Bumble Bees Life Cycle and Bombus Boxes

A recent video from Saturna Island: showing very many male bumblebees on Tansy Ragwort: www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qa4tU4SCk94 

Here's a sample of a small nest exposed from Youtube: Bombus nest
This is what I get in mine when I use upholsterer's cotton. I think this must be in Europe as it appears to be Bombus lucorum Inside a Bumble Bee Nest

The summer of 2012 had been a busy year for Bombus bees and I was asked to relocate/remove 4 nests which I did successfully. Going on this, I decided to include this bit of correspondence from a contact on my procedure. See below for my method.
 
> Hi Gord,
>
> Question about bumble bees.
> Do you have any advice on best approach for collecting and relocating a
> nest (assuming it can't be left in place).
> My neighbour 2 doors down had a BB nest in her compost and wanted it
> removed. She thought they were honey bees, hence came to my door. I wanted
> to help her remove them but have not researched how to do so yet. There is
> someone in our club that will relocate them for a fee, which is fine and I
> gave her the number.
>
> So, am reading up on it now and thought I'd touch base with you. Similar
> to the previous email thread, if I do end up with BB nests in the future,
> do you want them?
> A.

Hi A,

Essentially, you want to put on a suit with a diving mask or mosquito head-gear which you probably already have from your bee stuff. Otherwise, I do without this stuff if it's an easy nest to grasp but I can't recommend it in case someone gets hurt and then blames me. You want to pry the nest covering material off to expose the main cells, brood chambers and where the queen and workers are located. Now they will all be stirred up and flying about. Wait 5-10 minutes and then have  your box ready to essentially scoop the entire works in to. Once this is done, plug any escape routes and relocate, install and leave locked in place until the following morning early, and unplug your main entry point. The first emerging workers/foragers will ascertain their new location and return promptly, thus starting a new site. This is all done preferrably at night but thus far, I have had to do all mine during the day and have lost some foragers that hadn't returned. If so, you can net these ones flying about as they come back, put in a jar and cool down in the fridge. When groggy, I quickly dump them in all at once in to the nest box. This is providing one has a nest box like my design.
Should your group ever want me to provide a step-by-step procedure on this, I could. I have always wanted to give a talk specifically on
Bombus
bees but have yet to be asked. Everyone wants mason bees or native bees in general. Maybe I should just give talks on this at next year's Seedy Saturday events that I'm invited to.
Cheers,
Gord
 
 
Naturally, the Bombus box comes with the Hutchings Peek-a-Boo covers to inspect your hive or take photography. Remember, these are a hive bee and can sting if disturbed. We recommend doing it at night and putting a cork in the entrance hole before opening the lid. Different species vary in their agressiveness/protectiveness. These are the "queens" of all bee species at pollinating for sure as their hives last for many months and are capable of activity in colder conditions and cold climates.
These bees generate their own internal heat source giving them an advantage over other pollinating bees to keep active in off-weather days.
 
Here's a hive of Bombus bifarius nearcticus that has taken residence in an old bird box.
Various Hutchings Bombus boxes for bumble bees. These come with varying mounting and opening systems. We've also varied the entrance hole position.
Forget those compartmentalised bumble bee boxes you see on the internet, bumble bees don't do this naturally anyways and they deal with any space they can obtain.
 
This box has cotton stuffing in it from an old mattress but what also works well is dry straw, grass and/or leaves. Try getting an old bird's nest and crunch it up and put inside.
 
A used box after the summer is over and all the hive has departed and died. The only survivors are the queens which "hibernate" (state of diapause) over the winter in the ground, usually on the north side of a hill or non-sunny patch of ground.
To clean out used box, scrape all contents out and wash thoroughly. I even leave mine open in the rain to soften up the contents and get rid of any parasites and then scrape again. Then I let dry and put away for next spring 
Have up by end of January, filled with new nest material inside, as the first queens start taking a look around then. Put your box in a shady spot and the north side of a building can be quite productive. Put the Bombus box near the "edge" of a location such as beside a bush growing up a wall, or close to the bottom of the building or top of the building wall under the eave. Putting it clearly in the middle of an open wall usually is not attractive to bumble bee queens but even then, I've had some get established. It's not easy to just capture a queen bumble bee and "force" her to take up residence in one of your boxes so try and encourage them with a suitable location. Although, I've heard of folks finding a pre-established bumble bee hive and essentially taking out much of the contents and the queen/worker bees, and transferring to your own nest box but you risk losing the entire hive so I don't recommend doing this.
Queens come out for a flight during a stretch of nice days sometimes as early as January in the southern Vancouver Island area. 2012 had the first queens out in early February after a mild winter. Should be a good year for bumble bees in our area.
 
With a static buildup of energy in the bee body, the fact that they have profuse amounts of plumose  hair, and work longer hours and in colder temperatures, the hiving native bumble bees are excellent pollinators.

Make sure to check out this informative and simple video on Youtube to learn about the lifecycle of the Bombus http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J1lPHie8GLo
One of the slides from my Powerpoint presentation on Bumble bees of B.C. and Yukon showing the basic lifecycle of the bumble bees. I have a separate slide showing what happens at the end of the expanding hive which is in order: production of males and queens, mating (hopefully with other nests mates), and foraging. Then overwinter/hibernation begins. I have several photos to illustrate the above sequences which I can't include all here.

The reproductive competition between workers and the queen is one reason that bumblebees are considered "primitively eusocial. Honey bees for example, do not exhibit this behaviour and are the highest eusocial bee, except for competition between any offspring that have been allowed to develop into viable queens. Worker bumble bees can perhaps lay their own eggs at times but since they are not fertilised (haploid), they only develop into males. Females (diploid) require fertilisation.
 
Bombus Species of British Columbia
Bombus nevadensis                          Bombus occidentalis            
Bombus appositus                            Bombus centralis                         
Bombus (Psithyrus) ashtoni               Bombus flavifrons
Bombus (Psithyrus) fernaldae            Bombus frigidus
Bombus (Psithyrus) insularis             Bombus huntii
Bombus (Psithyrus) suckleyi             Bombus jonellus
Bombus californicus                         Bombus melanopygus
Bombus rufocinctus                         Bombus mixtus
Bombus griseocollis                         Bombus sitkensis
Bombus morrisoni                            Bombus sylvicola
Bombus balteatus                            Bombus ternarius
Bombus neoboreus                          Bombus vagans
Bombus polaris                                Bombus vosnesenskii
Bombus lucorum
Bombus bifarius
 
Recently a photography friend, Paul Austin, sent me these photos. Here they are.
This looks like B. melanopygus to me. In some species of bumble bees, they can leave scent markers at flowers which act as a deterrent to other bees from visiting this particular flower.
 
Possibly B. mixtus? Bumble bees are capable of buzz pollination whereby they vibrate their thoracic muscle to "shake" the flowers (anther) to release its pollen. Pollen is groomed into the bee's hind leg storage compartment - the corbicula, and brought back to the nest. Some bees have an electrostatic charge built up on their bodies caused from their flight and this can attract pollen grains to their hair (pile) acting like little magnets that have pollen stuck to them. When they visit the next flower, the grounded part of the flower (stigma) can have pollen transfer to it causing pollination.


What about spread of pathogens from domestic commercialised bumble bees affecting wild bumble bees?
In the greenhouse industry where commercial bumble bees are used, escapes are almost inevitable and these bees are passing on diseases to the nearby wild species of bumble bees. Nosema and Crithidia are problems with many of these bees.
Full paper here: "Plight of the bumble bee: Pathogen spillover from commercial to wild populations".

I find it very interesting that Sheila's paper has Alexandra Morton's 2004 sea lice paper in the bibliography:
Morton, A., Routledge, R., Peet, C., Ladwig, A., 2004. Sea lice (Lepeophtheirus salmonis) infection rates on juvenile pink (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha) and chum (Oncorhynchus keta) salmon in the nearshore marine environment of British Columbia, Canada. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 61, 147–157. If you aren't aware of the situation about our wild salmon in BC waters, and what salmon farms are doing to them, well, you should be. Salmon Confidential—How a Canadian Government Cover-Up Threatens Your Health, and the Entire Ecosystem
 

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