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Searching for bumblebee nests

Updated: May 8, 2023

By Pamela Sleightholm


Ontario is home to a diversity of bumblebee species, known for their important roles as pollinators. These fuzzy insects live in colonies, with the queen bee responsible for establishing a nest and laying the eggs that will grow into worker bees.


Did you know . . .

• Bumblebee nesting season starts in spring and ends in autumn, only queens survive over winter - they hibernate in the soil.

• Bumblebees are not aggressive, only females can sting (and only do so if they feel threatened).

Bumble bee life cycle. Image: Jeremy Hemberger, Tufts University Pollinator Initiative


Bumblebee nests can be found in a variety of locations, including underground burrows, abandoned rodent holes, or even above ground in dense vegetation. The nests are constructed from a mixture of wax and plant fibers, providing a safe and warm environment for the developing eggs and larvae.

Photo: Phelyan Sanjoin, CC, Wikimedia Commons


Researchers at York University are looking for help in finding bumblebee nests to learn more about the nests and how we can provide habitat for the species. If you find a nest, you can submit that information (location, photograph, video) to the researchers at https://www.savethebumblebees.ca/citizen-science/.


Bumblebee colonies only last for a single season, with the queen hibernating over winter and emerging in the spring to establish a new nest.


In addition to submitting observations, you can plant native wildflowers, never use pesticides, and provide nesting sites such as small brush piles or nest boxes. These efforts can go a long way!


Freshly emerged from hibernation, a hungry queen bumblebee forages on the abundant high protein pollen of a native willow. Photo: Petter Ulleland, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons


Resources

“I’ve found a bumblebee nest!”Read our bumblebee nest FAQs…Bumblebee Conservation Trust https://www.bumblebeeconservation.org/bee-faqs/bumblebee-nests-frequently-asked-questions/


Ground Nesting and Cavity Nesting Bee Posters: Pollination Press, LLC


Habitat Network website, Cornell University and The Nature Conservancy

Information on how to provide fallen log habitat, remove lawn, and more.


Gardening and Landscaping Practices for Nesting Native Bees

Utah State University Extension

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