bumble bees in bird house

Asked July 6, 2020, 4:39 PM EDT

Hi, I have some bumble bees, looks most like American, Black and Gold, or Yellow-Banded on the UM Bumble Bee Info Guide, nesting in a bird box in my flower garden. My research says they tend not to be aggressive, although while trying to get close enough for ID, one started guarding the nest, flying in concentric circles until I backed off. My research says it is best to leave them if I can, but want to double check on our safety near them and if I can keep the bluebird house for next year. Honey bees apparently deposit too much bee and honey scent and the box is best destroyed after they are gone; is this also true with bumble bees? I live in a suburb: this box is 10 feet from the street, 3 feet from my neighbor's driveway, and inches from the garden path. My yard is bee friendly, so of course they like it here. I appreciate pollinators, but want to make sure we are all safe. Thank you for your time. Cheryl Smith

Hennepin County Minnesota

1 Response

I asked the entomologist about your question and this is his response.

Bumble bees are gentle and as long as people keep their distance, bumble bees will ignore them and the chance of stings is very small. However, the risk is not zero. I do know people that have bumble bee nests in their yard and never gotten stung.

Bird nests are typically cleaned out between years as a standard practice. This should be all that is needed for the bumble bee nest so the nest can be used by birds next year. They should wait until after two hard frosts before cleaning it to ensure there are no live bumble bees remaining.