3 Common Ground Bees With Pictures: Bees That Live And Nest In The Ground

What are ground bees?

I can still remember the first time I came across a large ground bee nest.

It was while I was hanging out washing in our backyard. I noticed a steady stream of bumblebees flying in and out of a gap between some rocks.

It was obvious they were going into the soil –  and this was before I’d studied and learned about bees that live in the ground – so I had to find out more.

Ground Bees Nest

ground bees nesting
The ground bee nest – bumblebees

While many people have no idea that these bees even exist, we can assure you that they most surely do!

There are many different types of ground bees, and yes, they burrow themselves under the dirt and make their nest underground.

Here are some of the more common types found in North America:

  • the common ground bee
  • the alkali bee
  • the bumblebee
  • the mining (or digging) bee

They both live and nest underground, often in a community of other bees (as opposed to being solitary like mason bees).

There are exceptions to this. The carpenter bee, for example, also sometimes lives underground, but is also a solitary bee.

What Kind Of Bees Live In The Ground?

alkali ground bee picture
The alkali ground bee

All around the world, there are a great many types of bees that live and/or nest in the ground.

Here are pictures and descriptions of the most common kinds of ground-nesting bees.

1. Bumblebees

do honey bees nest in the ground

The bumblebee is the most recognizable ground bee.

They construct their nest underground often in old mouse or rabbit burrows, or other holes and gaps formed naturally.

The queen bumble will store up honey and lay eggs and then tend to them once hatched.

Sometimes the nest itself will be quite close to the surface. It will be partially formed with wax and pollen.

2. Carpenter Bees

what kind of bees live in the ground

Carpenter bees look very similar to bumblebees, but they have a smooth rather than fluffy abdomen.

Carpenters will often build their nest in trees, even if they have fallen to the ground. They are known as a bit of a pest because they will also build nests in house siding.

These bees are solitary bees that do not nest in large numbers. If you see them coming out of the ground it’s more likely to be the young coming out.

3. Miner Bees

types of bees that live in the ground

Miner bees, also sometimes known as digger bees, are another type of bee that lives in the ground.

It’s such a feature of what they do that it’s where they get their name from!

They come in a range of sizes and color variations and can have hairy or hairless abdomens. The common color is a black and white stripe.

These are also solitary bees who dig into dry soil to build their nests. The female will store pollen and nectar for her young when they hatch.

Underground Bees

One of the most interesting things about them is how many species there are!

So many people have ground bees in their yard, without ever knowing it.

Ground bees are just as important as honey bees, pollinating fruit, vegetables, and flower plants.

Unless they are being a nuisance, or are in the way, you should not be concerned about them taking up residence in your yard.

You can see how docile they are in the video above of a ground bee building and guarding its nesting spot.

You can get pretty close to them without upsetting them.

Ground Nesting Bees

Ground nesting bees can find or create an opening underground between rocks, wood, or other garden features.

That was the case with the nest in my backyard.

In that instance, there was nothing to identify the nest other than the bees going in and out of it – and perhaps a little bit of dirt that had been brought out near the entrance.

We turned it into a bit of a homeschool lesson for the kids.

In other cases, the bees will burrow down into the ground through bare patches in the lawn.

You may notice a small pile of dirt up to 2 inches high, where the bees have dug out tunnels underground, as you will see in the video above.

Other times, any sign of a mound may have disappeared.

There may only be a small hole to give away an exit or entrance to a ground bee nest.

The dead giveaway to a nest is, of course, to see the bees going in and coming out.

It’s not uncommon to hear of people disturbing ground bee nests with chainsaws, lawnmowers, or weed eaters.

If this happens, try to work out where the nest is and work around it.

The major majority of ground bees are not aggressive, but if you were to get too close with heavy equipment or machinery it would upset them.

Do Ground Bees Sting?

bees in the ground

Most ground bees tend to be very gentle and non-aggressive, but they can sting.

If they believe their life or nest is threatened, they will defend it by attempting to sting anyone nearby.

If you were to accidentally dig into a nest, the bees would, in all likelihood, try to sting you.

However, it’s good to simply be aware that some bees live underground, that way you’ll be less surprised if (or when) you come across one.

The other common way a ground bee nest is accidentally disturbed is when mowing the lawn.

The nests are easily missed and run over with the mower.

This will bring the bees out, however, they don’t tend to gather in bee swarms as with other species.

There are other wasps and bees that nest in the ground that aren’t technically ‘ground bees.’ Yellow Jackets, for example, also nest in the ground but are not a type of ground bee.

How To Get Rid Of Ground Bees

These bees are usually very easy to move on, without the use of overly harmful poisons, sprays, and other lethal methods.

If you have to move them, turn the garden hose on low and put it down into the nest to flood it.

Ground bee nests have multiple exits/entrances, and they will quickly move to another location. Hopefully not in your section!

You can check out these ways to get rid of carpenter bees for some other ideas on how to get rid of bees that live in the ground.

Alternatively, we have some more lethal methods in this post on how to get rid of sweat bees.

Ground Nesting Bee Predators

Like 99% of creatures, ground bees have natural predators.

The number one predator of bees is always going to be spiders, of course, but that always feels like it’s more in the natural order of things!

Other predators include:

  • Predatory birds like woodpeckers (they go after carpenter bee larva in particular)
  • Varieties of wasp
  • Bears can target different types of ground bee nest
  • Smaller mammals like foxes, hedgehogs, mice, skunks

Every part of the world will have its own specific threats to bees.

If you can avoid destroying nests when you come upon them, it’ll be one less predator they have to worry about!

Bees In The Ground

ground bees
Underground bees are good to have in the garden

We hope you’ve been able to learn more about these fascinating bees that live underground.

Some final points:

  • In springtime, you may begin to notice that there are far more bees coming up from the ground. That’s because these bees hatch from the ground in the spring.
  • The queen bee will make several tunnels once inside the underground nest. She will create all sorts of entries and exits in order to be ready to evacuate.
  • The queen will also create several horizontal tunnels and chambers. She will then lay one single egg at the end of each.

If bees and wasps are a constant problem on your property, and you are often dealing with them, consider getting a good beekeepers suit to protect yourself – there are some pretty cheap options out there!

What else do you want to know about bees that live in the ground?

Please ask any questions or leave any comments down below!


20 thoughts on “3 Common Ground Bees With Pictures: Bees That Live And Nest In The Ground”

    • The first thing would be to try and identify them – are they bumblebees, carpenter bees, or something else? Depending on the variety you might want to keep them around – though probably not if they are carpenter bees! Check out this post for more info on moving bee nests.

  1. I just discovered a bee hive in a large plant container on my back patio when I was watering it. Lots of bees began flying out of the container. Do ground bees also nest in containers? I would like to get them to find a new home because I change out these containers seasonally.

    • Yes they would totally nest in a plant pot like this if the conditions were right. Continue to water it for a few days and they will get the hint and move on.

    • They will move on, but it will take some time for them to gather up their things – they won’t disappear immediately.

  2. I just bought some land in Bonham, Tx and it has several black and white ground bee nests and they are very aggressive what should i do about them

  3. While mowing my front yard, I found two bee burrows with small, very aggressive bees. I got multiple stings and the bees seemed to be stuck until I pulled them off. They were black and yellow but much smaller than bumble bees, which I’ve never found aggressive. Were these miner bees?

  4. If the hole goes down into the ground, it will be much easier to take them out, as you can simply flood it with some gasoline. but wait until after dark about a hour or so as then they should be settled down and non-active. use a bright flashlight so you can see the area well.

    I am just assuming you already know the precise area they are coming and going in the day time as you need to figure that out first before proceeding.

    because I did that years ago and it worked great (I was using a push mower and got stung about 3-4 times). but recently my dad stumbled stumbled into ones that where not easy to pour gas on (since the entranced appeared to be more horizontal). so we waited til night like usual, pour some gas as best we could on main entrance area and around that general area and the next day we came out and no more activity. for good measure we poured a bit more into the main entrance area they where at as we hit it more directly with some gas for maybe a few seconds (but on your initial pouring if it’s more downward into a hole it will be much easier to nail it well with a moderate amount of gas).

    but if you got a fair amount of holes somewhat close to each other I might be a bit more paranoid because I would not want to pour gas in and have them come flying out near-by.

    but as always… whatever you do, use caution!!! ; because you don’t want to get into a bad situation where you get stung and could be a potentially life threatening situation for some people with allergic reactions.

    • I would not advise anyone to pour gasoline either into the ground or into a tree. It could pollute the area for a long time .. it could catch fire .. it could contaminate a well .. and it may even be illegal. …….

  5. I have what I think are bumblebees and it looks like just one is digging. I love nature and would do nothing to hurt them. I would like to leave them alone but since what I think is a queen dug close to the house under some stones, I’ve noticed that she has dug another one about four feet away in the grass. My question is, if I leave her alone, can we live in peace?

  6. I just got stung by some small bees while cutting some bushes. There were a lot of them swarming .. I got rid of one of these nests before so I guess I’ll do the same thing these . My wife got stung the most.

  7. we have three fairly large holes in our yard where small bees are coming and going, The hole is about the size of a 50cent piece, which is much larger than what I am seeing on the internet for a typical ground bee. What type bee do you think this is?


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