All about Bumblebee houses
BUMBLEBEE HOUSES AND EVERYTHING YOU WOULD LIKE TO KNOW
If we want our garden to be self-sufficient, beautiful, healthy and productive, we need to respect each living creature and make efforts to establish a so called biological balance (the soil, microorganisms, plants and animals are reciprocally at a balanced ratio). Such a garden is a little miracle – a functioning ecosystem.
WHAT ARE BUMBLEBEE HOUSES?
They are a year-round sanctuary for bumblebees of which there are over 30 species in the Czech Republic. They are important pollinators of flowers, vegetables and fruit trees. A bumblebee with its long tongue can reach nectar hidden deep in long-tubed flowers (courgette, tomato, etc.). They are absolutely harmless to humans and show very interesting life manifestations.
HOW DO BUMBLEBEE HOUSES WORK?
Their way of life is similar in many respects for all bumblebees. In the spring, females leave over wintering sites and supply energy by collecting nectar. Within 10 days they begin to search for a suitable place to nest. And here comes in the bumblebee box; it offers a warm and soft material for the female to modify into an oval chamber. At the bottom she lays eggs that literally hatch into larvae. At the end of their development larvae form cocoons then 24 days later become workers. Subsequently, they help the mother with feeding, collecting pollen and nectar and with nest modifications. By midsummer, males appear in the nest and new mothers hatch. Males leave the nest and search for young females nearby. Mating takes place on the ground in line with some species-specific rituals. Fertilised mothers then look for a suitable place to hibernate. The old mother dies at the end of summer. For some time workers are able to lay unfertilised eggs that turn into males. But the nest soon becomes extinct. The bumblebee box contains several dozens, rarely hundreds of animals at the peak of their development.
WHAT ARE BUMBLEBEES FOR?
To pollinate a vast majority of fruit trees, shrubs and plants, bees and bumblebees are essential. The time when every other garden had a few hives has unfortunately long been gone, besides this is also due to the use of pesticides. The great advantage of bumblebees compared to honeybees is their absolutely peace-loving nature. Their breeding is completely safe and easy, you can entrust it to children. Bumblebees are very proficient pollinators, often even more efficient than honeybees. This is particularly true when pollinating heterogamous varieties (they are more “promiscuous” – readily changing one tree for anther) even at lower temperatures or in the rain, thus they pollinate most of the year. They are excellent pollinators of plants requiring cross-pollination between two cultivars including almonds, cherries and most apples, and crops having male and female flowers separately such as squashes, water melons or kiwi fruit. Unlike honeybees they can resist the richer availability of nectar and pollen in the neighbourhood (I have often observed that honeybees leave blooming apple trees completely if a field of rapeseed comes into bloom nearby, whereas bumblebees stay!). Unlike bumblebees, workers of honeybees are able to communicate very well and convey information about the ample load found. However, this characteristic is much appreciated by farmers, when honeybees get tricked and successfully pollinate plants grown in large areas, this becomes more of a disadvantage if we have a small garden and not a hundred-hectare orchard.
WHEN TO HANG BUMBLEBEE HOUSES?
The bumblebee box may be hung anytime throughout the year; however, early in the spring (February / March) just before the blossoming of pussy willows is the best time. We may leave it there until late autumn. We may store it in a barn or leave it outside. In the winter, I recommend cleaning it and replacing the filler with a new one (non-woven cotton, clean fleece, etc.).
WHERE TO PUT BUMBLEBEE HOUSES?
The bumblebee box is often placed on the penumbra side of a tree trunk, or a pole in a herbal bed. Gardens, hedges, or slopes, there are many possibilities; however, it needs a penumbra place on the lee side, preferably located to the southeast or southwest and 1 to 2 meters above the ground. The bumblebee occupancy depends on how attractive the environment is (sometimes it needs to be re-located to a more suitable place, or more tempting plants must be grown such as oregano, lavender, sage, echinacea, stinging nettle or a lime tree). However, results often exceed expectations – it really works!
Our success will be visible due to the lively bustle of bumblebees in and around the nest: bumblebees carry pollen on hairs of their hind legs and spend time in blooming plants blooming plants blooming plants. Do not be discouraged with the first failure, bumblebees prefer slightly aired shelters, thus the nest box will not be full on the first day.
In recent decades, all species of bumblebees and other insects have rapidly declined as a result of their habitat destruction and the use of pesticides. It is up to us whether the number of our important helpers increases again.
Thank you for your time and interest!
Boleslav Daška, DiS.
PS: Should you want to know more or need help with anything, please feel free to contact me.
And finally, one short story for thought...
A man is walking along a beach where hundreds of starfish were washed up by the sea. Every time he can, he takes one and throws it back into the water. Another man is watching and then he asks: “Why are you doing this? It’s meaningless, you cannot save them all.” The man turns to him, tosses one into the sea and replies: “But it’s meaningful for this one.”