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Providing evidence to improve practice

Action: Translocate bumblebee colonies in nest boxes Bee Conservation

Key messages

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We have captured three small trials in the 1950s and early 1960s testing the effect of translocating bumblebee colonies in nest boxes. Two trials in Canada provided evidence of queen death and one of these showed lower colony productivity following translocation. Just one, a UK trial, concluded that early bumblebee Bombus pratorum colonies adapt well to being moved.


Supporting evidence from individual studies


An unspecified number of red-belted bumblebee Bombus rufocinctus colonies in wooden nest boxes were translocated an unspecified distance from their original site to a crop field, in southern Alberta, Canada, once the first brood of workers had begun foraging (Hobbs et al. 1960). Some workers were lost and queens began foraging for nectar. Two queens were killed as a result of returning to the wrong nest. Colonies that were moved raised an average of four new queen cocoons (range 4-9), while colonies that were not moved raised on average 22 new queen cocoons (range 17-27).


Five colonies of the early bumblebee B. pratorum housed in wooden boxes were experimentally translocated in Hertfordshire, southern England (Free 1955). Colonies were moved six miles (9.7 km), 80 yards (73 m), seven yards (6.4 m) or three inches (7.6 cm) from the original site. Apart from the smallest translocation distance, some foraging workers were lost due to each translocation. Between 71% and 92% of foraging workers returned to the nest at the new site eventually.


On seven occasions in spring 1960 and 1961, an unspecified number of colonies of long-tongued bumblebee species B. appositus, B. californicus and B. nevadensis were moved, overnight, up to six miles away just after the first brood of workers had emerged, in southern Alberta, Canada (Hobbs et al. 1962). An empty box with a one-way door was placed on the old site for two hours the following morning. On one occasion, half the workers from a colony of B. californicus were out when the colony was moved and captured in the trap. On the other six occasions, few workers were left behind. Several queens (at least eight) were killed after translocation by re-entering the wrong nest box. The authors recommend delaying translocation until the second brood has emerged and the queen no longer forages.

Referenced papers

Please cite as:

Dicks, L.V., Showler, D.A. & Sutherland, W.J. (2010) Bee conservation: evidence for the effects of interventions. Pelagic Publishing, Exeter, UK