid of carpenter bees.

Where to buy the RESCUE!® TrapStik® for Carpenter Bees

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