Most widespread bee species in the United States are social insects that form colonies, settling in natural and artificial cavities or building aerial nests to shelter eggs and developing young from predators and the weather.
For the homeowner, recognizing the type of nest will provide hints as to which species of bee or wasp built it and how to handle the nest. This is also important when removing a bee nest in your home.
What do I do after finding a bee’s nest?
Once you find a bees nest, follow these steps:
- Ensure it is a colony of bees, not wasps, as you can mistake a swarm of wasps for honey bees from a distance.
- Avoid using pesticides or destroying the nest, as bees are essential pollinators and pest control companies won’t harm beehives.
- Contact your neighborhood beekeeper association if it’s a honey bee hive. They can connect you with local beekeepers who can help remove the colony or advise you.
The best action is to leave it alone if it is a bumblebee nest. It would help if you consider yourself lucky to have found a bumblebee nest and should not move it. Bumblebee nests are uncommon. Transferring it is your only alternative unless you believe the nest is in danger.
Types of bee nests
The most common types of bee nests include the following:
1. Ground Nesters
Soil is the most used material for nesting, with over 70% of bees burrowing in the ground to construct their nests. Each bee species favors a specific type of soil. Some species favor sandy, well-drained soils, while others favor highly silty, hard-packed, clay-like soils.
Ground nests might be just a few inches deep or as deep as ten feet!
The term “nest aggregation” refers to a collection of individual nests that round-nesting bees occasionally build adjacent to one another. These groups can be enormous, often harboring more than 100,000 nests.
Some bee species build independent nests. These nests can be constructed from mud, glue, stone mixtures, plant fibers, and animal fur. For example, resin bees use glandular secretions to gather plant-based, sappy resin and make their intricate, water-resistant nests. They occasionally add stones and pebbles to the perch to adorn them.
The Serapista bee from Africa constructs nests from plant fiber, animal fur, and bird feathers that are adhered to plant stems.
3. Pith and wood nesters
Many bees construct their nests using solid wood, pithy stems, and other similar materials. They carve holes in wood for their houses using their mandibles.
The huge carpenter bees nest in the trim of buildings like barns and sheds. Other wood nesters, such as little carpenters and wood-boring bees, construct their houses in decayed wood and pithy stems.
4. Cavity nesters
Social bees like honey bees and bumblebees construct their nests underground or above-ground chambers. Some Asian honey bees make their nests in the open, while others do it in crevices like tree hollows.
For example, Apis dorsata and Apis laboriosa, two giant Asian honey bees, build enormous nests on cliffs or in tall trees. It’s risky to take honey from these bees’ colonies.
Bumblebees choose underground nests, frequently in former rat burrows. Bumblebee queens can be seen looking for an abandoned shelter in the early spring. They hunt for any hole or cavity that would make a good nest as they fly low over the earth.
Some bees occupy preexisting nests rather than building new ones. They make their nests in hollow stems, cracked stones, snail shells, beetle and worm burrows, and abandoned insect nests.
Renters also use manufactured items like fencing, tubing, gaps in window frames, and paper and plastic straws. Examples of renter bees are Mason, leaf-cutter, and wool-carder bees.
How do bees make nests?
To produce honey as effectively and efficiently as possible, beehives are constructed of six-sided tubes; as a result, beehives use less wax and can store more honey. Unfortunately, open-air hives cannot be maintained for long.
Hives made in a hot environment have junctions where the combs connect. However, they will melt. They overcome this by carefully choosing the ideal place for their colony and beehive.
Bees are resourceful when deciding where to build their nests, and they typically choose any area that protects them from the elements. Construction starts from the top down once the location is determined.
First, worker bees set up the room by applying a thin layer of propolis to the wall of the beehive.
At different phases of hive development, bees will utilize propolis to help guard the colony against pathogens and invaders. After being secreted, the bees chew the wax until it softens and can be divided into cells that store pollen, nectar, honey, eggs, water, and larvae.
A beehive’s interior walls can support thirty times its weight. In the top portions, honey will also be present. The pollen lies in the rows below the formation of the highest parts, followed by worker brood cells and drone bee cells.
Finally, the queen bee cells are located near the base of the construction. Once constructed, the hive will house the colony for many years and only have one entrance.
If you see a lone, weary bee on the ground or inside your home, consider relocating it outside where it will be safe and feeding it a sugar-and-water solution. This could save it and give it the energy it needs to return to its nest. Give it no honey because it may have virus residues from wild bees.