Bumblebee Questions & Answers:

 Please click on the relevant question below for the answer:

 

 

 

(Q) What bumblebee species does a Beepol nest contain?

(A) Beepol hives contain a nest of Buff-tailed bumblebees, Bombus terrestris audax. This is Britain’s native species of Buff-tailed bumblebee.

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Q) When is the best time of year to order a Beepol hive?

A) Beepol hives are available between May and July, although this could change from year to year if weather conditions are not suitable (for example; a particularly cold start to May, could delay the start of deliveries). This is the optimal period for their use and enjoyment within a garden environment. However, we can still provide hives for heated greenhouses all year round although supplementary pollen and sugar solution may be required to feed the bumblebees.

Beepol Villas and Queen Beehives containing a voucher for a hive and vouchers for Beepol hives without the  Villa or Queen Beehive are available all year round and make excellent gifts for birthdays, Christmas and other occasions.

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(Q) Should I expect any problems with a Beepol hive?

(A) A Beepol hive should continue to develop for many weeks without any problems. However, we need to be aware that, just like the wild colonies, a Beepol colony is not invincible and could be affected by a number of different factors:

Environment: Nests that have been sited in an exposed position can become damaged by rain, excessive heat and wind. It is always advisable to find a sheltered spot to position a bumblebee nest.

In consistantly high temperatures, the Queen may stop laying, to conserve energy which may trigger the end of the colony.

Loss of the queen bumblebee: If the queen bumblebee dies or leaves a nest then the nest may soon die. Under some conditions worker bees will continue maintaining the nest and new queens may emerge. However, queen-less nests will not survive as long as those with an active egg-laying queen.

Lack of food: If bumblebees cannot find enough pollen and nectar rich flowers to sustain their nest then the nest will begin to die. Bumblebees do not store large amounts of reserve food in the same way that honeybees do. However, Beepol hives do contain a reservoir of sugar water and a limited amount of pollen to feed the bees whilst they are in transit from the production site to the customer. Once released, the worker bees will travel relatively long distances to forage for food that they bring back to the hive.

Predators: A number of different predators could attack and destroy a bumblebee nest so it is important to try and position a Beepol hive where the possibility of attack is minimal. Predators of the nest include foxes, badgers, hedgehogs, ants, shrews, mice and rats, whilst foraging bees can be attacked by spiders, birds and occasionally wasps.

Parasites: Parasites that can either infest a bumble nest or individual bumblebees include wax moths, cuckoo bees, mites, parasitic flies, wasps & nematodes. Large numbers of parasites can soon weaken a bumblebee colony resulting in its death. Although it is not possible to effectively prevent parasites from entering a hive, the design of a Beepol hives  does reduce this problem by allowing the bees to position guards in the entrance and exit holes. 

Disease: Bumblebees can succumb to a disease from bacterial, fungal or viral sources in the same way that most other living organisms can.

Insecticides: Bumblebees are susceptible to a number of different insecticides, either through direct contact or by collecting pollen from plants that have been treated with systemic products.

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(Q) When will a Beepol hive naturally come to the end of its life?

(A) In the wild, when a queen bumblebee selects a site for her nest, the lifespan of her nest will depend on the size of the site. If she selects a vacant mouse hole or an old blue-tit box then only a relatively small nest will develop before the space within is filled with developing larvae and brood cells. At or near capacity, the queen will produce the new queens and the males which will vacate the hive. The old queen and the remaining workers will then die and the nest will become empty. Beepol hives have a limited amount of space which will be filled as the colony within grows. The rate at which it grows depends on the flow of food (nectar and pollen) and the temperature. The more food the hive receives and the warmer the environment (within limits), the quicker the colony will grow. Beepol colonies on average can be expected to be active for 2-3 months.

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(Q) My bumblebees have blocked up their exit hole and are trapped in the hive, can I help to release them?

(A) Occasionally, the bees within a Beepol hive might start to build an egg chamber directly under the entrance hole in the hive lid and therefore block the movement of worker bees in and out of the hive. The bees will more than likely realise their mistake and re-open the hole themselves. If this doesn’t happen within a day or so, then the blockage can be cleared by gently pushing a suitably sized garden cane down through the entrance hole. Only attempt this if you feel confident and are not allergic to bee stings as this process is likely to aggravate the bees within the hive. Otherwise, it would be advisable to seek help from a local beekeeper or contact Dragonfli for further advice if need be.

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(Q) My Beepol hive has become less active and there appears to be white / grey webbing over the brood cells, what can I do?

(A) Bumblebee and honeybee nests can occasionally become infested by wax moth larvae that feed on the wax and leave trails of silk webbing.

   
                 Wax Moth webbing within a Bumblebee nest                                            
 
       Wax Moth larva within the bumblebee nest

Once a nest has become infested there is little that can be done to eradicate the problem. In many cases the number of wax moth larvae are low and the bee colony continues to survive. However, where wax moth infestations are high the bee colony will often die.

Nests that become infested with wax moths should be suitably disposed of to avoid re-infestations to new nests. The bacterial toxin Bacillus thuringiensis has already been used to control wax moth in honeybee hives although Dragonfli have been unable to show any significant effects within infested bumblebee nests.  

 

In June 2015, Dragonfli were able to announce that trials for B401, an anti- wax moth concentrate, had proved successful in the treatment of wax moth larvae. All hive boxes are now treated with B401 before they are dispatched to the customer. B401 is available to buy from Dragonfli, for customers to treat the Villas or Queen Beehives too, before the bees arrive

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(Q) Can I remove the lid of my Beepol hive and allow the nest to expand into the roof of my Beepol Villa or Queen Beehive

(A) Although we do not recommend this, a number of Beepol owners have undertaken this action by lifting up the top panel of the hive box.

Beepol hive open and the nest extended

The risk of being stung whilst attempting this is high and therefore appropriate precautions need to be taken if someone decides that they are going to do this. People who suffer allergic reactions to bee stings should never attempt this action or stand close to a hive whilst the lid is being removed. 

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(Q) How should I clean out my Beepol Villa /Queen Beehive when the colony within has come to the end of its life?

(A) Remove the old hive from the Villa/ Queen Beehive  and scrape out any remaining wax from the sides. 

A sponge, dampened with warm water, can then be used to remove any further material.

Our Ecofective Bug Killer spray can also be used to clean the wood . This kills off any wax moth larvae or other insects that may have got in to the hive. Antibacterial spray can also be used.

To make sure no wax moth eggs or pupae are in the hive, use a wire brush to clear out. The pupae can be quite difficult to dislodge so be thorough with the cleaning.

 

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