The most frequent question we Beekeepers are asked is "We have bumblebees nesting In the "garden", "shed", "roof", "wall" and what should we do?" Whether the nest is in a bird box, compost bin or simply a pile of grass cuttings, We give the same answer - if you can, do nothing.
Bumblebees are not aggressive, they do not swarm and rarely sting. Unfortunately changes In climate, agricultural practices, pesticides and urban expansion have not been kind to our bees, and many species are now very vulnerable. It is therefore very important for people to do their small part to help bees whenever they can and I would always recommend that bumblebee nests are left undisturbed. In Africa, people have to learn to live with lions or we risk losing them, a small bumblebee nest, with maybe 20 bees in, is surely is no trouble.
Bumblebees have an annual life cycle with new nests being started each spring by queens. Colonies only last one summer and queens do not come back to the same location to nest each year. In the UK most nests will have died out by September, and often much earlier. This means bumblebee nests are only a temporary issue that should not cause too many problems in gardens. In summer you will see many bumblebees flying around and they are easy to identify with their dark orange-red tails and yellow faces. The presence of males in July and August indicates that a colony's life cycle is nearly over and pretty soon the nests of these bees will be empty. By letting them finish their life cycle, you can help to ensure there are enough new queens to keep the population going the next year.
If they are a pain and you want rid; then you have 3 options. 1) Destroy them 2) Move them 3 miles away after dark - (ok if they are in a bird box - impossible if they are under a shed or in a hole in the ground). 3) leave them alone and learn to live alongside them.
Happy Bee watching - Mark