Bumble bees in NZ

Bumble bees are beneficial pollinating insects. They are large round hairy bees, primarily black and yellow banded that are often seen feeding at flowers in a garden. Bumble Bees are generally harmless, only using their sting when heavily provoked and are found in much smaller colonies than honey bees. 

Like honey bees they feed on nectar and pollen often foraging in weather conditions unsuitable for honey bees and amongst flowers that honey bees can’t access because of their shorter tongues. However, unlike honey bees they make no attempt to store food for the winter and die out naturally at the end of summer with the exception of the queens who hibernate over winter underground or in warm sheltered places like firewood piles.

Bumbles bee nests are usually in holes or cavities at ground level or below in wild, untidy garden areas. Sometimes bumble bees will build their nest in the sub-floors, roof voids of houses or other inappropriate places. They love nesting in Pink Batt insulation in ceiling spaces. If the nest cannot be accessed or moved then it may be necessary to destroy the colony.

Ideally nests should be left alone until the end of the summer but if they must be removed then they should be relocated nearby (within a couple of metres) where the flying bees can easily find the nest. However, relocation of a bumble bee nest to a completely different area is not usually successful.

Only if a bumble bee colony is in an inappropriate place should destruction be considered.

The nests of bumble bees generally have only one entrance/exit. If this can be identified the colony can be destroyed by sprinkling or puffing the apicide into the entrance. The workers will then pick up the dust as they enter the nest and take it inside where it will kill larvae and queens.

You can contact a local bee-keeper who may be able to help with the safe removal of bumble bee nests, see Apiculture New Zealand swarm collection contact list.


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