How To Build A Bumble Bee Nest


Bumble Bees are responsible for pollinating our tomatoes, so why not give them a helping hand by providing a nice office in the backyard? There are two compartments inside this design, divided by a piece of wood with a hole in it, so the bees are able to crawl from one room to the other.

Bumble Bee Nest Assembled

Start by cutting 9 pieces of wood. The long ones are 41 cm (16″) and the short ones are 15 cm (6″). I have used some spare wood with the dimensions 9.5 cm x 2 cm (3.7″ x 0.8″), but something else can be used instead:

Bumble Bee Nest Wood

Drill three holes in the middle of the short pieces: Entrance, middle corridor and peek hole. The piece with the peek hole I made with a 10 mm (0.39″) drill:

Bumble Bee Nest Drill 10mm

Bumble Bee Nest 10mm

The holes for the entrance and the middle corridor needs to be 20 mm (0.79″) in diameter:

Bumble Bee Nest Coin

I didn’t have a drill this big so I used a file to make the holes bigger:

Bumble Bee Nest File

A Dremel can also be used if you’re impatient ;-)

Bumble Bee Nest Dremel

Bumble Bee Nest Drilled

I found that if I drilled first with a 2 mm (0.079″) drill it was much easier to get the screws in when assembling the nest:

Bumble Bee Nest Drill 2mm

You can use an electric drill for the screws if you want to work faster:

Bumble Bee Nest Screw

Left side assembled:

Bumble Bee Nest Left Side

Left and right side assembled:

Bumble Bee Nest Bottom

The three walls are fastened to the left side. The front compartment is 15 cm x 15 cm (6″ x 6″). This is where the bees can set up a defence against the outer world. The nesting compartment in the back is 20 cm x 15 cm (7.9″ x 6″). The walls are 2 cm (0.79″) thick:

Bumble Bee Nest Compartments

I put in two pieces of cardboard as floor, which should make it easier to clean after the season, but I’m not sure, if parasite eggs will survive in the joints of the box, so that I’ll have to scrap the whole box and build a new one next year. I have to do more research on this.

Bumble Bee Nest Cardboard

Moss has been put in the larger nesting compartment:

Bumble Bee Nest Moss

The two pieces to put on top as roof have been glued together to keep the rain from dropping down from the joint:

Bumble Bee Nest Glue Roof

The finished nesting box is lifted from the ground to keep it dry:

Bumble Bee Nest Assembled

Then we’ll just have to wait for a queen to find the nest in the spring. The plastic bag of peat moss you see on the left was the nest of last year, so there should be a chance that a queen will stop by and move in.

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20 thoughts on “How To Build A Bumble Bee Nest

  1. Well, not exactly. There are bees all over my lawn and it looks like they’re searching for a place to build a nest in the ground. I see maybe two or three each day behaving like this. I’ve watched the nest I built but it doesn’t seem like there’s any activity :-( Maybe I get too close with the lawn mower, I don’t know…

  2. @star: It’s a good idea to build some kind of roof that covers the entire nest, since the rain is a bit hard on the wood if it’s is raw and untreated like the type I used.

  3. Your box looks sturdy and good, but I think bumblebees might not realize they can nest there.

    One of the bumblebees’ favorite nesting spots is in old mouse nests, so you could try to a few things to imitate those:

    1. Lower the box, so the entrance is closer to the grounds. Most bumblebee species prefer entrances close to the ground.
    2. Attach a footlong garden hose length to the entrance, bury the mid-section and let the end peek out of the dirt. This makes it resemble a mouse nest more.
    3. Claw away plants near the hose entrance, mice do this around their nest entrances.
    4. If you can find some mouse droppings, scatter them around the entrance.
    5. You should make at least two or three ventilation holes (cover them with plastic netting to keep ants out), especially if your box receives any amount of sun during a day. Bumblebees need a particular temperature range, and with only one hole it might be hard for them to maintain this.

    I made my own bumblebee nest from an old flower pot a little while ago, check it out if you’re interested:
    http://www.renewablesathome.com/ecology/how-to-build-a-bumblebee-nest

  4. I have a bee condo that was filled up last spring. The new bees are emerging. Will other bees use that condo again? I can’t very well wash it, it’s either being filled or is filled at all times. I see that other people say to scrape it clean but I don’t see when there is an inactive time for it.

  5. @ang: As I see it the reason for cleaning the nest is to prevent the bees from getting sick, but in your case the bees are thriving, so I guess there’s no problem to fix.
    Good luck attracting bees to your condo ;-)

  6. Interesting post mate and i’ll bookmark it as the other half keeps going on about building a box for bees.
    At the moment though I don’t need it as a bee has made her nest under the spare bedroom window of my house in Sweden!!

  7. @Anthony: Thanks ;-) I hope I’ll be able to build a box and attract bees deliberately some time in the near future, but of course it’s nice that they find places to live anyway. Bees near a bedroom window shouldn’t be a problem, but wasps would probably be quite irritating. I think the wasps around here are aggressive this year. I don’t know if it’s the same in Sweden, although it’s close to Denmark.

  8. Yeah the bee is no problem mate, they just go about their business and love the plants in the garden. Because the house is old and needs repairing in places they find places to nest and even though i’m not keen I let them live wherever they build a nest. On the plus side it’s good for my garden!

    As for wasps, well 1 thing is for sure, I keep well away from them!! But not to be outdone I have a nest in the loft (seen them going under a slate on the roof) There is NO WAY I am going up in the loft anytime soon I can tell you!!!

  9. I was going to try burying a Styrofoam box with a plastic PVC pipe leading down to it with only a couple entrance holes in the lower part of an elbow above ground with a removable landing pad, like a brick with a thin foam insulation wrap to keep it from becoming to hot. A little honey inside to give enticement to move in and try to catch a Bumble Bee in a container and present it to the hole openings to give it the option to go in and look around. Covering the underground area with dirt a layer of plastic to keep water seepage away then dirt over. Any thoughts ?

  10. I forgot to thank you for putting the site up and for trying to be a good friend to the bees. Thank You ! I use to have some honey bee hives and would let them keep their honey till they made it through the winter and would put foam insulation sleeves over the hives till the cold passed. Had one really cold long winter and didn’t loose a hive.

  11. @iLdoRight: I sounds like a really good idea – could you make a quick drawing of the whole thing and send it in via the Contact page? Then I can take a look and perhaps post it here, if it’s okay?
    And thank you too, for helping the bees ;-)

  12. Pingback: How to grow your own food at home

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