When you think of bees, you probably envision hives dangling from trees, but bees that live in the ground are more common. If you notice barren spots on your lawn and see bees hovering close to the ground, you may have ground bees at your residence.
Ground bees aren’t as drastic a problem as some people believe. There are many benefits to having ground bees in your lawn. Read on to learn more about what ground bees are and how you should handle them.
What Kind of Bees Live in the Ground?
Of the 20,000 species of bees in the world, 70% of them nest in the ground. There are several common types of bees in the United States that burrow in the ground. These include:
- Alkali bees: These look like honeybees with their bright yellow stripes, but are slightly smaller. They prefer salty soil and are most common in the southwestern and western United States.
- Digger or mining bees: Most common in desert climates, these bees are small with bright stripes or a metallic green backside. They are sometimes fuzzy.
- Sweat bees: Sweat bees can be striped, black, or metallic in color, depending on the species. In nature, they are occasionally social and are typically very small.
- Bumblebees: These fat, fuzzy bees are easy to spot. They have bold yellow and black stripes and like to live near compost piles or rotting wood. Unlike other ground bees, they make honey.
In nature, most ground bees are solitary. The females build nests in the ground and carefully supply them with pollen and nectar. Males hover over the nests, looking for mates.
Bumblebees are an exception. They are social bees that live in colonies and don’t typically build their nests, but will instead live in abandoned rodent burrows.
Yellowjackets look like bees but are a type of social wasp. Yellowjackets and other wasps can also nest in the ground. If you think that you have ground bees, it’s best to get a pest control professional to assess your homeand provide accurate identification.
Do Ground Bees Sting?
Female ground bees are capable of stinging, which can make them a hazard to homeowners. Fortunately, female sweat bees, digger bees, and mining bees are not aggressive. They will rarely sting unless disturbed. Males are more aggressive and may fly toward invaders, but cannot sting or hurt you.
Bumblebees are slightly more aggressive. They will defend their hives if they perceive a threat. They can sting multiple times. Unlike a honeybee, they will not die after the first sting, as they have smooth singers that pull out of the skin easily. It’s important to avoid disturbing these bees, so you don’t suffer a painful attack.
Signs of Ground Bees
Ground bee holes are typically found in barren patches on your lawn. These bees prefer sandy soil and south-facing areas of the lawn. Look for mounds of soil that are a few inches across. You will typically see bees flying close to the ground near these nests.
Though most ground bees are not social, you may find several nests in one area, with multiple females living close together in their nests.
What to Do About Bees that Live in the Ground
Ground bees are not usually considered a serious pest. They will not attack unprovoked and provide many benefits for the environment. Bees are a crucial part of the ecosystem, and eliminating too many of them can cause a dire imbalance. These bees pollinate plants in the area, which include everything from the eye-catching flowers in your garden to the tasty treats on berry bushes and fruit trees.
The small holes created by ground bees do not damage your lawn. They can provide beneficial aeration, making it easier for moisture and nutrients to get into the ground. Ground bees nest in spring and are most active between March and May. The females lay their eggs in small tunnels within the burrow, supply them with food, and seal them off. The bees leave in a few months, and the young bees emerge from the nests the following year for another short cycle.
If the nest is in an area that you can avoid, it’s best to do so and allow these bees to remain a beneficial part of your area’s ecosystem. If the bees are located in an area that makes them a hazard, you can discourage them from nesting, thereby saturating the ground with water. Encouraging the bees to live elsewhere is preferable to killing them.
How to Tell Ground Bees from Yellow Jackets
Yellowjackets are often mistaken for ground bees; this is a dangerous misidentification. Watering the lawn will cause most ground bees to peacefully relocate, but this will cause a violent reaction from yellow jackets. Yellowjacket nests are a bustle of activity, with several wasps entering and leaving the nest in a steady stream.
Yellowjacket nests are larger than ground bee nests. The entrance is usually more than an inch across, as opposed to a ground bee nest, which leaves a hole that’s about 1/4-inch across. You should always call a professional to deal with a yellow jacket nest due to the dangerous nature of these pests.
If you have ground bees around your home, it’s important to consider the benefits that these creatures can bring. If you’re able to live cooperatively with the ground bees in your area, you’ll enjoy the benefits of a well-balanced ecosystem and healthy garden. If you give these bees their space, they won’t typically harm you or your family. Always encourage them to nest elsewhere before using chemicals or other means of dealing with them.
If you’re not sure what type of pest you have in your yard, you should consult a professional as soon as possible. As mentioned previously, wasps like yellow jackets are very different from ground bees. These are a hazard that you should have a pest control expert deal with promptly to keep your family safe.