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Bumble bees belong to the genus Bombus within the family Apidae. There are over 50 species in North America. Bumble bees are excellent pollinators of many crops. Bumble bees and native bees are an important part of pollination and they're free!  It is estimated that native insects (mostly bees but not including the non-native honeybee) have an economic value for pollination services of about 3 billion dollars a year.  Bumble bee nests should only be destroyed as a last result. Unless disturbed most bumble bee species are not aggressive with defending thier nest . We remove unsprayed bumble bee nests live and for free. The nests are transfered and used for pollination or allowed to reproduce for future nests.
Bumble bee nests start with a queen that has hibernated through the winter. She finds a place that is dry and has material there that she can use to insulate the nest with. This will be an old mouse nest, mole nest, grass clipping pile, hay, sometimes the insulation in the wall, attic or under the house. She makes a nesting place within this material making what looks like a mouse nest. Here she forms a small pollen ball that she lays eggs in. She sets on the eggs like a hen does in the chicken house. The eggs hatch into larvae sharing what is called a larval pod. The queen forages pollen and nectar to feed the larvae for about 14 days. The larvae then spin into their their own pupa cell (like a cocoon) that they pupate in and then emerge as an adult bee. This takes about 28 days from egg. After they have raised a work force the nest goes into the reproductive stage. In this stage all the eggs laid will hatch into queens or males. These queens and males hatch and leave the nest. The queens mate with the males, the males all die and the queens go into hibernation. This completes the life cycle of the nest. The workers’ life span coincides with raising the reproducers and all die.  The nest in the picture to the top left is that of B. melanopygus, an early species starting their nests in March or early April. 
Following are local species that we have found: B. occidentalis, B.vosnesenskii, B. bifarius nearcticus, B. melanopagus, B.sitkensis, B. mixtus, B. nevedensis, B. californicus, B. flavifrons (no photo of B. flavifrons).

B. occidentallis  Once common to the area with there numbers representing at least 25% of the bumble bee population. In 1998 this species disappeared from the Puget Sound region. Several nests of these were removed prior to 1998. In 2012 there were reported sightings in a park in the Seattle area and also on the Olympic peninsula. In 2013 there were more sightings in these same areas. Looks like they are slowly making a come back. If you see them please let us know where you saw them and when this was. Several species have declined across the country with concerns for thier survival. 
The nest on the right is B. vosnesenskii, a common early-summer species. Most of their nests   will be in the ground in an old mole or mouse nest. We have been raising bumblebee species native to the west coast for use in pollination. This nest is one that was raised.  This species can have large nests with as many as 400 workers.
In this picture of a B. vosnesenskii nest you can see all the stages of the developing brood. At the top center you can see 6 brown egg pods. You can see 4 more of the egg pods on the board. The eggs hatch into larvae and grow in a larvae pod. You can see 4 larvae pods on the right side (comma shape). The left side shows the larvae separating from the pod. The larvae spin a cocoon (pupa cell) that they pupate within and hatch from as an adult

The nest pictured to the left is B. bifarius nearticus. This nest was removed from a home and transferred to a nest box. Below is an enlarged photo of the B. bifarius nest. 
B.melanopagus are easy to recognize with a bright orange abdomen. We remove more nests of these then any other bumble bee species. They often nest in bird houses using the old bird nest from a past year to nest in. We have found them nesting in the insulation in walls, in grass clipping piles, old mouse nests, several compost piles, and in the insulation of several water shut off boxes. They can be aggressive with defending their nest and will often attact people if they are standing to close to their nest. 
          This is a  B.sitkensis queen. This photo shows how bumble bees are covered in hairs. This helps keep them warm and also helps them collect pollen when foraging on flowers. The pollen collects on the hairs and then the bees rub the pollen off with their legs collecting it in pollen baskets on their backlegs. We  have found B. sitkensis nesting in grass clipping piles on the ground, in an old mouse nest under some boards, and one nest from a well house ceiling insulation. Most of the B. sitkensis nests we have removed have been small  with 15-25 workers and  producing 10-20 queens.
This is a male B.sitkensis foraging.
                 This nest is B. Mixtus. Common to the area having small nests with 20-40 workers and producing an average of 15-25 queens. They are often seen foraging. Most of the pupa cells in this photo are queen pupa.This nest has about 50 queen pupa, at least 8 queen larva, and at least 6 empty queen pupa cells that queens have allready hatched from.
This species B. nevadensis we have only seen a couple of times here. They were observed foraging in late June.
These are B. californicus workers on a nest. The queens show in late May and June establishing their nests. We have removed several nests of these, most from under houses. The nests we have removed had between 30-50 workers, with one nest producing 50-75 queens.