What do bumblebee queens look like

Establishment of bumblebees

Establishment of bumblebees
The settlement of bumblebees can be done actively or passively.

Passive settlement

First, let me introduce you to the passive settlement that is best for beginners. For this we need a nest box that offers the bumblebees optimal conditions for their nest building and the bumblebee colony. The living conditions of the different species must be considered.

In February, when the last frosts are over, the nesting box is set up in a sheltered place by the house or in the garden. Bumblebee queens look for holes and cracks on the ground where they suspect a nesting opportunity. For this reason, it is advantageous if the entry hole is very close to the surface of the earth.

With a little luck, the bumblebee queen will find the entrance and investigate the passage that ends in a small cave made of upholstery wool or kapok. Now it depends on whether the queen likes it or not.

If she comes out again and does a so-called orientation flight after the visit, i.e. she looks in the direction of the entrance and flies first small, then increasing loops, it is a good sign.

This is how she memorizes the entrance and will in all likelihood come back. If she then enters nectar and pollen into the nest box in the following days, the nest has been successfully established.

Active settlement

Fundamental things have to be observed when actively settling.

  1. Prepare the nest box well. That means: distribute the upholstery wool or kapok loosely in the nesting room and create an approx. 5 cm cave behind the entrance. Fill the nesting material up to the top.
  2. I think it is unsuitable to catch a bumblebee queen in order to transport them in a container over long distances, as this can panic bumblebees and only the thought of fleeing…. nothing like gone ... have. A settlement then often does not succeed.
  3. Bumblebees should be "shown" the way to the nest in their own garden. By this I mean that the insertion process should not take longer than two minutes. The bumblebee queen shouldn't even notice that she is being put in the box. Only queens should be taken who are persistently searching and not just nervously flying back and forth across the ground. The best time is March and April.
  4. A bumblebee looking for a nesting place just above the ground is suitable for a settlement. The bumblebee can be fixed on the ground with the landing net. If this is successful, you pull the net tip up to a point. Bumblebees run to the light, i.e. into the tip of the net. Hold the net with your thumb and forefinger so that the bumblebee cannot escape. The insertion aid is now carried out from below between the thumb and forefinger and the bumblebee runs into the insertion aid.


  1. Another possibility is to poke holes about 10cm deep in the ground with a broomstick. The hole should be similar to that of a mouse hole entrance. Then I watch a bumblebee queen (all bumblebees flying in March / April are queens) inspect such a hole. She will fly into these holes and crawl into them. As soon as the queen has disappeared into such a hole, I put the insertion aid (picture) on the hole so that she can crawl into the transparent enema aid when leaving. Now I close the hole in front and check with a quick glance whether any parasites have attached themselves to the collar of the bumblebee. If you are afraid of being stung, you can cover the tube with a cardboard lid. Now it has to be done quickly. Before the bumblebee realizes that it is in "captivity", the insertion process should be completed. Nevertheless, calm is the top priority here.

    I put the insertion aid in front of the entrance of the nest box so that the tube is flush

    rests. As shown in the example on the right, the piston is now carefully pushed forward so that the bumblebee runs into the entrance. It is important to ensure that the bumblebee's legs are not crushed. After a little practice, the insertion turns out to be unproblematic. The black piston is then held light-tight in front of the entrance hole for about 20 seconds so that the bumblebee has time to walk down the aisle. In the other hand I now have a tuft of grass which I quickly and light-tight stuff into the hole. After 2 - 3 minutes I release the hole again.




Now a few more tips

  • Bumblebees never catch flowers because they often already have a nest and are not suitable for settlement.
  • Do not occupy nest boxes twice, because queens do not get along. They fight a life and death fight.
  • Catching bumblebees by hand and then letting them run into the entrance hole without stress is only something for experienced bumblebee friends. A sting is sometimes unavoidable given the complicated handling.
  • Pay attention to the mood of queens seeking nest.
  • Optimal candidates are queens who have awakened from hibernation and have supplied themselves with flower nectar as "aviation fuel". The pollen is responsible for the development of the ovaries. When these are fully developed, the bumblebee looks for a nesting place.
  • It becomes critical at the end of April and beginning of May. Now bumblebee queens are on their way, who are eager to take over existing nests. The situation of queens meeting each other usually ends with the death of a queen. In addition, cuckoo bumblebees can now be on the way, which also want to take over nests that have been started.
  • Nest entrances should be protected with a flap against the unhindered ingress of wax moths.