Should I get rid of bumble bee nest? How?

thefamilygardenerJuly 19, 2009

FYI, I have also posted this on the Bee forum, but I'm interested in the organic gardener's perspective.

We have a troublesome bumble bee nest in the ground in our front lawn just next to our 50' perennial border. My husband mows the lawn - that's how we found the bees. He mowed right over their home and them came out and attacked him (no surprise). He was only stung once, but we still need to mow. He is currently mowing around the nest and trimming the grass near the nest by hand. We have two allergic children and a very happy-go-lucky dog who all play in the front yard.

How beneficial are these bees? (I think that they are common eastern bumble bees, but I'm a novice at identifying.) They do not seem very aggressive, but will they become more of a problem as the summer progresses? Would you get rid of the nest? What is the best way?

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ericwi

I would continue to mow around the nest, and I would put up a small flag to highlight the location, if that was necessary. We grow blueberries, raspberries, and also have a vegetable garden. Every spring I see bumblebees in the blueberry flowers, so I consider them to be an essential part of the landscape. Our bumblebees do not seem to be aggressive toward people or dogs. I will often find them in the raspberry patch while I am in there poking around looking for ripe raspberries. This has been going on for 10 years, and I have never been stung. There are several different species of bumblebee, and I can't say for sure that all of them are docile. There are very likely other bumblebee nests in your area, so the local population will manage to survive if you decide to eliminate this particular nest. You can help them to thrive by avoiding pesticides, including herbicides on the lawn. We also have fireflies every summer, and I think this is partly because our yard is free of toxins.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2009 at 1:07PM
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organicguy(7)

The attacked your husband! You have an allergic child and your dog is in harms way! I would mix up a pail full of Rotonone double the recommended strength and pour it directly into the nest at night. You may need to do it a couple of times. If that doesn't do the job, I would say that this is an exception to the rule, and I would have no problem using a commercial bee & wasp killer. I am sure the "purists" and "fanatics" may have a problem with this, but if your saftey in on the line and organic controls don't work, your family comes first.

Ron
"The garden Guy"
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    Bookmark   July 19, 2009 at 1:11PM
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organicguy(7)

ericwi,
When my brother was a kid he stepped on a bumble bee's nest, was attacked and was almost killed. When their nest is even slightly disturbed they can be very, very aggressive. You can mark it all you want, but that is not going to keep the god or the kids away. I would opt on the side of safety and destroy the nest.

Ron
"The garden Guy"
** See Below
Informative articles, ongoing garden journal and
interactive message boards.

Here is a link that might be useful: The Garden Guy Website & Blog

    Bookmark   July 19, 2009 at 1:18PM
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gardengal48

While they may be helpful pollinators, I agree with organicguy that the safety of your family and pets comes first. Since the nest is located in an area that gets a lot of activity, it needs to be removed/destroyed. Often just flooding a ground-based nest with water is sufficient to encourage the bees to move on -- most ground dwelling bees 'borrow' or appropriate burrows of other creatures to construct their nests and will relocate at will. I would attempt this method first before resorting to any kind of chemical control. Be careful!! Approach only late in the day, just at twilight when the bees congregate at the nest for the night. Place the hose carefully and then stay well away while the flooding occurs. It may take a couple of tries before they give up and move on.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2009 at 3:26PM
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Kimmsr(4a/5b-MI)

First you need to be sure that what you have is a nest of bumblebees and not a nest of the wasps known as Yellow Jackets. While bumblebees will sting, they also will die after they sting so they do not do that unless very necessary, and the nest they do build will have a fairly small population. I have been stung by bumblebees on very rare occassions and not ever in the garden, but more often I have had unpleasant encounters with the Yellow Jackets and the behavior you describe sounds more like Yellow Jackets than bumblebees.
Flooding the ground around the nest is generally a waste of time, energy, and water since these wee buggers have not survived for eons without learning how to keep the nest they build dry. Trying to pour an insecticide into the nest is also a waste of time, energy, and money since that pesticide would need to be a liquid and that liquid would tend to flow straight down, not into the nest.
However some powder Rotenone could be poured around the nests entry/exit point and as the insect comes down to enter the nest it will pick up some of that pesticide and track it down into the nest where it will reach the queen and all the workers in the nest as well as the pupae and kill all of them off, eventually.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2009 at 7:07AM
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ericwi

Perhaps I misread your original post. You mention that your children have allergies, but not any specific allergic reaction to bee stings. I have allergies too, but not to bee stings. With regard to the variety or species of bee, yellow jackets will follow you around the yard if you have an open container of something sweet, and if you set down a can of sods, they will land on the rim and feed. Yellow jackets can be aggressive. We had a nest of these years ago, which I was able to eliminate with a water hose. I'm not sure if they drowned, or simply flew off to another location. With regard to bumblebees, we might have 50 in our yard on a sunny afternoon. Many will be in the raspberry patch, but they like the milkweed blossoms as well. They do not attack me, even when I am picking raspberries 6 inches away. Our dog lived to be 16 years old, without being stung, to my knowledge. Bumblebees are interested in flowering plants, not people. They are easy to get along with.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2009 at 9:52AM
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ceresone(missouri ozarks)

I agree with kimmsr, they sound more like Yellow Jackets--a striped yellow and black bee.
My Bumblebees are very non-agressive, they can be moved from plant to plant without agression, plus in this area, at least, Yellow Jackets nest in the ground, Bumblebees in holes, old birdhouses, etc.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2009 at 10:19AM
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dan_staley(5b/SS 2b AHS 6-7)

Sounds like bumblebees from here by the given description. There is no reason to kill a pollinator in these times.

I agree with gardengal that a hose will convince them to find a more optimal location for everyone - do it when the sun is low and the hole is in shadow and turn on the water after you walk away (you don't want it too late in the day for them to get confused and be vulnerable to predation). Every day at this time for 4-5 days will have them leaving. No need to blast full pressure.

Dan

    Bookmark   July 20, 2009 at 11:24AM
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thefamilygardener

They are definitely bumble bees. I'm just not completely sure what type. For a while, I thought they were Golden Northern Bumble Bee. Now that I've been watching them for a few days, I think they are Common Eastern Bumble Bees. We've had yellowjacket nests in the past and don't mess around with them. They almost had my husband in the hospital. When he accidentally disturbed their nest, the YJs chased him down the street and stung him 14 times. He was on Benadryl for 2 weeks following.

These fellas are about 12 mm long and kind of chubby looking. They have a large furry black head, a yellow furry thorax with a big black spot on the top, and a black furry abdomen. They have two rather see through black wings which the fold overlapping on their back when they are mumbling around on my flowers. They also have black legs on which you can see big sacks of pollen when they are returning to the nest. And, as I said, they are really quite docile. The only time we upset them was when my husband pushed the lawnmower right over the top of their nest. Other than that, you can sit on the ground right next to them and watch them go in and out for hours and they won't bother you a bit. But at this point we are VERY CAREFUL not to tromp on their entrance holes and I won't let the children play anywhere near the nest. (The dog is, of course, more difficult to control - the big goofball.) What I keep wishing for is a nice hungry skunk.

The children are generally allergic (cats, dogs, rabbits, pollen, nuts, milk, wheat, etc.), but neither has ever been stung. Unfortunately, we didn't have them tested for bee sting allergies when we had them tested. So at this point, it's an unknown. We do have epi-pens which I carry around for "just in case."

About the Rotenone . . . I read online that it is not toxic to bees except in combination with pyrethrum. Here is the link:

http://extoxnet.orst.edu/pips/rotenone.htm

The Rotenone/Pyrethrins mixture that Bonide sells is a liquid spray. If someone pours this liquid down their hole at night, won't that cause them to come out in attack mode? I think I'm just a little confused as to logistics. I think I'll try the water/hose method first. It would be optimal to just convince them to move house.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2009 at 6:00PM
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thefamilygardener

THANKS to everyone who offered advice. After four days of watering the bumble bee nest all night with a steady slow soak, my bees have been evicted! There has been no activity at the nest for two days. You all are the best.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2009 at 12:13PM
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miriamevans17_hotmail_co_uk

I have a bumble bees nest in the soffit of my bungalow. How can I get rid of them and it

    Bookmark   June 1, 2011 at 2:26PM
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Kimmsr(4a/5b-MI)

Call your local health department and they should be able to tell you about a bee keeper that would come out and capture that hive.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2011 at 6:49AM
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annpatt

Your fire department may advise you.

kim, bumblebees can sting as often as they like. They do not die when they sting. That's honeybees.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2011 at 8:52AM
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birdwingart_aol_com

I have just identified the bees on my farmette as common eastern bumble bees. They are aggressive, will zoom at people who are up to 15 ft. away and killed one of my cats. I do not know where their nest is and have never encountered aggressive bees on my property before this. I live in southern Pa.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2011 at 9:55AM
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cooperlee(5)

I just discovered a bumblebee nest near my perennial border. They did not bother me while I was weeding but since I have had issues with yellow jackets , I would prefer to have them move. I watched about a dozen fly in and out of this hole in the ground. I don't have a water hook up close by. Will they move on next year if I just let them be?? If I can run a hose out there how long show I let it run?? Someone suggested that I just cover up the hole to make it inconvenient for them. Any help is appreciated. I know we need our pollinators.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2013 at 8:43PM
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cooperlee(5)

I am on a well so water usage would be an issue if I had to let it run all night.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2013 at 8:47PM
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