Friday, March 27

Ground Bees

Digger bees. Mining bees.
http://www.honeybeelab.com/w/images/thumb/b/b8/Digger_bee.jpg/100px-Digger_bee.jpgHave 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.

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm glad to see I'm not the only one who has learned a lot, yet nothing, about bees in the ground! Sooooo I'm still asking....what do I do? Half of my back yard is covered with all these nice little piles of dirt. I don't want to mow the law or let the dog over there, yet how do I stop her? ohhhhh the joy of spring!

Anonymous said...

LOL x 1000 (or more)! Summed up nicely! I too thought a quick search would answer whether the rapidly increasing # of small hornet-like flying things by my front door posed a threat to my small dog or not. WRONG. Tons of info now swarms inside my head, too, absolutely none of which can be applied in any meaningful way. Geesh!

Robin said...

Thanks to both of you for posting (even though I'd love to know who you ARE!!). That's one of the great things about the blogosphere...we don't have to feel so alone. In this case, we can feel comfort in the knowledge that we have company in our total state of confusion.

Glad you liked it.

The rest is funny (sometimes) too, so stick around!

Anonymous said...

I too have been doing my Google research. The most fun ideas were at wiki.answers.com/Q/How_do_you_get_rid_of_ground_bees Everything from gasoline to soapy water to tarps to glass bowls to wet/dry vacs. Another site suggested that since the bees like bare sandy soil, growing a healthy crop of grass or ground cover would do the trick. Worth a try.

aleema48 said...

wow ur funny, and a good writer. it appears i have the same problem in my yard. from what i understand they wont did if you have grass, so fix that problem with grass seeds or sod or miracle grow (whatever) and the bees will go.

Shari said...

Ok. So I came across your blog as I was looking to find out what type of bees I had - and of course I find your blog AFTER I reqad 5 other sites worth of info. So the hole that my bees were coming out of was about 2 inches by 2 inches. The bees did not seem angry when I accidently disturbed them - but since I am allergic and they were in the direct walking path to ou deck - my hubby filled the hole with water.... -hmm.. no bees as of yet....

Anonymous said...

This is exactly what is confusing me right now. I just paid a licensed professional $75 to get rid of this colony living by my front porch and I still have no idea of what kind they were other than "ground bees." This is a cool blog - glad I found it. Mike

Robin said...

Welcome, Mike.

Yup, they're mysterious little creatures.

Post again and let us know if they reappear!

Anonymous said...

These are definitivley ground bees, AKA yellow jackets. They are born in the Spring and I mow my lawn every week and they are all around me but don't seem to bother me at all. Only if you bother them.

Anonymous said...

I just tried to dig a hole in my yard. I was assaulted be these stupid bees. I was bit twice, then ran. One chased me and bit me again before I could get in the house.

Perhaps they dont like it when you dig up their nest?

Ouch!

valerie said...

Well, they DO sting!! And it burns like crazy! I was pulling weeds in my flower garden and there was some under one of the plants!! One stung my finger, I threw my gloves and ran for the house. Luckily they didn't follow. Took a while to find my gloves! lol They're green! Anyway, I have never had a bee sting that burned so bad! I looked online and found where someone said to put toothpaste on it, it stung a little when I did but it worked!! It felt a lot better in about 5 or 10 min. I also read where someone said to wait until it is cool and spay a bucket really well with Raid, turn it upside down over the hole. I did that tonight, will let you know if it works!

Stephanie said...

GREAT!!! I am SOO glad I'm not the only one with this problem! I was all set to go out and get some Sevin Dust then I read more sites that it is terribly harmful to the ground, the water, my pets, me, Jupiter, etc. (okay maybe not Jupiter, but you get my point!) I TRY to be as environmental as possible and I am aware of the issues of severly depleting bee populations, but I don't want bees right outside my house! (And in a nice lush grassy area, which contradicts much information I read.) Heck, even my grandpa and dad keep honeybees. My dad says to use gasoline, but they are RIGHT NEXT TO MY HOUSE so that is out! What do I do????

Anonymous said...

I keep hearing don't kill bees they are dieing all around us and are in danger of going extinct.Funny we are all on line with yards full of them trying to get rid off them.

Anonymous said...

Please, folks, do NOT use Sevin or anything chemical. You canindeed do environmental damage to beneficials, other bee populations, birds and ground water tables by incorrectly using this (or any other pest control method) incorrectly or off label. PLEASE call your extensionservice before spraying, dusting or drenching with ANYTHING - especially when it pertains to any bees.

Chris said...

Well it is refreshing to find someone with a sense of humor about this. I have several holes around the property and I aim to kill. I got stung last year 8 to 10 times and am highly allergic. I am not sure why they are saying that there is a shortage when there are so many holes in all of our yards. I would say that I am considerate in regards to the environment but >> It is me or the bees and the bees got to go.

Willie said...

My husband went to lay out some landscaping rocks around one of our fence lines, when he was attacked by hundreds of ground bees. He and our 120 lb dog were attacked by a hugh swarm of them. They ran into the house and the bees followed! Our poor dog had no clue what had just happened to her. I have no fear of bees and so my entire front yard was transformed years ago into a flower garden that attracts bees and butterflys but these ground bees (in the back) were more like tiny little wasps and mean as h___!
I'm with Chris, they are out of here!!

M. said...

As with any problem, proper identification is the first step to controlling or living with it. There are numerous types of non-threatening ground bees. Yellow Jacket wasps will also nest in the ground sometimes. Honey bees never nest in the ground unless there is a large cavity for them to build their nest of honeycomb.

Usually, yellow jackets will have one opening to the nest that is between 1 and 2 inches in diameter, with lots of wasps coming and going on warm days. These sting using a venom injection that is quite painful, and they can sting several times each. They feed on other insects (lots of spiders and caterpillars) and are beneficial as natural controls for spiders. If you can avoid their nest area, usually they will not bother you. If you have small children, it is best to eliminate the nest.

Honey bees also would use a single entry hole, and can only sting once. Their stinger is barbed and will pull the venom sack out of the bees body. The bee dies soon after stinging. These are the species of bees that are suffering from colony collapse disease and in danger of extinction. These are also the only species that would interest a bee keeper.

Most of the digger or ground bees are solitary. Each female digs a burrow slightly larger than a pencil diameter. At the bottom of the burrow, she creates a cell that she provisions with pollen and nectar, lays an egg, and seals up the cell. She will do this several times until she has created between 8 - 16 cells. She then flies off and does not return. The males of these species, hover about 6-12 inches above the burrows waiting for a female to emerge so he can mate with her. Most of these species can sting in defense, however they rarely do sting. They are great pollenators and should not be killed. As was mentioned, they must have bare soil high in sand to be successful. You can add compost and over seed the area to encourage fuller lawn growth to force them to leave.

If you have questions about insects in your yard, contact your local extension office or a local pest control company. Both will usually provide a positive identification for you without charge. If they try to force you into a treatment without identification, send them on their way.

Anonymous said...

Yellow jackets are highly aggressive evil stinging beasts. Miner bees are more docile.If you have yellow jackets the glass bowl over the hole at night thing works well. Just leave the bowl in place several weeks and the nest will die. If its lots of little holes with one bee per hole..water the area well at night and then cover with a CLEAR (prevents dead grass, solid tarp will kill the grass)plastic drop cloth pinned down with logs or rocks or something. Leave in place a week. Always launch your attack after dark so the creatures you aim to kill are all home.

Jenn Ellison said...

@M ... I know I'm here 2 years later. I have the last ground bee mentioned. TONS of pencil sized wholes & little dirt mounds. They don't sting us but they are ANNOYING. We do have a "grass" issue we are trying to deal with. I REALLY want these critters gone! They do dissapear but reappear each spring. :(
Did anyone find a solution??

Anonymous said...

We, too, have hundreds of these little holes in the spring right beside our house. There is grass there so that's not our answer. The problem is that they (I'm pretty confident) are the bees that sting our boxer. Last year they started moving to the front yard. I'm wondering if there's anything we can do to get rid of them before they come out again this year.

Anonymous said...

I am so glad that I am not the only one Googling endlessly trying to figure out where the bees came from and how long they will stay, my wife and I were really puzzled about this, they just came out of nowhere, now we can move to action! There have been alot of helpful comments and we really enjoyed your story and your writing style, have a wonderful sting free spring!

Anonymous said...

I have bees in my garden digging little holes. How do I stop this from happening? I don't see any hives and anywhere that they are coming from?

Anonymous said...

when I worked in the woods and attacked by yellow jackets, an old Gypo Logger explained it like this:" when you have a louder buzzer than they got its like you got a bigger stinger and they all attack you at once...shut the saw off and wait a minute and they go back in the hole...then pour a cap full of gas from your saw in the hole... " After being stung 10 or 15 times you are not thinking about traveling 60 miles to the nearest place to buy a can of wasp spray and is a capful of gas any worse anyway? ...You have spilled that filling the lawn mower!