What is that buzzing noise in the bird box?

Over the years I have written many times about the different habitat boxes you can put up for wildlife. This included the traditional tit box with a small round hole or one with a larger hole that lets in sparrows.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 30th August 2011, 1:00 pm

I put up a traditional tit box with a 25mm/1 inch hole which blue tits nested in it for several years but every year the sparrows would peck at the hole for a few weeks early in the year when they were looking for a nest site.

They would eventually move on but the hole got a little bigger each year. One year though the sparrows succeeded in making the hole big enough and since then rather than blue tits nesting in the box I have had sparrows.

They may not be as pretty but they are still fun to watch and I am helping an endangered species. However it is not just blue tits and sparrows that have used this box to nest in.

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A few years ago, before the sparrows finally succeeded in enlarging the hole the blue tits that were nesting in the box at the bottom of my garden had all fledged. I had hoped they may have another brood but it was not to be. The box remained empty on the fence or so I thought.

Every time I closed the gate at the bottom of the garden I heard a buzzing noise. I decided to investigate. I lifted the lid of the nest box and found the old nest still there, although it did look as if it had been “plumped up”.

Imagine my surprise when a handful of bumblebees came out of the nesting material to investigate who was disturbing them. At that time my bumblebee identification skills were not what they are now or I would have identified the species but I did know that bumblebees are non-aggressive so left them in peace.

I have since found out that this is quite common and that bumblebees will often move into nest boxes that are not being used by birds and take advantage of readymade nesting sites.

So if you have a bird box and you think the birds have finished nesting remember not to touch it. The birds may come back to try for another clutch of eggs or the bumblebees may move in. Clean out the nesting material at the very end of the year in November or December to stop the build up of disease.

If you want to provide other places for bumblebees to nest then you can easily do so and if you provide one just now then a queen may over winter in it. There are bumblebee boxes and nesting baskets available commercially but you can also make your own. There are a couple of very simple designs which can be found on the Bumblebee Conservation Trust website at www.bumblebeeconservation.org.uk.

Remember bumblebees are nonaggressive and very rarely sting. In fact all the people I know that have been stung by bumblebees have either been trying to get them out the house and the bee has stung them or they have stung someone when they have accidently been squashed.


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