Are Chickadee Nests the Key to an Effective Bumble Bee Nest Box?

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A PVC chickadee nest box.

A PVC chickadee nest box.

Are Chickadees the key to the creation of an effective Bumble Bee Nest Box? Likely, and you can help us figure this out.

Desiree Narango, a graduate student studying chickadees in urban Washington, D.C., has found that bumble bees (likely Bombus bimaculatus) will nest in the used or abandoned moss nests of Carolina Chickadees. Approximately 1/4 of the these nests had a bumble bee nest and there is indirect evidence that the queen may actually chase chickadees out of nests during laying.  The actual use rate could be higher as nests boxes were not regularly checked after determining that the nest was abandoned by the birds.

Given that no effective bumble bee nest box exists in North America this is a call to action to flesh out the possibilities of this technique.

Yesterday, Sam Droege, a native bee specialist at USGS in Maryland, and his interns gathered moss and found enough old 4″ plastic pipe to make 20 nests.  Today they will assemble them, load them with moss and put them outside. You should too! These experiments can help us learn more about this possibly awesome way to keep bumble bees.

You can learn how to build these PVC pipe nests from Narango’s directions posted on her web site. You don’t have to pre-load the nest box with wood chips as you would for a chickadee, but just load them with moss for the bees. Place them outside and monitor them. Send us your location for the nest pipes and the results (did bees nest or not?) and we’ll pass all the results to Sam Droege.

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Comments (1)

  1. Claudia BLISS says:

    Hello, I have just read this article about the connection between birds and bumblebees. I read this after researching about bumblebees after I found a nest in a bird nesting box that had an old tufted titmouse mossy nest that I was trying to take out to clean the box. I discovered the bumblebee nest was in place after I saw two bees and got stung after canning my cleaning idea! I am a fan of bees [not carpenter] and would like to have them do another nest next year but this wasn’t the first time we found a bee nest. Several years ago we’d found a bumblebee nest in an old chickadee nest—-and there is that moss thing again that the bees find irresistible. What is written here is definitely my experience with two nesting boxes and chickadee/titmouse old nests. It’s very exciting to realize we can help bees this way! Thank you for this article, happy to read it! Good luck spreading the word the bee population needs it!

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