Digger bees. Mining bees.
Have you ever heard of such a thing?
All my life, I've never heard of such a thing.
But I've got 'em, by gum. The frozen-in-one-place child told me so: "Mommy! Come look at this! There are bees EVERYWHERE!"
Hundreds of 'em. Little low-flying hazards covering my entire front yard, flyin' around with all their buddies in little circles no more than about a foot off the ground. All over the front yard. Which is sizeable. Everywhere. It's kinda like ground fog. Except completely different.
I had 'em last year, too, but I was just moving into this house around then, so my time spent in their company was minimal. I remember them last year, and I remember when they disappeared (which I now understand that they didn't) and I just slid right into denial about them coming back the next year which is now this year, thinking maybe it was a little freak bee swarm that only happens once a century or something. Wrong-o.
So I did what I do. I looked 'em up.
And I found out that they might be bees...ground bees, digger bees, mining bees...or maybe they're wasps. Or possibly yellow jackets. And if they are one of those, they don't sting, and maybe if they are another one they sting like a son-of-a-gun, and maybe if they are another one they can sting but they rarely do, and if they are one of them, it's best to keep children and pets out of the area (for months? really?) I learned that they dig little holes in the hard sandy ground and make little nests in there, where they lay their little bee eggs and sleep down there for most of the year, and then TA-DA! they all fly out of their little holes in spring, as soon as the sun hits the yard. And they stick around for a month or two and then they go away (right).
And I learned that if they are one kind then beekeepers might want them (and exactly how would they collect them?) and if they are another kind, they probably don't want them, and even if they are that kind, beekeepers might not want them, and if they are wasps, then why would beekeepers be interested? I don't know any beekeepers, but I'm not so inclined to find some to convince them to come over here and see if the thousands (I know, I just said hundreds, but I'm bad at estimating, and there might be thousands, I didn't count) of little flying creatures are anything they might want, when the chances are slim.
And of course, I found out that all pest control strategies are bad (BAD) because well, they're poisonous and terrible for the environment and toxic to the aforementioned children and animals, and also because you'd have to treat hundreds of square feet because the bees (if that's what they are) nest in hundreds of little holes covering the whole front yard. This is no spray-in-one-hole-and-you're-done kinda thing. And more importantly, it's a bad idea because the bees (if that's what they are) are really good for the garden--they eat grubs, they aerate the lawn (or in my case, the scrubby stuff out between the patches of dirt in my front yard), and they pollinate the flowers and trees. And on top of that, as you may have heard, bees are dying all over the world, and it's really not a good idea to be trying to kill mass quantities of bees (if that's what they are) if we're trying to keep the planet in balance, which I'm pretty convinced that we are, at least in my neck of the woods. But if they're wasps, all bets are off. I'm not sure what the deal is if they're yellow jackets.
Isn't the internet great? I know so much more now than I did before, and at the same time, I know nothing! Why, in the old days, I had to go to the public library to find out that I don't know anything. Now I can find out in my own home! Progress. It's somethin' else.
And that, children, concludes our bee (if that's what they are) lesson for the day.
Ground bees? WTF?
Update: May 4, 2009. They're gone! Read about it here.