Broughton R. K., Hebda G., Maziarz M., Smith K. W., Smith L., Hinsley S. A. 2015. Nest-site competition between bumblebees (Bombidae), social wasps (Vespidae) and cavity-nesting birds in Britain and the Western Palearctic. Bird Study 62: 427-437.

Capsule There is no evidence of widespread significant nest-site competition in Britain or the Western Palearctic between cavity-nesting birds and bumblebees or social wasps.

Aims To investigate competition between cavity-nesting birds and bumblebees and wasps, particularly the range-expanding Tree Bumblebee, Saxon Wasp and European Hornet in Britain, and review evidence throughout the Western Palearctic.

Methods We compared field data from English and Polish studies of tits and woodpeckers breeding in nestboxes and/or tree holes to assess nest-site competition with bumblebees and wasps. We reviewed the literature quantifying nest-site competition between birds and these insects in the Western Palearctic.

Results Bumblebees and wasps are capable of usurping small passerines from nests. In England, these insects commandeered a mean annual 4.1% of tit nests initiated in nest-boxes; occurrence of hornets showed a long-term increase, but not other wasps or bumblebees. Across the Western Palearctic, insect occupation of nest-boxes was generally low, and was lower in England than in Poland. No insects were discovered in tree cavities, including those created by woodpeckers (Picidae).

Conclusion Nest-site competition between cavity-nesting birds and bumblebees and wasps appears to be a ‘nest-box phenomenon’, which may occasionally interfere with nest-box studies, but appears negligible in natural nest-sites.