Tree Bumblebee
(Bombus hypnorum)

"The Birdbox Invader"

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Common in Europe and parts of Asia, this species of bumblebee first arrived in the UK at the turn of the 21st century.  The bee has now spread throughout and is a firmly established pollinator.  It has now joined ranks with our native "Big 6" bumblebees becoming the 7th of the common species found in our gardens.

It gets it's name from the fact it likes to nest at heights and is very often found in tree hollows or birdboxes.  Other species of bumbles prefer to nest at ground level.

The nest of this species will usually have around 200 individuals - quite unlike our native honeybees, where there will be upward of 30,000 individuals in the colony.

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IDENTIFICATION

The thorax is usually a uniform GINGER colour with the abdomen being mainly covered in BLACK hairs.  The tail end is always WHITE.

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HABITS

This species of bumblebee has a fondness for taking up residence in unused birdboxes.  There will often be a lot of manic activity around the entrance to the nest and this is usually the drones (males) waiting for new virgin queens to make their appearance.

Although they are usually docile, they can become aggressive if they are disturbed - even the banging of a shed door is enough to annoy them and bring out their aggression.

This slow motion video shows the erratic flying behaviour of the males around the entrance to a birdbox.

MANAGEMENT

As with other species of bumblebees, their main activity will cease during July and they will slowly fade away until only newly mated virgin queens survive.  These queens will find a location to hibernate until the following spring when they will emerge and start a new generation.  They will often hibernate underground.

If the bees in a birdbox start to become a nuisance, the following procedure can be attempted -

  1. Wait until the evening until all activity at the entrance has ceased.

  2. Approach the birdbox and carefully stuff a rag into the hole to block the entrance.

  3. Remove the birdbox from it's current location.

  4. Relocate the birdbox to a quieter part of your garden where the bees will not be a nuisance.

  5. Remove the rag from the entrance and leave the area.

The bees will re-orientate themselves to their new position.