Bumble Bee Habits and Habitat
Cute, fuzzy, and generally docile, a bumble bee buzzing around is a welcome sight. Their habits are typical of most bee and wasp species as they feed on nectar from flowering plants. Bumble bees are valuable pollinators as their large bodies, quantity of body hair, and slow movements spread pollen easily over the plants they visit.
Bumble bees have some characteristics that make them different from their cousins, including honey bees and mason bees. Though they are usually seen alone, bumble bees are social and live in colonies with populations that can range from under 100 bees to over 400. Bumble bees make honey, but only enough for a short time at any point, and the honey is not good for human consumption. A bumble bee colony shrinks dramatically over the winter, as most of the workers die. As the weather cools, the young queens leave the nest to find their own where they will hibernate until spring, then build their own colony.
Bumble bees do not make hives like the ones we are used to seeing, rather they nest underground in holes, abandoned animal burrows, fallen trees, and wood piles. This can be a problem as the nest can remain unseen until discovered by stepping in it or mowing over it.
Risks Bumble Bees Pose
Bumble bee stings can cause allergic reactions just like other bees. Symptoms range from a painful, swollen bump to life-threatening anaphylaxis (swelling of the oral cavity and airways that inhibits breathing and can lead to suffocation). Bumble bees aren’t known to be aggressive, but will attack if their nest is threatened, making the hidden nature of their nests extra problematic. They also do not die after they sting like honey bees do and are able to administer multiple shots of venom.
Signs of a Bumble Bee Problem
Like we mentioned, bumble bees are often seen alone, so if you see multiple bumble bees on your property, you either have exceptionally desirable flowering plants or there’s a nest in the ground nearby. Because bumble bees rarely nest in human structures, a bumble bee colony might remain undetected for a long time, especially because of the winter die-off. Occasionally, bumble bees might nest underneath a human structure, like in a crawlspace or basement. You might coexist peacefully with a nest on your property as long as it’s not too close to your dwelling or an area you use a lot, like a play area.
Preventing Problems with Bumble Bees
We definitely want bumble bees around—they’re a very important part of our ecosystem and part of why we still have flowers and food. But we don’t want them building their nests right next to us where we can step in them. Fortunately, there are some safe ways for you and the bumble bees to remain unbothered by each other.
Fill in all animal burrows and other holes in the ground. Check dead or fallen trees and wood piles periodically. Seal holes in your building’s exterior, particularly the lower areas, and make sure that all vents are covered.
Removing Bumble Bees
Never try to remove a bumble bee nest yourself, as you risk danger to yourself and the bees. Prevention is the best measure, but if you suspect a bumble bee problem, call your local pest control professional to take a look. We remove bumble bee nests in a safe, humane way and discourage them from returning. Bumble bees know good real estate when they encounter it, so they scent the area with strong pheromones that mark existing territory and attract new queens when empty. After removing the nest, we neutralize the scent and seal the area.