Not all bees live in beehives. A few species live in the ground where they can build nests or simply try to find shelter. These bees are often seen in gardens, on the lawn, or in any area where there’s sufficient pollen for the bees to feed on.
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Can Bees Nest in The Ground
Most bees live free out in nature. It’s estimated there are thousands of types of bees. Most of these types of bees live solitary, mostly in the ground. They don’t make honey but they collect pollen, mostly for food.
Many types of bees live underground. A queen bee lives a solitary life, mainly caring for her young. Queen bees dig in the ground where they create a nest or where they simply make an opening of a few inches to allow them to care for the young.
Male bees are sometimes seen in the area, mostly looking for a mate.
What Do Bee Nests Look Like In The Ground
The entrance to the underground nest is typically a mound of soil with an opening that can be up to a couple of inches wide.
The female bee typically digs a burrow. This burrow is normally dug to a depth of at least 6 inches. But these nests can be up to 16 inches deep. It can be a single chamber tunnel or it can be a more complex nest with vertical and horizontal joined tunnels.
These underground bee nests are normally seen in well-drained soils. Sandy soils are also preferred by bees as it’s easier to dig in them. It is common to see below-ground nesting in the backyard, particularly around the lawn. Even solitary bees tend to live near each other and it’s likely to find more below-ground nests next to each other.
When Can You See Bee Nests In The Ground
Most bees become active in April and May. This is when queen bees are seen flying just above the ground looking for cavities or the right soil to dig a nest. Most bees appear in spring when most flowers are blooming. While males appear first, it’s the females that are responsible for the making of the underground nest.
Types Of Bees Nest in The Ground
Many types of solitary bees dig or nest in the ground. Some of these have different habits for nesting but most of them dig up to a few inches deep.
1. Mason Bees
Mason bees are solitary and they live in the ground. All the females of the species are fertile and they can build underground nests. There’s no queen or worker bee hierarchy in this species. These bees are known for building nests in naturally-occurring tubular cavities.
A female bee can be looking for such a cavity for up to a few days. Once the right spot has been identified the female Mason bee moves on to find pollen nearby. Pollen is collected and stored inside the newly-found cavities. An egg is laid on top of the pollen and then mud is used to create a new cell for a new egg. This process is complete when the underground cavity is full. The female bee might also continue looking for other underground cavities in rocks or wood to repeat the process.
2. Carpenter Bees
Carpenter bees get their name from their nesting in pieces of wood. This is mostly dead wood which can be found underground or above the ground. Carpenter bees use body vibrations to dig into the wood. The resulting bits of wood are then used to create chambers inside or they are completely discarded.
Female Carpenter bees are responsible for digging and building nests. One female is dominant or all the females work together to dig in dead wood. The other female Carpenter bees guard the nest when there’s a clear female leader in the group.
3. Leafcutter Bees
Similar in size to honeybees, Leafcutter bees get their name from the ability to cut and chew leaves. These bees are mostly interested in using leaves to build shelters. Many leafcutter bees look for shelters below the ground. These need to be tunnel-shaped for the bees to accept them. Some Leafcutter bees also live above ground level.
The female bee uses leaves to seal off chambers in the tunnels. These chambers hold an egg and pollen which is shaped like a pellet. The female Leafcutter bee constantly builds new chambers and adds new eggs until a tunnel is full.
4. Sweat Bees
Sweat bees are believed to be attracted by sweat. These are types of bees that live underground. They nest underground laying eggs in soft soil and river banks. The bees lay eggs in these nests creating chambers and laying pollen for the larva to feed on. Plant nectar is often mixed with pollen to serve as food for emerging Sweat bees.
5. Miner Bees
These small bees are known for making durable nests underground. They dig in the ground and they construct a tubular entrance similar to a tunnel. This is then hardened on the inside with wax which makes the underground nest safe in heavy rain.
Miner bees have a similar approach to other bees that live in the ground when it comes to laying eggs. They create chambers for each egg and provide the right pollen for the young bees to feed on.
6. Wool-Carding Bees
The Wool-carding bees make nests in holes, cavities, and human-made structures. Hairy fibers from plants are collected by these bees which is where they get their name from. These fibers are used to create chambers for bee eggs.
7. Blueberry Bees
Blueberry bees prefer to build underground nests. These are located in sandy soils where the bees build multiple chambers or tunnels. These are used to lay eggs and blueberry pollen. The main entrance to the nest is sealed when the nest is full.
8. Squash Bees
Squash bees build nests in the ground. They dig simple vertical tunnels which lead to grouped underground chambers. These bees have a beneficial role. They are among the common squash and butternut pollinators.
Do Bees That Nest in The Ground Make Honey
Bees that nest in the ground don’t make honey. They might consume honey but they generally prefer nectar and pollen. These bees collect nectar and pollen turning them into small pellet shapes and then storing them underground, mainly to feed their young.
Do Bees That Live in The Ground Sting
Bees that live in the ground aren’t more aggressive than bees that live above the ground. They are often confused with other types of bees since they have about the same size.
Are Ground Bees Aggressive
Bees that live in the ground don’t sting unless they are provoked. Unlike wasps that live in the ground, bees that nest below the surface
Bees that nest in the ground rarely sting. They normally sting when handled roughly. This means squeezing the bees is the only known extreme action that can trigger these bees to sting since they have stingers.
Pain associated with bee stings from bees that nest in the ground is mild. Bees such as Mason bees have a sting that isn’t painful.
There’s a difference between the sexes when it comes to stinging capacity in some bees that nest in the ground. Carpenter bees can sting but it’s only the females of the species that are known to react and eventually sting.
Most bees that sting have venom, but in small quantities. This is why pain associated with the venom is generally mild.
Bee Sting Symptoms
Bees that nest in the ground can sting if they feel threatened. The sting is typical of mild to no pain. Pain associated with the sting typically lasts a few seconds.
Slight Skin Swelling
One of the first known symptoms of the sting is slight skin swelling. The skin around the area of the sting can swell. However, this isn’t the case for all stings as some people experience no skin swelling.
Skin redness is another symptom of a sting. Bees that nest in the ground can sting those who accidentally step on them as they are common in gardens. Red skin with or without itching is a sign of a sting.
Pain associated with the sting is rare. It typically goes away in a few seconds in most situations.
Bee Sting Treatments
One of the first actions to take after being stung by a bee is to remove the stinger. Any pain associated with the sting should subside next.
The stinger gets caught into the skin whenever a bee that nests in the ground stings. This means it has to be removed.
There is no ideal method of removing the stinger. It’s important to remove it immediately after being stuck, however. A stinger can be removed with the fingers when fresh. It tends to be harder to remove after a few minutes.
Scrapping it with the fingernail might be required if the stinger can’t be removed with the fingers.
Are Bees in The Ground Harmful?
Bees that live in the ground are often confused with wasps that live in the ground. But bees are generally not harmful to the environment.
Bees nesting underground aren’t harmful to the garden. They are not aggressive towards humans either. While it may seem bees are aggressive towards humans given their erratic flying patterns, they rarely sting.
These bees can be beneficial for the garden, particularly for crops and other agricultural fields. For example, squash bees are known pollinators to squash and zucchini. They have a beneficial role in nature, even if they don’t produce honey. They pollinate squash as they consume its pollen.
How To Get Rid of Ground Bees?
You can get rid of bees nesting in the ground if they appear around your house. While not harmful, these bees are sometimes eliminated when found in residential areas.
Covers The Ground Holes and Escape Routes
Covering up surface-level holes is the easiest method of getting rid of these bees. Covering them with dirt, rocks, or a brick is enough to stop them from escaping and eventually starving the bees.
Water The Lawn Frequently
Bees that nest in the ground prefer well-drained soils. These are the easiest to dig and they aren’t frequently flooded. Frequently watering the lawn keeps the soil moist making it difficult for the bees to dig in.
Many bees prefer to dig nests in sandy soils. A soil that is rich in the sand is easy to dig in. Adding moisture to the soil makes it heavier and harder to dig in.
Water mixed with vinegar is known to repel bees. While watering the lawn with vinegar isn’t recommended, it’s a method used to keep these types of bees away.
Bees don’t like cinnamon. This can be one of the least intrusive methods of keeping bees away. You can sprinkle cinnamon next to each hole bees make in the ground. Wind can carry the cinnamon away and it might be best to sprinkle the entrances to their underground nests a few days in a row.
Remove Old Wood from The Garden
Some bees that dig in the ground are attracted to holes in old wood which serve the same purpose. Clearing this wood, especially the pieces laying directly on the ground is recommended. Covering visible holes in the wood works as well. However, it’s important to cover all holes as the same female bee can use multiple existing wooden holes to lay eggs and pollen in.
Many species of bees nest in the ground. Most have solitary nests. The female builds underground nests to lay eggs. Male bees are normally guarding the area. This role is sometimes reserved for other female bees in some species.