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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hi!

I'm not a beekeeper, but I thank you all for what you do to protect such an important part of our natural environment.

A bumble bee (I think) has invaded one of my bluebird birdhouses. A bird was in the process of building a nest. I suspect it was a Black-capped Chickadee. I'm not sure if the Chickadee abandoned the nest and then the bee moved in or if the bee might have discouraged the nest building process and scared the Chickadee away.

What should I do? Let the bee live there? Is it good to encourage bees to live on my property? Will there be baby bees? Is this likely a temporary stay or might this become a growing colony that I'm not qualified to handle?

I was looking forward to baby birds, so is it possible that I just assumed the nest was being built by a bird; is it perhaps possible that bees might have been building this nest? The nest is mostly made of green moss and looks like pictures I've seen of Chickadee nests. I do have plenty of Chickadees, along with many other birds, at my bird feeders.
 

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Interesting question, and welcome robrecht!

First things first: this is a honeybee forum, but those of us who keep bees try to know as much about the rest of the interactions with our environment as we can. My first question would be: Are you sure it is a bumblebee? A picture, if you can capture one, would be very helpful.

My $0.02 is that if it is some kind of wasp, hornet, or yellowjacket? Kill it! If it is a bumblebee, carpenter, mason, etc, let it live. Bumbles et al are native whereas honey bees where introduced.

If you are seeing a nest of green moss then it is not bees. Pictures would be helpful.

Ultimately you will have to decide between birds and bees if that is what is happening, and both are fun to have around -- not hornets, wasps, or yellowjackets, those are all &%$#@!

We have half a dozen bird feeders on our property, but no hummingbird feeders because the honeybees would be all over them.

Tell us more! Nature is amazing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks, Joe, for the welcome and info!

Here's a video. It's definitely a bumble bee of some sort. When you say I will ultimately have to decide between the birds and the bees (ha!), I presume you mean just for this particular birdhouse, right? Or will they likely spread to my other birdhouses? Is there perhaps another forum or resource that would be able to give me more information about what, if anything, I should do for 'my' bumble bee? I know they are not practical as a source of honey, but I do like encouraging the native species. I have a semi-wooded yard with lots of nature all around me and am currently in the process of identifying and getting rid of many invasive species of plants in preparation for a Monarch butterfly habitat.
 

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I did mean this one birdhouse, and only this summer. I put up a bat house a few years ago and the wasps took it over. Still no bats, but it's an annual thing for most bee species.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I'm happy to let her (?) stay for the summer. Should I assume it's a she and is nesting and will soon produce baby bumble bees? My neighbor told me he has a bee house of some kind, 'though I don't think he's a beekeeper either.
 

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Most bees are female. Bumbles, masons, wasps --- the ones that overwinter are all female biologically speaking. Most of them nest in the ground, so her creating a nest under the moss seems right.

I do not know of a forum that talks about natives, but there are a lot of folks here know more about the world than I, so stick around. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I wonder if she scared the Chickadee away or if she only would have taken up residence after the Chickadee might have abandoned the nest for some reason. I doubt the little Chickadee would be able to eat a bumble bee, but maybe some of 'my' other birds might go after her.
 

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You obviously are someone who tries to live with nature rather than forcing yourself on nature. That's what we -- beekeepers -- are about.....regardless that European honeybees can be considered invasive. WE did not boat them over, so we proceed.

Anyway, have you looked at mason bee houses or ways to encourage bumblebees? She very well could have chased a chickadee from her home, so maybe you should look into encouraging each to live in an appropriate home. There have been a lot of studies for what everything likes to make a home.

Just want to say: Good on you, providing a home for birds. Next step is to provide a home for all the bees ---- except those doggone wasps, hornets, and yellowjackets....
 

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Put up another birdhouse for your Chickadee, and let the bumbles nest.

The bumbles in my region don't relocate well once the colony has begun to expand. Unlike honeybees, they never swarm, and don't instinctively know how to "relocate". I get called to relocate them frequently, and keep trying different approaches, but in general, I see them lose most of the forager bees, crash in population, and slowly rebuild if sufficient colony resources allow that.

Bumbles maintain a number of size classes among the "worker caste". The forager bees are nearly queen sized, but much smaller "attendant" bees remain in the nest to warm and care for the young. Larvae are laid in a "pollen ball" and are not fed in the same way that honeybees are, but are kept warm to speed development.

In my region, I see "Yellow Faced Bumbles" (Bombus vosnesenkii) in small birdhouses frequently. These are almost always in previous years nests that have not been cleaned out (the bumbles prefer the nest material).
My bumbles have a fairly short flight season, and by midsummer the nests are usually empty. Bumbles raise virgin queens in the final stage, and these disperse for the fall/winter - burrowing into mulch and other protected spaces.

Colonies live a single season and are abandoned. My bumbles do not renest in previous year location, likely due to the build up of insect parasites (which can be substantial in number in the nests).

Most bumble nests are in abandoned mouse/gopher holes or in cavities under downed logs. The bumbles use the "mouse"nesting material to warm and protect their small colonies. Very occassionally, I've been called to house crawl spaces where bumbles have nested in pink fiberglass floor insulation.
 

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We had the exact thing happen several years ago, a Bumblebee Colony occupied one of our 1/2 dozen Bluebird Houses. A rare, but not uncommon occurrence, as 'below ground' is the preference of bumbles.

We are passionate conservationists, so since some bumbles are threatened in some regions and even heading toward extinction in others, we just let them do their thing. It was amazing to have a close up view all summer long as the population ebbed and flowed, until Fall, when all activity stopped. It has not happened since :( We assumed the queen decided on another residence below ground before winter set in.

I should add that our kids first experiences with bees was to be taught how to properly pet bumbles when they were quite young, to which they have since taught our grand kids to do the same :). Even if performed only once in a lifetime it remains something that can stay with folks and shared if/when the opportunity presents. Our kids friends still bring it up all these years later whenever we run into one of them....
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
So new developments on the Birds and the Bees! Shortly after I posted the video above of the Queen Bumbleebee who had invaded the Chickadee nest, it looks like a wren started to remove the green mossy nest material. The Queen and her workers didn't seem too happy about that and seem to have moved on as the wren brought more and more twigs for its nest. See updated video here.

Apparently its not so easy to get those big sticks through the small Bluebird house opening (see here).
 
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