other pollinators

Bumble bees hibernate, honey bees do not

Photo of bumble bee on pink flower.Bumble bees hibernate but honey bees do not.

Mated bumble bee queens hibernate over winter to begin a new colony in spring. Honey bees do not hibernate but maintain an active colony all winter long.

Although honey bees and bumble bees are very closely related, their winter behaviors are very different.

A colony of honey bees will live throughout the entire winter, actively keeping the nest warm and safe. Although a winter colony is much smaller than a summer colony, it will nevertheless contain thousands of individuals. They eat and work all winter long—activity that requires a large cache of stored food.

Queen bumble bees hibernate underground

Bumble bees do not maintain colonies throughout the winter. Instead, the last brood of the summer colony will contain a number of queens. Each of these queens will mate and then find a safe nesting place in which to spend the winter. This is usually just a small hole in the ground or another protected spot just big enough for her. Only the queen bumble bees hibernate until spring. The rest of the colony dies.

While the bumble bee queen hibernates she is neither eating nor working. Her depressed rate of metabolism allows her to live for long periods while burning very little fuel.

The queen selects a nest in spring

In the spring, she must work hard. She begins by finding a suitable nesting spot, often an abandoned mouse nest or similar hole. Next, she builds a “honey pot” from wax and will use it to hold a small store of honey. She will also collect pollen, and make a pile of pollen mixed with honey called “bee bread.”

Here is where it gets weird. Much like a chicken, the queen bumble bee will lay her eggs on the pollen and then sit on them to keep them warm. During the development of the young bumble bees, the queen will eat the honey she stored in her pot.

New bumble bee workers take over the chores

The first batch of young bees will be mostly workers—bees who can take over the household chores and forage while the queen continues to lay eggs. Later in the season, she will lay some eggs that become queens and drones. These bees will be the ones that are responsible for the next generation.

This life cycle is found in bumble bees throughout the temperate regions of the world. Some tropical bumble bees may have small colonies that survive for several years since there is no need to hibernate.

Not sure if you are seeing a honey bee or a bumble bee? This comparison may help!

Honey Bee Suite

Bumble bee on clover. Photo by the author.







    • Emily,

      Only the queen bumble bee hibernates over winter and she does it in a small nest in the ground, often in a hole made by a mouse or vole. In the early spring, she begins to lay eggs in there and starts a family of many (female) worker bees and a few (male) drones.

  • I’m here in Chignik, Alaska and we have bumble bees buzzing around, and I had to find out if they hibernated, they would have to here, the winter is long and brutal. Thanks for the info

  • I’ve found 4 large queen bumblebees on my bedroom window sill, obviously have come out of hibernation early due to the mild spell and probably been feeding on my winter flowering honeysuckle. It’s now freezing outside… I’d hate them to die….what is the best thing to do? At the moment I have them in a large jar with some sprigs of the honeysuckle in it, in a cool place in my house.

    • Linda,

      This is so, so sad. The problem is these queen bumble bees need to forage, build nests, and start to raise brood. But the warm weather brought them out when there is little food available—not much pollen or nectar—and while there is still the danger of freezing. Once out of hibernation there is very little chance of them surviving under these conditions.

      Bumble bees are unique in that they have internal thermoregulation that allows them to forage in very cold temperatures. But still, if it is too early for the bulk of the flowers, they will die.

      You can probably keep them alive for a few days, but they are wild animals that need to do what nature intended. Without that chance they will probably succumb.

      I’m glad you wrote about this; people need to know what is happening to the environment worldwide. I’ve heard more “warm weather” stories this year than ever before.

      • I know! 🙁 I’ve had to make the hard decision to give them a chance to return to the wild…..obviously living indoors in a jar is no answer and if they lived on and laid eggs I’d have worker bumblebees everywhere in my house lol!

        I’ve found a very big plastic container and lined it with polystyrene and shredded paper, and put the jar inside with the opening facing inside. Put some dry soil and leaves in there plus a sponge soaked in 50/50 sugar/water mix and more sprigs of the honeysuckle. It’s in a very sheltered spot on my garden under the winter flowering honeysuckle and covered with cardboard and more dry soil. My theory being they may be able to find their way back to where they came from, but if not, at least they will have some protection to at least give them a chance. I’m still hoping I may see some offspring later in the year.

        • Linda,

          I’m impressed. That’s about the most someone could do to give them a fighting chance. You obviously know a lot about bumble bees. Best of luck and please let me know what happens.

          • I don’t! I just googled to try to find out what the best thing was that I could do . . .it said they usually use holes left by mice etc. and the sugar water mix was the nearest thing to their natural food, so I just tried to simulate that and add a bit more insulation as the weather has suddenly turned extremely cold. (I’m in Southern UK BTW.)

            Once the cold spell is over, they will have plenty of food from that bush . . . it swarms with bees and birds from Feb onwards; it’s joy to see them enjoying it so much . . . Maybe I should have put a coloured mark on “my” bumblebees to see if they make it!

            I’ll be checking their hideaway though so will let you know if they stay or go.

            Thanks for your support!

            • Linda,

              I knew you were in the UK based on your ip address, but I didn’t know which part. Everything you read about bumbles is correct. I’m glad to hear your spring starts early (at least by my standards). That means if you can get them through the cold snap, they have a fighting chance.

              On behalf of the bees, thank you so much for making this effort! We need more of you.

          • I’m from Devon, England and its 6 weeks before Christmas and had a huge bumble bee on a couple of shrubs still flowering in my garden.

          • I have noticed the insulation in my garage all piled up and I am seeing what I believe to be bumble bees crawling around near it. Would they have made a nest in wall insulation? Well, I am not messing with it.

    • Don’t put any type of bee in a jar. They will die for sure. Best thing is to leave them alone. Billions of bees over millions of years have survived the winters. I know your post is very old but I just had to answer!

    • I rescued a queen bumble bee from a pool of water. It was getting cold out so I fed her some sugar water and let her sleep in a shoe box in a cool room. I took her back to the spot where I found her but she didn’t fly off. She had gotten wet in the sugar water. So I brought her home again tonight. She eats the sugar water and I’m learning how to do so with out her crawling through the tiny bowl. She’s in her shoe box again tonight. I’m amazed that she’s still alive. After reading this I understand that she may have been on her way to a spot to hibernate. Is it possible for me to help her make a spot? I’m crafty enough to do the job but would love someone else’s input on this. We named her Frances ?

      I would appreciate any help, even on feeding tips. I only have a day or two of 50° temps here. Thank you

  • Thank-you Rusty!

    I’d read a few years ago that bumble bees are rapidly falling in numbers, so I was very surprised to find 4 of them all at the same time, so had to try to do something.

    I’m now thinking that the mass of small bees (they are shaped and coloured like bumble bees but much smaller . . . also make a lot of noise!) on my bush in the spring are the worker females, would that be right? I’m normally wary of wasps and bees if they fly at me as I’m hypersensitive to wasp stings, but these little ones took absolutely no notice of me when I was in the garden right next to them pegging out the washing!

    I reckon they have a nest nearby due to the early spring food source, now I think about it I have noticed an odd bumble bee hovering around there on the milder days in winter.

    In case anyone else is interested this is the bush I have:

    Now just need to keep my fingers crossed for them!

    • Linda, if they look like bumble bees they probably are. The queens are much larger than the workers and I have read that there can be a great variability in bumble bee size, even from the same nest.

  • Rusty, and Linda – what a fascinating story. Any chance of pictures? I’d like to know how to recognize a bumble bee queen.

    Also, about your winter-flowering honeysuckle – do you know the species name? And Rusty, any thoughts about whether it would be a good idea to plant one here? My thought was that if it is warm enough for them to fly out, I could have something blooming near the hives. But we have roadsides covered with Amur honeysuckle and it is definitely crowding out native growth, and we do not need any more invasive species.

    My bees have been out and about in our warm spell, which is ending today. At least it is raining, so they won’t be caught away from the hive. My greatest fear was that the water maples would start blooming, and they would start harvesting, and either be caught out when it turns cold, or bring in nectar that they’d be unable to condense when they went back into cluster.

    It is going from near 70, down to 30 by night. And luckily, the maple buds are still tight. Best of luck to your bumble bees: they are among my valued pollinators, for tomato and eggplant.

  • Thanks Nancy!

    The queens just look like bumble bees but are much bigger and chunkier’ my ladies were all a good one and a half inches long. Not sure how I first thought they would be queens but when I checked out the life-cycle I read that only the queens over winter so that confirmed it.

    There is some blurb about the bush on the link. Left to grow wild, it can be a pain, but I cut mine right back in the spring after it’s flowered and it’s stayed manageable. I get a lot of tits nesting in it too, as the branches grow quite intertwined and they seem to love the nectar or sap from the flowers . . . they spend a lot of time looking as if they are running their beaks up and down the stems anyway!

    It’s very easy to propagate. A friend of mine gave me a stem which he just stuck in a pot and it rooted quickly, but it was about 4 years before it started flowering. The flowers come out before the leaves and the scent is amazing! Mine has been flowering now since just after Christmas . . . that’s about a month earlier than usual.

    I had a quick peek in my “bumblebee house” today, couldn’t see them so they may have gone home, but it was very cold last night so they may have buried themselves at the back in the soil . . . I wasn’t going to risk disturbing them, so will just wait and see.

  • Just want to know what to do with a bumble bee that we found on our hearth, looks like she’s come from out of the chimney we guess, we know she should be in full hibernation, in a jar at mo with lid with holes in, and paper, shes resting on that, but not practical, was going to put her in a nest box in garden thats got a nest in for her to hide in, but not sure, we love all wildlife so want to do the right thing, any suggestions please.

    • Sharon,

      Another reader had four bumble bees arrive on her porch and this is what she did:

      “I’ve found a very big plastic container and lined it with polystyrene and shredded paper, and put the jar inside with the opening facing inside. Put some dry soil and leaves in there plus a sponge soaked in 50/50 sugar/water mix and more sprigs of the honeysuckle. It’s in a very sheltered spot on my garden under the winter flowering honeysuckle and covered with cardboard and more dry soil. My theory being they may be able to find their way back to where they came from, but if not, at least they will have some protection to at least give them a chance. I’m still hoping I may see some offspring later in the year.”

      I would do something along that line. Put some nesting material in the jar and bury it sideways in the soil and cover with leaf litter. Leave a small entrance tunnel and perhaps a little sugar water. It’s hard to know what to do when they come out of hibernation early.

  • Hey there,

    Seattle Wa, here. I have noticed that when I bring wood in for my fireplace that an odd bee or two will wake up from hibernation. Does that make these queen bees? Is there any saving them at this point?


    • Hi Jeff,

      It depends on what kind of bee it is. In bumble bees, only the queen overwinters. But in many other species of native bees both the males and the females overwinter in the pupa or adult stage. In most cases, the males emerge first and hang around waiting for the females so they can mate. When bees emerge early there is little to be done for them. There is probably insufficient pollen and nectar for them and, even under the best of circumstances, the average active life span is only a few weeks.

      Once they leave their burrows, they don’t go back in; and even if they did, there is no food for them in there. Unusually warm weather in late winter is hard on the wild bees.

    • Terry,

      Honey bees are the major producers of honey. There are several different species of honey bee in different parts of the world, and they all make honey. Bumble bees actually make a little honey, but a very tiny amount, just enough for the baby bees. In tropical areas, stingless bees also make honey.

      If you are referring to a bumble nest, it probably will not be in the same place next year. If you are referring to feral honey bees, the nest might be in the same place the next year.

  • Just a quick up-date, as you asked me to let you know…..we’ve just had 3 milder, sunnier days and today my bush is swarming with little bumble bees! So even if they are not from my “ladies” I rescued….the bumble bees live on in my garden! 🙂

  • I am in Livingston, MT and swear I have not yet seen one bee of any sort! ?!?!?!?! I am missing them…and so troubled in their absence this year… ???

  • Hi Rusty. It is a nice article you put on your HP, just write what you know, not what you think you know. Her honey storage is not made from wax; it looks brown like a small potato and tears like paper. Her larva hatches in that small honey filled paper ball. As a child I stoll their nest ball 🙁

    Best regards,

  • Did you know that a drone has no father? There isn’t one in the colony. Only the mother of the bees and drones are there. It not only sounds strange, but it is a true fact that a male bee has no father. He has only a grandfather. But don’t get this wrong. It’s not the way you may think. Nature has many surprises. This is one of them.

    The queen collects the sperm in her body. It’s her option to choose which egg gets fertilized. The queen bee lays and fertilizes all female eggs. Male eggs don’t get fertilized by her.

    All female honeybees have stingers just for fending off intruders. Male bees (drones) have no stinger. The queen uses her stinger only to fight a rival queen to death. If you are holding a queen loosely in your fist she will not sting your hand, but honeybees will sting you.

    Bees are not complicated, but have more unimaginable surprises,

    Best regards,
    George J Gruen

  • I have a bee’s nest in my loft. The hole where they come in and out is at the back of the house. The house is having work done on it and is empty apart from the builders in the day. The hole is roof height, so not sure which bee this is. Can someone please advise on what action needs to be taken?

    I am in the UK . . .Derbyshire

    • Shaun,

      The very first thing you have to do is figure out what it is. It could be a bee; it could be a wasp. Get a net and catch one, then show it to a beekeeper or send me a photo. There is no best way to handle it unless you know what it is.

  • What is it with bees? They sting and are all over my garden—big bumble bees. I can’t park properly cos of them?

    • Lee,

      Maybe your inability to park properly has nothing to do with bees. Just saying. At any rate, bees are what make your garden work. Gardens without bees do not prosper. By they way, did they really sting you? Or are just afraid they might?

  • Rusty

    We have a large bee’s nest in a bush in our back yard the size of a very large football that small children and pets play around and we need to know how to get rid of it before someone gets hurt.

    • Beverly,

      Based on your brief description, it sounds like wasps, not bees. The first thing to do is identify for sure what it is.

  • Hi.

    For the second year running when digging up a very late patch of veg (mostly potato both years) I have found at least 4 – 5 very large bees. They are all curled up and when disturbed in the soil they begin buzzing and don’t look very happy. (I have tried to recover them.) I managed to get a good look at one and can only describe it as a larger than a regular bee about an inch or so, with quite a fat bottom which was pulsating?

    Can anyone advise me what they are, why they are there and what is best to do?


    • Kelly,

      You don’t say where you are writing from, so I can’t narrow things down (Although, I would guess Great Britain, based on English.) Anyway, just for starters, there are about 20,000 species of bee worldwide, so it’s hard to know which is the “regular” one.

      I can tell you that of those 20,000 species, at least 70% of them live underground. When you dug them up, they were probably in a resting or hibernating phase preparing for emergence next spring. Many hibernate as pupae, but some as adults. They “don’t look very happy” because they probably cannot survive being dug up at this time of year.

      There are also many wasps that live in a similar fashion, and look very much the same as bees, and they don’t fall in the same group with the 20,000 bee species. In fact, I recall there are about 100,000 wasp species. Because of the vast numbers, I can’t even guess what you might have.

      There is really not much you can do except re-bury them in the same soil type and the same depth and hope for the best.

  • I’ve been growing bee attractors in my garden in KANSAS (zone 6)… Things like passion fruit vine and sun flowers… Something I have noticed recently are that the bumble bees occasionally stop and rest on the passion flower for five to ten minutes… They just take a nap or relax on the flower… The ones I see doing this usually have huge loads of pollen on their backs and backs of their legs.

    I have seen a dramatic decrease in the honeybee population in the past two years. So, I am hoping to keep my bumble bees, parasitic wasps, and feral bees happy (because hand pollination really sucks).

  • I have a bees nest in my roof. They have entered through a small hole where wasps got in to form a nest 3 years ago. I want the hole filled in and have been told that they should now have died but how can I be sure? I am afraid of more bees being hatched there next year and finding an exit into the house.

    • Toni,

      You don’t say where you live or what kind of bee lives there. If they are honey bees, they will probably stay there until you take them out or until the colony dies. If they are a type of wasp, and if it will soon be cold where you live, they will die when the weather turns cold. The same is true for bumble bees. Are insects flying in and out of the hole? That would be a good clue. Other than that, I don’t have enough information to give you an answer.

  • Hi, Rusty. I live in downtown Toronto on a ravine and I recently have noticed quite large bumble bees frequenting my terrace for the tall purple flowers I planted this summer and they absolutely love them. The flowers are nearing their end and I would love to put out more for the bees. Are there any particular fall plants/flowers that would be of interest to the bumble bees? Thank you!

    • Just about anything in the Asteraceae family, including goldenrod. Heirloom species are better than hybrids for attracting bees.

  • Hi, lovely blog/site thank you. I have what I think is one bumble bee queen crawling in my conservatory, I think she is looking for somewhere to hibernate indoors. I am in Milton Keynes England and wondering if I should find somewhere to help her sleep.

    Many thanks

    • Hi Heather,

      She really needs to find a place outside in the ground. Bumble bee queens spend the winter by themselves in just a small tunnel. The best you can do for her, I think, is to put her outside in a protected spot. Even though the conservatory is protected, it is probably not the best environment for her. You can even poke some holes in the ground with a pencil or similar item and see if she is interested.

      • I agree, I think she has probably just lost her way. Luckily it’s not too cold yet here in the U.K. so probably the best thing is to encourage her to find a safe spot in the garden. You could try putting a small blob of cotton wool soaked in sugar and water to entice her into the hole…..she should be able to do the rest. Good Luck!

        • Thank you Linda and Rusty. She warmed herself up in the sunshine yesterday along with some sugar and water and went out and into a little hole in my raised bed. She is safe for the winter now and as I know where she is I will be careful when clearing the bed. We had a hive of bumble bees in our eaves this year and am really hoping they come back next year.

  • Hi 🙂
    I was curious to know what will happen to two little bees that have built a small hive under a cement ledge near my garage. I am in the Georgian Bay area of Ontario. The hive is only maybe two and a half inches long. Will they remain there for winter? It doesnt seem to be in a very sheltered spot. They havent moved much in the past few weeks. Thanks!

    • Juliet,

      Without seeing the nest or the builder, it’s hard to say. However, it sounds like it may be the work of a solitary potter wasp. They build mud nests, often oval, on exposed surfaces. Inside, the eggs hatch into larvae that eat the provisions (insects if it is a wasp, pollen if it is a bee) and then overwinter as either a pupa or adult. Some bees build similar nests, but usually they complete them earlier in the spring or summer. The adult bees or wasps that built the nest will not survive the winter, only the offspring will survive. They will most probably be just fine, even in the unsheltered spot.

  • Hi Rusty,

    I’m really pleased to find you! I’ve been fascinated all summer by a hive of bumbles in one of my stables. The problem now is that I may need that stable for its rightful owner who won’t be impressed with his visitors! The hive is under the pallets where I keep the hay and straw and I’m a bit scared to move it in case I disturb a bee’s nest.

    Will it be really obvious? What do I do once I have found it? Presumably it will just be the queen? Any advice you can offer will be gratefully received. Thanks, Lorna

    • Lorna,

      The nest it most likely empty by now. Only the new queens overwinter; the old queen and the workers die off at the end of the season. The new queens will each find a small hole in the ground somewhere to hibernate over the winter months. Then, in the spring, they will each emerge and look for a place to build a new nest. It is unlikely any of them will reuse the old nest, although it is not impossible.

      If you dig down, you will probably find empty wax cells and empty honey pots but nothing more. I don’t know how cold it is where you are, but I suspect you won’t find anything alive down there now.

      • Hi Lorna,

        I’d like to echo Rusty in not worrying too much. I’ve been lucky (and proud!) to have had bumble bees choosing to nest and over-winter in my garden for the last 3 years. (I’m in U.K.) I can honestly say that they have never been a problem. They keep themselves very much to themselves and really are only interested on a safe place to hibernate and a food source for their young in the spring…I’ve never found them aggressive and even if the queen overwinters in the stable, I doubt very much that she will bother your new resident horse. You could try planting some spring flowering bulbs which produce quite a lot of nectar…snowdrops, crocuses, tulips are all good…somewhere nearby but not in the stable and chances are the new queen will choose to nest near there instead. Hope it all turns out well and you, your horses, and the bumbles can all live happily together!

  • Hi, I’m in UK northeast, I have a honey bee nest on/in my chimney. In July/August when it was very hot, there was a swarm of honey bees on the outside of the chimney. I’m not sure if the swarm flew away or took up residence in the chimney. I used to have a lot coming into the house through the fire (not in use) but just last week I had another just one come through. I was wondering if I have a bees nest inside the chimney or would most of them be gone? I got advised that once the queen flew away that the rest would die within 2 weeks. Not good for fans of bees, but it seems they stayed and sort of got smaller and smaller. Will they come back next year? And is there a nest? I don’t mind bees but I’m very frightened of them. Thanks for your help. Hope I’ve explained ok!

    • AJ,

      Impossible to say from here, but it sounds like a swarm landed on your chimney during the summer and left again. That would be normal. It sounds like you had them coming through the chimney, but not anymore. They may have been looking at the chimney as a potential nest site, and then decided against it. If they had chosen the chimney, I think you would have seen many, many bees in your house–not just a few–plus you would have seen hundreds around their outside entrance.

      It’s possible for another swarm to come by next year, but not very likely. I wouldn’t worry about it before it happens.

      • Thanks Rusty! There was quite a few flying about the chimney coming and going but they just seemed to become fewer over the weeks. Maybe they were left behind and tried to create their own nest.

        Thanks again for your help

  • The bees have brought me into their nest and are telling me that I am going to become bee man! I cant believe it! I’m growing wings and chatting with the hot queen bee. She says she is ready for a serious relationship.

    Give some advice please!!!!!!!! I want to make this work 🙂

  • Hi,

    I am in the uk, I was up in my loft yesterday and saw a large honey bee just sitting on the side of a box up there, with its tail pulsating. I have always been a bit of a wimp with bees and wasp so got out quickly, it was flying around the light bulb as I left.

    Never expected to see one in January right in the middle of winter but it has been very mild so far, was about 9-10 degrees yesterday. Am very curious as to why it may be there and does it mean there could be a hive up there or is it likely to just be a stray bee found its way in there?

    Thanks for any help

    • Hi Jason,

      I can only speculate, but I would say you probably saw a bee that left her colony to go out on a “cleansing flight,” which is beespeak for potty break. It happens on warmish days in the winter and it helps keep the hive clean inside during the long winter months. Sometimes one goes astray, gets lost, gets trapped, or for some unknown reason doesn’t make it home.

      On Monday of this week we had some warmer weather here, and I found several bees on the sunny wall of my house. I assume they went out for cleansing, and then spotted the nice warm wall and just hung out for awhile. In fact, a number of beekeepers have reported to me that they found bees outside this winter.

      Anyway, that is my guess. I doubt you have a colony up there because, if you did, you would probably have seen a bunch, not just one.


    • It is highly unlikely that a new colony of bees would move in where the old one was, especially with a new roof. I don’t think it is something to worry about.

  • It is early spring here in southern Oklahoma. My daughter discovered a little butterball of a bumblebee in our flower garden. At first it seemed a bit weak/sluggish, so I was worried it was hurt from the storm and high winds the day before. She took it to blooming flowers and it began to just bury its little face in every one. When we ran out she brought picked flowers from the pasture. As she was trying to let the bee know she had fresh ones he jumped onto her finger hanging on tight and shoved its face into the blooms over and over.

    After much nectar slurping, the bee finally seemed strong enough to fly, and flew around, then came right back to us. This was last evening. The bee is still here tonight. Why isn’t it leaving? It can stay, we don’t mind. We are just concerned for it. Hope its ok. We took a few pictures too. 😉

    Thanks Shelly

    • Hi Shelly,

      It is hard to say, but it may be at the end of its life. Some bumble bees, depending on the species, don’t live very long. It may just be old and about to die, or it may have been blown off course by the storm, or it may be ill from consuming pesticides. It would be impossible to say. Feeding it flowers and looking after it is fine. It may suddenly disappear one day, or it may die, but you shouldn’t feel that you did anything wrong. Their life cycles are very different than what we humans consider normal.

      If you want, you can e-mail a photo to me: rusty[at]honeybeesuite[dot]com, using the regular e-mail notation.

    • Awww such a lovely story! The bumble bee is hanging around because it knows there is food and shelter there with you. You did all the right things; sometimes it’s just nature and that’s the one thing even we as humans have no control over x

      • Hi, Thanks for the reply. My daughter has found the bee every evening except tonight and made sure it had enough flowers to be satisfied. Maybe the bee has moved on? She has decided to name her Iris as she found her near the iris bed, and there was a lone iris trying to bloom. Hopefully its a she…lol. She didn’t seem to have a stinger, or even try to sting us.


  • Hi, I am situated in northwest area of the UK. For weeks now I have been watching the antics of some bees which seem to have made their home in a small bird box under the eaves of my shed. I have never known bees to do this before and I am wondering how long they will be living here. My husband moved the box slightly and a mass of bees flew out buzzing round before they re-entered the box. I do know that a family of blue tits used the box last year and there is some moss type plant still in there, slightly covering the entrance so the bees have to squeeze through it to gain entry. Do you think there might be a queen bee inside still hibernating? We need to re-paint the shed and I hate to disturb them. thanks j

    • Julie,

      I can’t say for sure without a good photo, but my guess is they are some type of bumble bee. Certain species of bumble bee just adore abandoned bird houses because the bedding is already there for them; it saves a ton of work over having to collect all that.

      Assuming it’s a bumble, the queen overwintered in the soil somewhere then, early in the spring, went searching for a home. When she found your birdhouse, she began making wax combs in which to lay her eggs and others in which to store minute amounts of honey.

      Depending on the species of bumble, they may be active for a couple of months or the colony may persist into the autumn. At the end of their active period, newly mated queens will find a hole in the ground in which to hibernate until next spring.

      Many species of bumble are endangered in the UK and many groups are doing their best to protect them. If you must disturb the nest, I recommend you contact someone like the Bumblebee Conservation Trust to help you out.

    • Can you not just paint the shed and leave the bird box as it is?
      Then you may learn more…..just a thought.x

  • Hi, I am situated in north west area of the UK. For weeks now I have been watching the antics of some bees which seem to have made their home in a small bird box under the eaves of my shed. I have never known bees to do this before and I am wondering how long they will be living here. My husband moved the box slightly and a mass of bees flew out buzzing round before they re entered the box. I do know that a family of blue tits used the box last year and there is some moss type plant still in there, slightly covering the entrance so the bees have to squeeze through it to gain entry. Do you think there might be a queen bee inside still hibernating? We need to re paint the shed and I hate to disturb them. thanks j

  • Thanks for your great informative reply; we have now decided to leave the shed painting until our visitors have left. I never thought a few bees living in our garden would open up a whole new fascinating world of the lives of bees. Your website is brilliant. Many Thanks x

  • Hey, so I saved a bumble bee that was in water and put it on the grass and went under a bit, so I left and that was 2 days ago. I came back and it was still there. I put the poor thing on a couch I don’t use in my garage, got some sugar water, mixed it, and the bee ate some of it, and walking and stuff can’t seem to dry off and get there wings working. Its really cold and rainy out right now and can’t release the poor thing I keep checking on it and its still on the couch with the mix got some flowers to hopefully help, its suppose to rain all day tomorrow to will it survive? what else can I do, I cant keep feeding it water and sugar!!

    • Kat,

      All bumble bees, except for newly mated queens, die at the end of the season (unless you live in a climate that stays warm all year). So it could be that you can do nothing for it. If you want to try something different, you can bury it in a little tunnel in the ground, which is where a mated queen would go. In any case, I doubt it will survive.

  • Fascinated by all the caring people out there! Was searching for info regarding bumbles, now armed with a few over-wintering ideas, as the weather has taken a sharp cold turn and it upsets me to see them warming in the sun only to be facing a very cold night somewhere! They look like they need a good cuddle, and if a hole and some sugar water is the cuddle I can do my bit!

    Out of interest, had a fair few leaf-cutter bees (solitary) creating “homes” in fence post countersunk drill holes, they seem to go in backwards and plug up but this was in August. Are they likely to be still in there, the leaves are still in place?

    For 2 years had solitary ground bees building mound nest with the grass thatch, didn’t make mowing easy, but sparked my interest! Thanks so much … off to excavate holes … lol (Ips, Suffolk Uk)

    • Tess,

      I love it when people are interested in wild bees.

      So the leafcutters are usually active for about 6 weeks or so in the spring or summer, and the rest of the year is spent inside the hole. Depending on the species, they may be in a larval or pre-pupal stage for most of the winter, but you probably wouldn’t recognize them.

      When they are active, the adult female prepares her nest in the hole, provisions it with food for the larvae, lays an egg on each provision, and seals up each egg chamber with leaves or petals. She goes in head first to build and prepare the nest, then she backs out, turns around, and backs in to lay an egg. Then she goes for leaves to seal up the chamber and comes in with these head first. At night, she often backs in and spends the dark hours face out. From that position, she can see when it is light and time to get back to work.

  • What I am trying to find out is this: I have a bee home made of small tunnel-like holes. Recently many wasps have been collecting plant petals, and leaves and have filled these holes up. Now that it is beginning of winter the holes are finished, are my wasps in there? If not what are in there? Was this pointless? Those are the questions that have been buzzing through my mind. I would love an answer. Thanks 😀 🙂 xx

    • Ilanna,

      Are you sure they are wasps? They sound like leafcutting bees that build their nests in tunnels and line them with leaves and petals. If they are leafcutting bees, then yes, the larvae are in there and they won’t hatch out till spring. Now, there may be wasps that use leaves and petals to line a nest, but I’m not aware of any.

  • Some years ago I had a small colony of what appeared to be a dark honey bee. No trouble from them even when taking off the roof they were hiding under (extension about 15 inches deep) tapering off to the edges. I found that they were using the roof insulation to burrow into but they did not build any kind of hive or nest. Instead they had made tubular honey pots on a little circular base. Very like Champagne flutes… about 8 inches tall, and about 1 to 1-1/4 inch across filled with a very dark and tasty honey. Very dark and thick. Has anyone an idea as to what variety they were? They were about 3/4 long with rounded bottoms and no sign of a sting. Curious to say the least.

    • John,

      Where was this? The only thing around here that builds honey pots is bumble bees, but certainly not 8 inches tall! South American stingless bees also build a type of honey pot, but they are tiny bees. Bumble bees like insulation for sure, but I can’t picture the rest of it. Anyone else have an idea?

      • This was in Liverpool about 10 yrs ago . They were not very big as I said dark in colour and certainly not in the least aggressive. The pots appear to have been made from a wood pulp paper or similar. They varied in size from about 4 inches up to about 8 inches in parallel to the slope of the roof if you follow my drift. They had an almost perfectly round base a short stem then straight sides up to the brim. No wax seems to have been used in their construction ODD.

        • John,

          Well that’s cool. I will definitely try to figure it out. Wasps of various kinds are known for using wood pulp to build with, and they are into perfectly round structures, but they don’t collect nectar. I’ll take what you’ve given me and so some research. Thanks!

          • Thanks and good luck. BTW the honey was really rich and tasty almost as though concentrated somehow. Cheers john

  • We have a new home of 7 years with a large fenced in back yard and we planted a lot of trees and shrubs. From day one I have had two bumble bees that hang out in the back yard and follow me around when I do my yard work and gardening. As a move around the house and into the front
    yard they always follow me there also, where ever I go. They are not a
    nuisance or try to sting me, just hanging out. It is really nice for a 74 year
    old man to have such nice friends.

    Have a beesy day !

  • This morning there was a bee sitting on the bathroom window sill. I’m not sure how it got in, but it wasn’t looking very well. I identified it as a queen buff tail.

    I put a empty loo roll there for her to crawl in and a big drop of sugar water which she drank. I found it fascinating watching her so up close. I opened the window and I gave her some more as she drank it all and she just sat there. About 2 hours later I checked her and she had flown onto the open window so I hope she survives and manages to fly off 🙂

    • Georgina,

      I’ve watched bumble bees in the spring for years, and it seems to me they spend a lot of time sleeping. Or maybe resting, but hardly moving in any case. I think she will probably be okay. I’ve seen lots that I thought were dead and then suddenly take off. Fun to watch, though.

  • Hi. I live in the east of the UK and am most certain I have honey bees nesting in the walls of my flat roofed extension. Firstly, is this possible for honey bees? Secondly, what should I do? If I leave them be will they leave for another nest? Or will they just get bigger in colony size

    • Darren,

      First, yes living in the walls like that is very possible (and common) for honey bees. Second, if you leave them alone they might leave, but more probably the colony will just grow. I suggest you call a local beekeeper and see if they would take a look. He or she can tell you whether it is possible to retrieve them by looking at the structure.

      • I called my local bee keeper he told me to leave them as they cause no damage and will swarm out in autumn/fall then to fill the holes in!! I’m confused… I don’t want the bees harmed in anyway if they are to be removed! HEELLLP!! Lol

        • Darren,

          Interesting. I wonder why he says they will “swarm out in the fall”? No wonder you are confused. I don’t believe they will go anywhere in the fall. Anyone else have an opinion?

          • I’m still enjoying my queen bumble bees and their offspring nesting below the winter flowering honeysuckle bush within 5 ft of the patio door to my lounge. They never swarm, just buzz around and feed on the blossom. At times there are a lot of baby bumble bees, but they’re sole interest is the food they get from the bush. I’ve never known a bumble bee to be aggressive, and I for one welcome them into my garden.

          • Don’t get me wrong rusty I am quite happy for them too be their for now as my whole garden has been designed for the wildlife ( I live directly in front of a vast woodland) I am just worried that the nest could get out of hand (size wise). My main concern is mine and the bees safety! I will keep doing research and see what I can uncover and keep y’all updated. Thanks for you’re advice so far Rusty! X

  • Hello, we live in Manchester England, I came home the other day to find a large wasp type insect I the house. Naturally I tried swatting the little bugger and after I stunned it o decided not to kill it but let it out. Presuming it was possible dead because it hasn’t moved I left it. Later that day I opened the front door and it has gone. The next day a Bumblebee had appeared in the house!? Soft round fury bumble bee with white bum. I was slightly confused at this point because there were no open window or doors for access. The new looked tired and sleepy so I scooped it up and let it out the back garden. Over the next few days more and more bees have been appearing in the kitchen. Usually 2-3 at a time! All very lethargic hanging around the windows and not seeming aggressive at all. We have let them all out into he garden and a few have died on the window sills when we have been out. A bee keeper came round and confirmed them as bumble bees and said he could do much. I can’t figure out how they are getting into the kitchen from the inside? Outside there are a few holes with access to cavity walls and this is my worry! What will happen if they’re in the walls and what shall I do? Will they turn aggressive? They are coming I the house on large numbers each i.e. 4-6 bees a day! Any advice would be great. Thanks Beno

    • Beno,

      It is hard to say. They could be coming in through the basement or crawlspace, through drainage holes around windows, down through a chimney. They are small and find ways. I get lots and lots of questions like this, so I can tell you many people are totally perplexed about how bees get inside, but they do. I don’t imagine the problem will get worse. They don’t want to be inside, so they are likely just looking for a way out.

    • Block up all the holes inside and out with particular attention to places where pipework passes through the walls. Expanding foam is ideal for this. Just trim back with a sharp knife (saw blade type is best) when it is fully cured. A common entry point is around the sink waste pipe. You should then find that the number should reduce until any bees remaining in the wall emerge. They will be a bit torpid as you have found already. Cover with a glass, slip some paper or card underneath the open end, then let them go outside. gG on block those holes

        • Thanks John,
          I will use the expanding foam, the entry point I presume they are coming from is around the inboxed in area for the heating pipes in the corner of the kitchen, as this area is the open pipe, dry wall and internal brick. So they must come in there, the foam should do the trick. Will the heating pipes affect the foam? I.e. Fire hazard or possible damage?

          I may also lead the external holes for a while so they can get out 1 way.

          • No the pipes won’t do any harm to the foam and it is non-flammable anyway. The pipes will only reach about 85 F. Leaving some empty holes sounds like a plan. Good luck

  • I have a bee hive in a hole in my tree about 30 feet up. Is it okay just to leave them be if they don’t get in the way?

  • OOPS, just noticed my email address had a typo.

    I have bumble bees nesting under our garden shed. I’m not sure yet what genus they are.

    A worker, which I found dead on the grass this morning, is about 2 cm long, has a yellow face and a yellow stripe on her fourth abdominal segment. I love bumbles and they are a welcome addition to our wild cottagey garden. I am in the garden every day, watering, pottering around, picking blueberries and raspberries, etc.

    I was trying to hang out the washing about an hour ago, and was being bombarded by one particularly pesky bumble. Usually they buzz by, I say hello and they go on their way. This one was literally in my face, she grazed my cheek twice. I didn’t have my hat on and I was wearing an orange top, but I often do. It is hot out (31 C) and I am perspiring, but I am not a smelly person, :0D I am at a loss to explain it. Any ideas?

    I do have another idea, as dotty as it may sound…

    I had a plant support pole leaning against the shed, adjacent to their nest entrance/landing spot. Just before I started hanging the washing, I removed the pole so that I could stake a tomato plant with it. Do you think she saw me and took umbrage? Perhaps I inadvertently removed a navigation aid? I’ve put an identical one in its place, just in case. I even went indoors, changed my top to a white one and put on my straw hat. Then I went out again to resume hanging the washing. Back she came! I surrendered and am now writing to you.

    When you’ve stopped laughing, I would appreciate your insight. :0D

    Many thanks.

    • Kate,

      Maybe, since you took away the pole, she thought you were the replacement pole. You know, vertical and in about the same place, like a tree that suddenly leafed out. But seriously, I don’t know. Bumble bees do that a lot. Circle, I mean. When I go hiking, one will often circle me for a quarter mile or more. I’ve always wondered about it.

      I don’t know where you live but your description sounds like the yellow-face bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii. If it is a true bumble bee (not a cuckoo bee) it will always be in the genus Bombus.

  • My next door neighbor has some bee hives. A few days ago when opening a bedroom window I noticed a group of bees clustered together in the window sill. Maybe 40 or 50, but the way they are on top of each other maybe there are more underneath. Judging from the other windows there is no obvious way for the bees to get in the house unless there is a way for them to get through the roof tiles and into the attic. I live in Germany in a traditional house where the bedroom windows are in the roof and made of metal. But we get bees in the house regularly due to no screens on any window. Usually I try to leave them alone, but sometimes the dogs start after them, and if they are unsuccessful in catching and killing the bee and it is swarming around the house then I kill it if it buzzes around me for too long.

    Since I am normally not bothered by bees and thought I would just leave that particular window closed if there is no reason to believe they will do damage to the home. Should I be concerned about anything? Also I am a renter so while it might not bother me is this something that the landlord would usually want to know about?

    Are the bees making a new home or will they return to the neighbor’s hives? They have been here 3 or 4 days now. We’ve had a very hot summer in Germany, but things just started to cool down. On the other side of the window frame there is a little nest looking thing that looks entirely enclosed from my point of view, but no bees are near it. Not sure if this is larva or honey or what. I’ve opened the window a few times to look and the bees seem docile. They don’t really move much at all in fact.

    • Bridgette,

      If they are honey bees and if they’ve been clustered with little activity for a few days, I would say it sounds like a small group that got separated from the parent hive somehow. They probably don’t know where to go. I can’t be absolutely sure without seeing the bees, but I’ve seen small groups behave like that when they somehow get split from the larger group. If they were thriving, you would see much activity. But if they aren’t doing much, I imagine they will all die over the next few days or week. I don’t think it’s anything you or your landlord need to worry about.

  • Hi, I have a bee that got into my kitchen when I let the cat out. I placed him outside in the sun, it was very weak, so I put a smidgen of molasses, all I had.

    The next day it’s on my window ledge so I placed it in a nice sunflower across my yard where it seemed to nestle, now tonight it’s on my screen door, funny that it came back, now it’s getting pretty cold out, do you think I should see if it wants to go in a little tunnel in my garden, I was really thinking of bringing it indoors, making an environment for it some how, but from your previous posts, I am thinking it won’t survive long that way, in the Montreal area. Thanks for any tips, a real Bee lover:)

    • Cat,

      The bee is probably at the end of its life. It sounds like it may be a male. If it is, it won’t last long even in the best environment because they only live a couple of months anyway. Most wild bees, both male and female, die at the end of the season and just the larvae or pupae hibernate underground until spring. The adult stage is the final stage of bee life and it just doesn’t last that long. Most wild bees spend about 10 months hibernating and two months as active adults.

  • I grow Lavetera here in my garden in Fife, Scotland and the bees love it with dozens visiting the flowers every day, I in turn love just sitting watching them visit each flower in turn.
    I would like to do some work in that section of my (small) garden but I am reluctant to cut back the bush while the bees are still using it for a source of food. Is there a definitive time of year when they will stop feeding or is it a case of if the flowers are there the bees will come?

    • Derek,

      There are usually some species active as long as flowers are in bloom. Maybe you could work it in the winter?

  • I have a bee nest in the side panel of my house located at my front door. I have tried everything to get them out. I have contacted a beekeeper for advice. He stated I have wait until winter. They may be yellow jackets. They go in and out all day. The problem is they entering my house. I have a 7week old and a 2yr old. They r entering through the heater vent. Most of the time we don’t know they come in. They seem to die in the window seal. When we see them they are flying very slow as if something is wrong with them. I do not allow my daughter to look out the window because of fear she may get stung. I am allergic to bees so i stay away from the area as well. They never appear to bother us, I’m just afraid the colder it gets the more they will come in my house. We are at probably 5-10 on any given day coming in.

  • Hello! I need a little advice.
    I’m in southern UK and it’s been super warm for this time of year. 11-15 degrees C (not sure Fahrenheit!) normally were on 5 max. Earlier today we found a big bumble bee soaking wet in the floor. I had to get her up otherwise the dog would have eaten her. Not sure if male or female, but after reading earlier posts I think female. We gave her some honey in water and she lapped it up but has been acting really odd. Like she’s drunk. A bit dozy and wobbly and slow. She was doing this before the honey water too! It’s just got dark so I created a little shelter on the garden table with some bricks on a plastic chopping board and put some dried foliage inside. I managed to get her inside and some space for her to get out if she needs to and left some sugar/honey water on a spoon nearby. I’ve used a lot of kitchen utensils to help!! Anything else I can do? My 5 year old daughter and I are concerned!
    Thank you

    • Claire,

      It’s really hard to deal with these situations. I’m guessing, but it sounds like you have a queen that emerged early, probably due to the warm weather. Once she emerges from hibernation, there is not too much you can do for her. The plants she needs are not available, and it isn’t the right time of year to go searching for a place for her to build a nest and start a family. She cannot survive long in this situation, a few days maybe. You could try burying her in the ground in a small opening, but I don’t believe she will go back into hibernation. Sad really.

  • Hi. I found a Bumble Bee nest last year in my garden under some slabs and rubbish that i was clearing away. I made a Bumble Bee box and in the dark very gently moved the entire nest to their new home. They were not moved far, about 5 mtrs. I made sure they were blocked in until daylight then unplugged the entrance. They were happy still coming and going so I thought a job well done. After a few weeks they were all gone? Did they not like it and move on? Did they die? I didn’t see any dead ones. Did they hibernate and set up home elsewhere? I really wanted them to come back. I even planted all sorts of bee friendly plants all around their home. Did I do something wrong?

    • Clive,

      One thing about most bees is that their active lives are short. They may be active only 4 or 5 weeks, although some bumble bees may go a bit longer. At the end of their season, the newly mated queens find a safe place to overwinter, usually underground, and the rest of the colony dies.

      My guess is that you did nothing wrong, but it was simply the end of that colony’s natural life. It’s possible that an overwintering queen may select that box next year for her nest, but it is not guaranteed.

  • Hello, my names Michelle, we live in Devon and have had a few days of very sunny, warm weather! Tuesday evening I found a large bumble bee, outside on our window sill, it was slowly walking and wasn’t in a good place to keep warm, as that evening the temperature had really dropped. So i put it in an old pie cardboard box and put it in with the old strawberry plants. The next day around 3ish, it was buzzy around in the box, so carefully let it out, and it tried to fly a few times and looked like it was trying to either fly off or hide somewhere. It then went to decking post and got a little caught in a cobweb! so i carefully moved it to a old plant pot with a bit of cover and it happily walked onto to little flower and stayed there. When i went back out later the temperature had got even colder, it wasn’t moving at all, and was in the same place and i had thought that the cold had got it that time, so gently put it back in the cardboard box with the plant, and put it in the outside wooden playhouse. It hadn’t moved when checked the next day so thought that it could have gone into hibernation? Anyway, sorry, to cut a long story short, when i looked this morning it had moved, i can see as there is a bit of clear plastic on the box, like a viewing window. it moved a couple of legs, just a little. Since this started i have looked on-line for some information, and yesterday , found out about the 50/50 food, that if i had known about before, would have given it when it was trying to fly!, and have just found your great site. Please, can you tell me the best i can do for the bumblebee now, do i leave it, just in the box, or what the other lady did, with the large plastic container,
    It’s not sunny today, and not warm either. really want to save the lovely little bumblebee, just not sure is the best way. Many thanks

    • Michelle,

      Sometimes bees emerge on warm days even though it is too early in the year for them to find food, to fly, or to find mates. These bees will most likely die because nothing is working for them. You can’t put a bee back in hibernation once it has come out of it. I think the best thing to do is dig a hole in some soft soil, and bury the bee about three inches down, cover it lightly with soil and hope for the best. It probably won’t make it, but I think being in the right environment (a hole in the soil) gives it the best chance.

  • I believe I have a nest of bees living in a cardboard storage box on a top shelf in my garage. I didn’t realize it until they were disturbed by my workers fixing something in the garage. They all came out and finally went back in after a while. I don’t see any in and out movement so that is why we never noticed it. What type of bees do you think they are and how do I get rid of them. I live in south Florida.

    • Dayse,

      I can’t tell what they are without seeing them of course, but it sounds like bumble bees. I think the best way to get rid of them would be to take the box outside. Place the box in a protected area. They will probably move out on their own in a few days.

  • Reading the article and reading comments I am so happy to see so many who enjoy their gardens. On a sad note, and yes it’s just nature’s course, I was in my garden this afternoon having a look to see how the bulb seeds I put in last spring were emerging when thud a honey bee fell to the ground, within a minute 2 more within about a foot of me, they were dying, I walked around the umbrella of the tree (gum tree, I’m in Canberra Australia) and found at least 15 more. It all happened in about half an hour and then it appeared like no more were falling. We are in Autumn (mild so far). But what get’s me is no bees fell before this and no more after about half an hour, like it was the time of the day to kick the bucket?? Note, I have no idea exactly how many fell and died as the ground is littered with all the droppings of a gum tree and if you don’t notice the bee fall or hit the ground chances of spotting them is difficult in the extreme.

  • Nothing like that, my tree, no insecticide used here, nothing on the wind to smell. All I can say is we did get to a low of 3 Celsius last night if that has anything to do with it.

    • Peter,

      But since a honey bee can forage in a five-mile radius, which is a circle of more than 50,000 US acres, how can you possibly know what they were into?

  • Good point, maybe got hit elsewhere and the bees live near or in my yard and were on their way home.

    Found a bee in my home a couple of days ago looking very slow and sad so I covered him with a plastic container with a tissue soaked with sugar water. Came back about half an hour later and he was extremely active and wanted out, so I let him, outside that is…..

  • Hi rusty,

    We live in western Canada. Our tenant has found bees in her basement suite dying or already dead. Does this mean we have a hive somewhere in the house? As we are not getting them upstairs, not sure what to do. It has just started this summer. Never before. ty for any advise you can give us.

    • Darcy,

      It could be a hive or not. The first thing to do is identify them. They could be bees or wasps, and sometimes it is hard to tell the difference. Also, take note of how many dead she sees. For example, is it closer to 10 or 100 or 1000? Are they all in one place, or spread around the suite? Do they continue to accumulate after they are cleaned up? If you take a good close-up photo of one, I will try to identify.

  • Can a hibernating bumblebee queen be safely relocated in the winter? I have a nest in my yard that ultimately cannot remain there. Since the summer is halfway over, I am considering trying to let them survive until the queen(s) hibernate for the winter. I think relocating the nest would be much easier in November (I’m assuming they will have hibernated by then in Kansas, USA) when there is only a sleeping queen and not an entire angry colony.

    My biggest obstacle in ‘letting them live’ is that I can’t mow my lawn. I’m thinking of putting a tent around their enclosure for the duration of time it takes me to mow to keep them from stinging me (and keep me from spraying them with poison in self defense). The only detail I haven’t worked out is how to safely remove a tent from on top of a now angry hive. Maybe a rope of considerable length?

    • Stephen,

      A bumble bee nest does not persist over winter. Each mated queen will find a small hole, usually in the ground, to hibernate, but she will not hibernate in the current nest. That nest will be abandoned once this year’s workers die in the fall.

      Sometimes, in the the following spring, a mated queen may find a previous nest and re-use it. But if you fill the hole once the colony has died, it won’t be there for them to find.

  • We live in Ottawa, Ontario and bumble bees have taken up residence under our front steps. We have left them alone for the summer, but this is not ideal as we sit out here each evening. Wondering what we can do to avoid hurting them but discouraging them from coming back next year? Is there a best time to try and plug the access point?

    • Liz,

      The bumble bee colony should die with the first hard freeze. Only the mated queens will survive and they hibernate somewhere away from the parent colony, usually in a small hole in the ground. In spring, those queens will look for a nesting spot. One may or may not choose the same spot next year. So the best thing to do is seal it up or fill it after the first good freeze but before spring emergence, which can be as early as March.

  • I have bushes outside that attract several different types of butterflies as well as a family of bumble bees. Today there is a swarm of some type of smaller bee on the bush where the bumble bees hang out. Most of the bumble bees were also in the bush except they were dead. There aren’t any on the ground. It’s as if they died while they were eating. Any thoughts as to what may have occurred? I live in North Carolina.

    • Dave,

      In the fall, all the bumble bees in a colony die except for the newly mated queens. It is not unusual to see them dying in the flowers, especially the males because that is where they sleep. So your observations are correct. They forages on the nectar until they are killed by old age, cold, or both. Then their bodies are consumed by other creatures, often wasps and yellowjackets, but also birds, beetles, slugs, etc.

  • Hi

    I have some honeybees in my shed that I’ve just noticed this week. The most I’ve counted is eight in one go, but that’s without moving things around – I imagine there could be more hiding behind shelves, pots, boxes etc. They’re resting inside of my shed, on the walls, roof and door and look as though they’re asleep (body and wings are slumped down). There are two sacks of what I’m assuming is honey on the inside of the shed door. I’m wondering is this normal to have so many bees in one place, particularly in winter? Do you think it’s likely there could be a nest somewhere in my shed? I’ve not looked as I don’t want to disturb them too much, for heir own safety as much as mine!

    • Laura,

      Honey bees could have a nest inside your shed. As the weather gets warmer, more and more of them may leave the nest to fly around. However, I don’t have a clear picture of what is going on. Eight bees in not a lot but it could indicate a colony. The two sacks have me mystified. Honey bees put honey in combs, not sacks, so I’m not sure what you mean. Are the bees hanging around these sacks? Are you sure they are honey bees? I can’t guess without more information.

    • Avery,

      Adult carpenter bees lay their eggs in wooden tunnels. The adults die before winter, and the young bees emerge from their tunnel nests in the spring.

  • Thank you for this website and your comments. I found a queen bee in my garden clinging to the wall, it’s so cold & wet I didn’t know what to do. I found this site and have a bee hotel for solitary bees, I got her in a net (very sluggish) and managed to get her in there, it’s full of fleecy cotton wool stuff that came with it (currently empty of insects) and put a bottle cap in there with sugar and water. I really hope that she survives!!! I live in South London and it’s freezing here now, she must have woken up early, it’s so sad!

  • I’ve just now temporarily revived a beautiful big bumble bee. She was lying on the ground and struggling to keep upright. I picked her up and put her into the sunlight on top of a daffodil. I quickly went indoors and mixed some water and sugar in a glass. I soaked a paper kitchen towel with the fluid and lifted it to the bumble bee. After a few minutes, I could see the tongue licking the towel. After several more minutes, I could feel her vibrating and after a good ten minutes, she flew off. Alas, its only March and Spring not yet here, so I doubt she will survive, but I hope she finds a warm place to sleep.

  • I have bumble bees that have made their home by my backdoor steps, and I love to watch them fly in and out. My problem is we have to have our laundry room insulated and renovated before winter since it is down to bare studs. I worry about the bees since we really need to fill in the holes by the steps with cement, but I don’t want to do this until the bees are gone. I am willing to postpone all this work, but just need to know when they have moved out. I read on your site that the workers die, but the queen remains. Do you think she will stay in the home she made by our steps, or will she move to another spot. I just cannot have the steps cemented if she is still in there! What should I do? We live in Massachusetts, Cape Cod. Thanks much!

    • Kristin,

      No, the queen does not remain. The current year’s queen will die with the rest of the colony. Newly-mated queens will overwinter somewhere, but not in the nest they were raised in. At the end of the season your nest will be inactive and can be safely removed.

  • Hi Rusty,

    Thank you so much for responding to my concerns. I was so worried that I would harm the bumble bees when we have to seal up the hole in the concrete step where their home currently is. I will wait until November then to seal up the opening to their home just to be sure all the bumble bees are gone. I feel better knowing the new queen will winter in another location. Thanks again for putting my mind to rest!


  • Hello! I noticed yesterday a bumble bee on my butterfly bush. I had been trimming the bush back, as it’s November and didn’t notice the bee until I put the limb aside. It didn’t move and I thought it may have been dead and somehow stuck to the flower. I placed the limb back by the bush in case it was somehow alive and not just a carcass. This morning, when I went to the bush, the bee was no longer on the limb on the ground, but had made it’s way to the top of the bush and was on the flower. Right in the sun. It doesn’t move from the flower. I’ve never seen this before. Do you know if this is common behavior, especially for these temperatures? We’ve had freezing temperatures for the past couple of nights (a cold spell in the central NC region). As far as I can tell, it’s also by itself; it’s not in a nest in the ground, as I’ve read they usually are. I also sent a note to one of the entomologists at the local university to inquire.

    • Joy,

      In northern climates, bumble bee colonies do not overwinter. All the members of a colony die at the end of the season except for the mated queens, who find a warm place off by themselves. The bee you see is most likely an older worker or male that is at the end of its life. It is just living out its few remaining days sleeping in the sun and feeding when it can. It is perfectly normal and nothing to worry about.

  • I live in the suburbs of Minneapolis. In the 4′ tall front porch post (uninsulated, north side of house, wood framed) adjacent to our garage and under the roofline. I left the bumble bee nest alone this year (only got stung once) and left the DeltaDust in the garage…for now. The worker bees built a hard-cased structure around the entry to the nest this fall that appears to look like an igloo with a very small opening. This is not a good area for a bumble bee nest, so I need to know: 1) how many queens are likely in that nest and 2) how likely are any of them going to want to use this same enclave for their nest next year? I need to put a wood covering over the hole and it’s all a matter of timing. I could do it now but the queens wouldn’t survive. Of course, I don’t think they’re going to live through this winter in that location. Most of all, I don’t want them back there next year. Advice?

    • Erica,

      No bees will be in that nest during the winter. The queens that overwinter will each go her own way and find a narrow hole in the ground in which to spend the cold months. In addition, it is unlikely that a queen will reuse that nest next year. So now it the best time to close it up or do what you have to do. One thing, are you sure they are bumble bees? The “hard-cased structure around the entry” is confusing.

  • For the people who have been posting about swarms and bees in houses, etc. Talk to a beekeeper. They love free bees. If they can’t safely remove the hive, they will know what the next step is. For bees in houses, removal of the hive is usually necessary. A lot of bees will die, but they also should be able to swarm naturally and then picked up off a nearby tree during the removal process. It’s just hard killing so much unborn brood and food storage. Spring is the ideal time to do removals. During the nectar flow. As long as the queen and swarm survive, they will be fine and usually outperform a normal domesticated hive for a few years.

  • Hi I was moving a digging up a shrub to move and i disturbed a huge queen bumble bee under ground, I’m in the uk and its early August and warm why is she under ground also she appears to have two legs missing on one side don’t kno if I caused this when digging I hope not. Do they hibernate this early in the year and will she survive?

    • Cass,

      Yes, some do hibernate this early, especially the early spring species. As to whether she can survive with just legs? I doubt it.

  • Hello, in my yard a bumblebee nest reached a place where I can’t see them, but if they enter the nest, I have found bumblebees that can’t fly and I have them next to the flowers to eat, and I found one that doesn’t eat or fly , I try to give him water with sugar but he doesn’t drink, how many days can a bumblebee live without eating? Is there any form of euthanasia that is the least painful for bumblebees?

  • Hello,

    A few days ago, a hibernating paper wasp foundress crawled from my ceiling into my warm bright kitchen. We’ve been experiencing march cold snaps here, so I have her in a container with airholes, bedding, some honey, and a cap of sugar water. I’m under the assumption that the warmth of my home has brought her out of hibernation slightly early, as the new foliage- and her caterpillars, aren’t here yet. She was dozy at first but she’s become more active in the daylight. When would be the response time to let her outside? Should I keep her in the dark so she stays more dormant until then?

    • Once an insect breaks hibernation, there is really no undoing it, and I’m sure you’re right about the warmth of the house speeding things along. You can try keeping it in a cool, dark place for a while, but it may not last more than a week. All you can do is try.

  • Hi – I hope you can help me. Last summer I discovered that bees had created a hive in one of the planters in my backyard. I do not know what type of bees these are, but I know they are not bumble bees — they are the yellow ones. I do not know if they survived the winter but I have not seen them flying in and out of the planter. I would like to move the planter to another part of the yard to avoid the children being stung. Any advice? Should I risk just picking up the planter and moving it myself?

    • Sue,

      Yes. Just move it. They will come out the same time as last year, but for now they are most likely still hibernating.

  • Hi, I tried digging around an old stump in the backyard yesterday so I could remove it. But my very first scoop of dirt I dug up three bumblebees. I decided to not do any more digging and placed the bees and dirt gently back in the hole. Will they survive or did I just kill them?

  • Hi, I have bumble bees nesting in my compost bin. I have left them alone so they can get on and do what they need to do. All was going well until today I noticed bees hovering outside the bin and it seems that the flap, which the bees were using to get in and out of the nest, has moved, and now the bees don’t seem to be able to get in. The compost bin is made of plastic with a lid that sits very tight at the top of the bin. It sits on soil. I’m not really sure what to do, I’m not brave enough to try to open/push the flap in case they are very angry at me but I’m concerned about the bees inside. Have you got any ideas about what I can do?

    Thank you

  • I have bumble bees beneath my vinyl siding on my home. I have resisted any professional removal as that usually means they are exterminated.

    Is it safe to assume that once the colder weather arrives in the fall that it will be safe to remove the siding and clean out the nest? Will they all be dead by then?

  • I have had a little bumblebee type bee but about the size of a honeybee in my yard this summer and don’t know what they are or if they sting. They have a yellow fuzzy spot just behind their eyes but no other yellow stripes. Early on they were feeding on a heuchera and now are into the zinnias and asters. However, today I went out and found about 15 of them crawling on a pebble covered path just sort of scratching around in the dirt and a mossy area. I have no idea what they are or what they are doing. I don’t want to harm them but neither do I want to be harmed or have our pets stung. Any idea what they are??

    • Ellen,

      I have absolutely no idea. In North America we have 4000 species of bees and twice as many wasps, so guessing is out of the question.

  • Hello,

    I had bumble bees in my shed all summer long! I love them, so cute! What will happen as fall approaches? Will they all leave or die in their little nest? Will the queen return next year? I’ve grown attached to them. Would love to post pictures but don’t know how.

    • Nathalie,

      Newly-mated queens will fly away from the nest and find a place, usually a small hole in the soil, to overwinter. The rest of the bees, including this year’s queen, will die when the weather gets cold. The colony will not overwinter.

  • I found a honey bee on my bbq cover on a warm day this week. He was on the screen. The next day was very cold but he appeared dormant so brought him in and he awoke. Fed him some sugar water but do not know where to go from here.

    Too cold outside where would he normally be? Do I keep him or put him in a protected spot outside? Winter is starting so is this just a hopeless case?

  • For at least 3 or 4 years, we periodically find lethargic bumble bees throughout the first floor of our house. It was built in 1907 with a limestone foundation. Last year, I know we had a bumble bee nest in the crack of the concrete of our garage. I also found approximately 10 dead bumble bees in the basement during the winter (we don’t use the basement much).

    We love pollinators and try to release the lethargic ones outside, but we have a relative who visits occasionally who has a deadly allergy to bee stings. Is there any way we can figure out where they are coming from and/or try to keep them out of the house?

    • Wesley,

      If they are only going in and not going in-and-out, it would be really hard to tell where they are coming in. You need to watch the outside and see where they are getting in and then fill the crack. Sorry, I don’t have a better idea.

  • Today I observed what appeared to be two bumblebee queens digging themselves into the sandy soil about 8 in from their original nest in the ground. Are they preparing to hibernate? There was another spot nearby that appeared to have been recently excavated as well.

    • Sharon,

      Yes, that is exactly what they are doing. Those are newly-mated queens and those that survive the winter will start new colonies in the spring.

  • Discovered a tennis ball-size beehive of small bees about 9 ft up a tamarind tree in my front yard. What could be Apis florea in N. India. The hive is dark in color. They were active and buzzing y’day but today was cold, foggy, cloudy and they were sleeping all day. I will look them up tomorrow

  • Good day please tell me if it is true that vinegar can kill bees ? Or if you cook a pot of vinegar outside that the vapor of the vinegar that is cooking will kill bees that is near it ?

    • Maria,

      No, the vapor from cooking vinegar will not kill bees. However, it may attract wasps because it smells like fermenting fruit.

  • Hello! I know this post is old but maybe someone will see this.

    I’ve noticed a cute fat bumble bee in my back patio. I only have a tiny interlock patio at my house. Now that I’ve cleaned up my seating area and have been sitting out here, I’ve noticed the bee (I’ve only seen one at a time) going in to my dryer vent! Well, I looked it up and it seems that they will nest in dryer vents, that it only lasts a season, and it’s harmless. However, my dryer vent is overdue for a clean out. What’s the best time to do this so I don’t harm a bee’s nest? Will they leave in the fall or at some point? I’m happy to host a bumble bee nest this summer, makes me want to go to the garden centre for some bee friendly flowering pots!
    I am fairly certain they are bumble bees, they are very round and fat and fuzzy.

    For reference, I live in Ottawa, Canada and it is late May.
    Thanks! Buzz buzz

    • Squeaky,

      You seem to have it all correct. Some species of bumble bees do like to nest in warm snuggly places like dryer vents, mailboxes, discarded mattresses, and similar places. I can’t tell you exactly when the nest will die back, but it will be sometime in the fall. Newly mated queens will hibernate in the ground, and the workers and drones will simply die at the end of the season. In spring when the new queens come out of hibernation, each one will search for a new nest.

      So clean out the vent in fall when all activity stops. If you want to keep them out of the vent next year, you can add some type of screen over the vent that’s small enough to lock them out. You should be good to go. And thank you for letting them stay this year. I appreciate people who appreciate bees.

      • Thank you for the response, I really appreciate it!

        I will clean out the vent in late fall then. And I won’t cover it up, I see no harm in having them there and they are so cute to see. Yay bees

  • I live in CT and I’ve researched that queens nest under ground. However, I found one in my garage last night and I placed it in a rock hole in my garden. I’m hoping I did the right thing can you advise me?

    • Jennifer,

      There are no guarantees that the bee will survive because only a small proportion actually make it until spring. But of all possible things you could have done, putting her in a hole in the ground is probably the best thing for her. It’s what I would do. If you haven’t already, backfill the hole loosely with soil to keep her warm and somewhat protected from predators.

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