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Author Topic: Anyone Keeping Bumblebees?  (Read 3889 times)
MrILoveTheAnts
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« on: December 31, 2007, 10:18:24 PM »

Has anyone here ever kept Bumblebees or going to attempt keeping them this year?
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Hopeful
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« Reply #1 on: January 01, 2008, 09:55:54 AM »

Juging by my feeder activity this year, it looks like I will be keeping some yellow jackets.  grin
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Cindi
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« Reply #2 on: January 01, 2008, 10:18:02 AM »

MrILoveTheAnts.  Good thread, good question.  I do not keep bumblebees, there are so many around here, I have no quest for that.  But it would be a very interesting thing to do, and maybe one day I may venture down that trail......but til then....life with apis meliferra.

I did a little studying on the Bumblebee some time ago.  It is very interesting how they live.  I do know that it is nearly impossible to move a Bumblebee's hive, they don't take well to that and will probably perish.  Others may know more, perhaps this can be done, but I don't think so.  So if anyone is thinking about doing that, think twice.

The information that I was reading about indicated that the easiest way to start a Bombus colony is to catch the queen bumblebee when she comes out of her hibernation in the spring.  She is impregnated and will set up her little home once she had gathered enough food to feed her babies.  You will know the queen bumblebee by being the first great big bumblebee that you see in the spring.  That is the queen, all the others have perished over the winter, she is the only one that lives.

So, do some research on the internet, the Bombus is a fascinating species of the bees.  It is worth the read, if that is only as far as it goes, have fun with it, intriguing life of Mother Nature.  Have a wonderful and great day.   Cindi
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randydrivesabus
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« Reply #3 on: January 01, 2008, 10:27:05 AM »

is the purpose of keeping bumblebees for pollination? or for interesting entertainment?
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Cindi
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« Reply #4 on: January 01, 2008, 10:31:26 AM »

Randy, well if it is for entertaining, I think that would be boring.  Bumblebees nest underground, in mounds of fluffy stuff (hee, hee, go figure that one, hundreds of types of mounds of fluffy stuff), cavities, etc., etc., they are not like the honeybee that we can lift a cover and go and look.  Their colonies are small, say around 50 inhabitants, so I couldn't see much interest, unless someone can enlighten me, hee, hee  Smiley Smiley  Have a beautiful, great day.  Cindi
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There are strange things done in the midnight sun by the men who moil for gold.  The Arctic trails have their secret tales that would make your blood run cold.  The Northern Lights have seen queer sights, but the queerest they ever did see, what the night on the marge of Lake Lebarge, I cremated Sam McGee.  Robert Service
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« Reply #5 on: January 01, 2008, 10:40:04 AM »

http://shop.extension.umn.edu/PublicationDetail.aspx?ID=1902
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Michael Bush
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« Reply #6 on: January 01, 2008, 12:35:09 PM »

I've always wanted to, but haven't had the time.  There is supposed to be a new book out on the subject...

I have had leaf cutter bees in the past, but again, can't find the boards (they are probably in my garage and full of leaf cutter bees...) and haven't had time to make any new ones...
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Michael Bush
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Zoot
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« Reply #7 on: January 01, 2008, 01:39:36 PM »

Aside from doing it for curiousity I assume one keeps bumblebees primarily for pollination. It's become rather popular here in MD; 2 large farms near me that have extremely successful produce operations - pick your own and commercial - have been keeping them for several seasons now. One of them, Homestead Farms, is pretty serious about it with regards to monitoring produce output variations, etc. It's basically a one season deal with the bees: you purchase a single box which houses the colony for the entire season and that's it, they die in the fall and the process is repeated in the spring. I believe Homestead is experimenting with another bee species also. The honeybee losses on many of the larger farms here were severe last year.

Peeked into my hives yesterday (mid 50'sF) and they look great. Nice big clusters with plenty of food. Looking forward to a good spring.
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annette
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« Reply #8 on: January 01, 2008, 05:01:49 PM »

Well, at least when they die off in the fall, you expect it. Unlike our little girls who give us numerous heart attacks and worries. I just love bumblebees, as they are so beautiful and fluffly and sweet just like honeybees.

Have fun if you ever do it.

Annette
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Mici
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« Reply #9 on: January 01, 2008, 07:10:00 PM »

i was very keen on having them the whole last winter, actually spring so i hurried up, made 7 boxes from the charts on the net and put them outside.
searched for whole lot of info and found most of it, except for the most cruical one. how to home a queen bumblebee. there was even a "nightclub" on our TV with our bumblebee raiser, and he told lots about BB, but not how to home a queen. don't know, maybe i'll try contacting him.
they can be kept for...fun, or raised for pollination. they are superior pollinators to bees as bees don't like to fly in enclosed fields-green houses. also, they fly from flower to flower, unlike bees who would often put aside "economical crop" to some good honey yielding pasture say linden.
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MrILoveTheAnts
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« Reply #10 on: January 01, 2008, 10:47:12 PM »

I've been reading a book called Pollinator Conservation Handbook and The Natural History of Bumblebees. The one on Bombus is obviously more helpful. Basically to raise a colony/hive of these bees you need a hollow box  of about 8 by 8 by 6, or a Styrofoam drink cooler. This needs a hole in the side about 5/8, and make sure the top is removable and overhangs the side the entrance is on. Under the top should be a pain of glass or plexiglass for safe viewing, though this is only needed if you can't control your breathing on the bees. Inside you should provide some sort of material to insulate the hive. Home insulation will work, maybe cotton, straw, try to make it look like a rodent lived there before. I read building maybe 3 or 4 might be a good idea. 

As I read it seems all Bumblebees before mid May or maybe June are probably Queens foraging for a nest. However if they're collecting pollen, don't catch them, they're already devoted to a nest and won't start over! So try to locate one that's just hovering around and possibly landing on things and crawling through the grass. The earlier in the year the better. Catch and place them in the box for maybe 2 weeks, during which time you may want to feed them some honey mixed with pollen. Nest boxes can be fitted to have two chambers to make feeding easier.
Another option is to set up a box slightly above ground level near a Willow tree. Willows tend to bloom right when queens are emerging form their hibernation to feed. They will explore a lot of possible nests and supposedly spend the nights in the grassland around these trees. One book says setting out a box has a 1 in 3 chance of success but the other book mentions it's not uncommon to find established hives with over 20 dead queens in them. It seems (not including 6 parasitic species) that when nesting is limited the queens will begin to fight over nesting sights, and down right assassinate the resident queen. Some of the parasitic species allow the host queen to live but eats most of her eggs... which in my eyes switches the rolls of host and parasite.
Bumblebees enjoy nesting underground or in clumps of tall grass (field mice nests?). In both cases they need an open cavity to get started. Most of the ground nesting species won't nest in the boxes you make to house them but they can be fooled by connecting a tube to the entrance and running it underground and back up again. Personally this explains why I've found Bumblebees in our garden hose each year. 

Commercially Bumblebees are used to pollinate tomatoes (and a few others) inside greenhouses where Honey bees do poorly. Not that I've ever seen a Honey bee on a tomato. Bumblebees are superior pollinators because their tung is far longer and reaches farther into the flowers and they usually don't discriminate. Actually they're an important pollinator of some endangered plants. (Who knew Colorado orchids?) They're also a native pollinator immune to varroa mites and wax moths, but their hives are targeted by hundreds of other parasites. Most of these are beneficial though and don't kill the colony. Actually the number one reason why colonies fail is Ants. A test the book gives is open up an apple and count the number of seeds inside it. If you get anything less then 10 then the flower wasn't properly pollinated and likely didn't form to it's fullest. 
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Michael Bush
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« Reply #11 on: January 02, 2008, 06:10:53 AM »

Bumble bees prefer mouse nests for their nests.  If you can find one and put it in your box (minus the mice), you'll have your "bait".
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Michael Bush
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Sean Kelly
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« Reply #12 on: January 02, 2008, 08:29:16 AM »

Just saw a article in Bee Culture about a new book that's coming out about keeping Bumble Bees  Looks pretty cool.  I think I'm gunna pick it up here soon, I'll let ya'll know if it's any good.  smiley

Do you think that bumble bees and honey bees compete?  Before I set my hives up last April there were bumbles everywhere!  But when I installed my honey bees all the bumbles dissapeared.  Been kinda wondering about that too.

Sean Kelly
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KONASDAD
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« Reply #13 on: January 02, 2008, 10:24:42 AM »

They us'em in northern areas to pollinate bluberries b/c they fly in colder damper weather. A place in Nova Scotia uses them exclusively. Buy them from a "lab" somewhere

I have loads of wild bombus in my backyard. They just crawl over the beebalm and butterfly bush as well. I can see a hundred in a day.
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MrILoveTheAnts
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« Reply #14 on: January 02, 2008, 01:20:39 PM »

The books I've been reading have mixed views on Honeybees vs Bumblebees. One book reads that one hive of Honeybees means some outrageous number of bumblebee queens won't be born for next year, something like 30,000. But the only place I could see this being anywhere near true is where foraging opportunities are limited. Because the honeybee tung is shorter they might only get half the nectar a flower that used to be pollinated by bumblebee, so when the bumblebee shows up usually half it's food is already gone. However, they're ignoring a fact mentioned in the other book. Apparently Commercial Bumblebee Keepers exported a few hives to Europe, and for some reason afterwards a few hives were sent back and introduced a disease that killed off a lot of the bumblebee population. So I'm not sure what's going on in the bumblebee world. I know I saw way more Bombus in my yard then honeybees working the flowers last year.
Yet another problem is the focus on honeybees in the scientific world. There is way to much research done on Apis mellifera, and almost none on the native bee population. It's to the point where directions on Pesticides for farmers to spray their crops revolve around Honeybees which aren't native to the US. So for all the native bees that are only active during one time of year or nest in standing wood or open soil they're more likely to get sprayed with pesticide. 
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randydrivesabus
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« Reply #15 on: January 02, 2008, 02:18:13 PM »

whats the difference between bumbles and carpenters? are there any other varieties that look like that?
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Michael Bush
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« Reply #16 on: January 02, 2008, 10:47:39 PM »

Bumble bees and honey bees sometimes compete on a few things, but mostly the bumble bees have longer tongues and prefer plants that the bees don't.
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Michael Bush
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JP
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« Reply #17 on: January 02, 2008, 10:56:25 PM »

Randy, primary difference, bumbles nest generally in the ground, carpenter bees in wood. Carpenter bees are solitary, but nest in close proximity to others because they are attracted to the same raw wood. I have seen bumbles nest in mailboxes and I removed some from the underside of a house trailer not too long ago. Bumble colonies are anywhere from 50-100 bees. The only reason one would raise bumbles is for pollenation.

Sincerely, JP
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Sean Kelly
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« Reply #18 on: January 04, 2008, 05:11:17 AM »

So anyone know if bombus are affected by varora like honey bees?  They are so similar, would only seem so...

Sean Kelly
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Michael Bush
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« Reply #19 on: January 04, 2008, 06:43:49 AM »

>So anyone know if bombus are affected by varora like honey bees?

Yes, they are.  How much it affects them I don't think anyone really knows.
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Michael Bush
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