Up until this past weekend, I've always assumed that bumblebees live in very small communities. I base that upon never seeing more than 2 or 3 in a certain area at a given time, even near where I believe their nest to be.
Over the course of the summer, the amount of bumblebee traffic near my front door has exploded, in a 5 minute period, you will see 20-30 bees arriving or departing through a small tear in my basement window screen (it's a crawlspace, really). I assumed there was a nest there, fairly near the window, and the 10-12 bees that lived there were very active.
Since the window is very close to my front door (and smack-dab in the middle of my 3 year old daughter's play area) I took it upon myself to "cull" the numbers a bit this weekend. (Yes I know that won't entirely be popular on this particular forum, but I'm a barbarian, you see...) Anyway, armed with a tennis racquet and a trouble-light, I took advantage of their slow take-off speed and managed to down no less than FIFTY of them (most in the 1.5-2cm size range) in about 90 minutes.
I had NO idea that there were that many down there. Further, I had no idea bumblebees created such large colonies... I know bumblebee nests aren't as large as honeybee nests typically, but judging by the size and numbers of the bees, this one must be rather large.
I'm thinking my next move will be to wait until December or so to go under and remove the nest; while I'm brave with a tennis racquet in a wide open driveway, I'd be a bit more wary of entering a 50cm crawlspace with a can of bug-bomb to do battle with them face-to-mandible.
This post is half apology, half exclamation, it turns out. I feel bad for doing in so many fuzzy bees in such a ghastly way, but hey, I've got a big brain and a big tennis racquet and there's only room for "one of us in this bungalow, pardner."
Has anyone else ever experienced a bumblebee colony of this size? I figure there must be 75-100 bees involved.
I'm not sure if your talking about the same bumblebee that I'm thinking about, but we also call the common "bumblebee" a borebee. This is due to the damage they cause while boring holes into wood. They don't really live in colonies as much as I'm thinking you have some really dry/old studs inside that crawlspace and the numbers attracted are high.
As kids I would smack them for hours with my tennis racket. They also do some good in that they catch small flying insects to take back to the nest. You will usually see them around old barns and overhangs where studs are exposed.
It's true I don't know what specific species of bumblebee these are, but they're definitely not honeybees, these guys are big and very hairy. Thankfully, sluggish flyers too.
Looking through another window with a trouble-light, my partner-in-crime could see them marching to and from the window, along the inside wall of the basement, down to a point halfway along the length of the house, and then up to a point between the joists where he couldn't see.
My experience with bumblebees has always been with the tunnelling kind; I've always seen them coming and going from a small hole in the ground. The sheer number of this particular colony seems very high to me, at least for bumblebees. It's possible they're boring into my joists, but I think with that number of them, they're likely nesting, thought I haven't seen it yet (I'll wait until winter, no room to swing a tennis racquet in an 18 inch crawlspace.)
At least that's what I'm hoping. Having a bunch of bees eat my house doesn't appeal to me.
Bumble bees are smei-social and live in a colony during portions of the year. They build a nest in many different types of places. The queen is the only member of the colony that over winters. She will find someplace to hibernate and next spring, if she makes it, she will start a new colony. If these are Bumble Bees, which it sounds like, the Queen will leave the current nest to hibernate. She does not usually use the same nest site again.
Carpenter Bees are the ones that bore holes in the wood siding, beams and joists. The Carpenter Bees are the ones that can cause significant damage to the building. They feed their young other insects. Carpenter Bees are not social and they would not be concetrated as you describe.
From your e-mail address it looks like you are from New Brunswick, Canada. If so with the temperatures soon to drop off, the colony should die down shortly.
Are you anywhere near Rothsay, Grand Bay, or Fredricton?
I'm in Shediac Bridge, actually (20min East of Moncton).
Thanks for all the good information. Yeah, I likely won't be doing much more until winter, at which point it will be safer to investigate (yes, I'm a wuss).
My interest in reducing their numbers at the present time has to do mostly with not having my curious 3 year old stung badly. That and the bee traffic is getting really heavy (you can see dozens in a 5-10 minute period, all around my front door).
When I finally do investigate, do you think I'm more likely to find a mass of moss and such jammed into a crevice, or a more typical, spherical nest?
Greetings . . .
The bumblebee is large, plump, and hairy. Bumblebees live in small ground nest (and bird houses, DW) that die off every autumn. At peak of summer, the colony is only a few hundred strong. They are docile and not inclined to sting, unless their nest is distrubed.
The carpenter bee looks much like a bumblebee, but its habits are quite different. It is a solitary bee that makes its nest by tunneling through solid wood (sometimes the wooden eaves of a barn or shed). Its nest is small and produces only a few dozen offspring a season. Carpenter bees are gentle and are not likely to sting.
Source: Beekeeping for Dummies, 2002, p36
Hope this helps!
[This message has been edited by Dave W (edited September 22, 2003).]
You will most likely find wax and pollen balls on a ledge or shelf of some in the crawl space. They use a space of opertunity, not tunneling or boring a space.
This link has good information on Bumble Bees. http://www.mearns.org.uk/mrssmith/bees/lifecycle.htm
I would wait for the cold to knock out the population (which as previously mentioned, it will since only the queen overwinters and she'll be looking for somewhere else to do it) Then plug that hole and any other you can find.
They build up fast and build nests in any place that opportunity provides. I used to pick up concrete forms that were a frame of 2 x 4s with plywood on it. When I would flip them over (because someone put them "face" up, the bees would pour out. Once when I was about eight or so, I turned on the water hose to get a drink. I hadn't been used for about a month and instead of water coming out a stream of bumblebees poured out. It was quite incongruous. I dropped the hose and ran, and finally the water came out after a lot of fuzzy nest came out. They will live in any hollow space that will keep out the weather.