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
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?
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.
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
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
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.
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?
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 carpenters 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
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!