Being nice to Bees: Moving Problematic Nests

Before reaching for that can of bugspray or calling the exterminator when you discover a nest of bees in your yard, consider being nice to the bees!  It is widely known that honeybees have dramatically declined in numbers for somewhat mysterious reasons to the point that agricultural production has been threatened.  It is less well known that bumble bees are also endangered and that they are also important agricultural polinators.

When bees build a nest some place which is problematic, beekeepers can safely remove them and find a new home for them.  This summer when bumble bees built their nest in my worm bin, it was problematic for me.  Bumble bees are not aggressive — except when defending their nest.  Each time I opened the worm bin lid to use it, they became aggressive!  It became impossible for me to use the worm bin.  My worms were starving and I couldn’t  compost!  I called for help from Jerry the Bee Guy.

Bee removal expert ready to get to work!

Bee removal expert ready to get to work!

This bee expert captured one of the worm bin bumbles and determined this was Bombus Californicus — the California Bumble Bee, which is common throughout the west coast from California to British Columbia.

Bombus Californicus

Identifying bumble bees as Bombus Californicus

He scooped the honey-filled wax nest out of the worm bin bedding and put it in a plastic bucket with a lid.  Some of the bumble bees came along with it.  Then he used his insect net to catch the bees flying around.  He also captured bees with his special bee vacuum he created from a shop-vac, a plastic water jug, and flexible hose.   In total he captured about 30 bumble bees, including several large queen bees.

Bee Vacuum

Vaccuming up stray bumble bees

He’ll set them up in a new nest location several miles away, so they won’t come back here!  The queens he captured will hibernate this winter and then fly away in the spring to start new bumble bee nests.  Here’s wishing those queen bees good choice of nest sites and a productive season next summer!

Urban Polinators: Bees in Your Backyard

Most residential yards have ornamental flowers which offer free nectar to bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.  Some yards may even have fruit trees or berry bushes which need pollinator insects for fruit production. An urban environment needs pollinators for sustainability.  This means bees in your backyard!  A healthy outdoor environment needs bees, and bees need a healthy outdoor environment — all the more reason never to use pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, or any other toxins in your yard!

Bumble Bee

A Bumble Bee pollinates a California Popppy

Bees need a safe place to call home.  Urban honeybees are usually required by law to be kept in specially-made mobile hive boxes and are subject to various rules and regulations intended to keep harmony with neighbors on small city lots.  The City of Seattle allows as many as four honeybee hives per lot.  To accommodate typical property line setbacks, a rooftop is the best place to put the hives.

Honeybee hive box on industrial roof

Urban beekeeper inspects honeybee hive on rooftop in industrial area

You can purchase or make nest boxes for bumblebees, mason bees, and other types of bees.  Ideally the bees will chose to use your bee house in your carefully selected location, rather than taking up residence in your attic, exterior wall, or somewhere else that would be very problematic.  But if you do find bees living somewhere undesirable, or honeybees in a swarm outside their hive, local beekeeper volunteers are willing to come collect these valuable insects and safely take them away to a new home.