If you have ground bees in your yard, here’s exactly how to get rid of them naturally and without the use of insecticides:
The best way to get rid of active ground bees is to flood the nesting area with water in early spring, before the adult bees have time to build new nests and lay eggs. Simply use an oscillating sprinkler or a small sprinkler with low pressure to water the nesting area for a few hours a day.
Making sure that you water enough and do it at the right time of year is crucial to combatting ground bees in your yard. Let’s take a look at why this works so well and other methods you can try to stop any more ground bees from moving in.
How to get rid of ground bees in your yard
Female ground bees lay their eggs in underground nests. The eggs hatch and the larvae live on pollen and nectar until they are fully grown.
When they become adults, which happens in early spring time, the ground bees emerge from their hiding holes in the soil to build new nests and mate with each other. They live for only 4 to 6 weeks, before dying off.
Ground bees need dry, sandy soil to build nests. If things get too wet, they don’t stick around. So, keeping your yard wet and watered, including your potted plants, flower beds, lawn, and even the perimeter of your property, will stop ground bees from nesting there and moving in.
But what if you see all the signs that ground bees have already moved in?
To get rid of ground bees, gently flood the nesting area with 1 inch of water a week when the bees first become active. Keep watering the entire yard daily with enough water to soak the soil below the surface, so the bees don’t build new nests.
Do this in March and April if you live in the northern hemisphere, and in September and October in the southern hemisphere.
If you flood the nesting area before or after early spring, you will kill the eggs and any young bees living in the nests, waiting for spring to come. It’s best to wait until the adult bees have emerged and to water the area well before the bees lay new eggs.
As simple as this watering method sounds, it is a very effective and natural way to get ground bees to find a new nesting site, without any insecticides or harsh chemicals. Ground bees are not dangerous and they are important pollinators, so they should never be killed just because they are buzzing around for a few short weeks.
After the bees leave or die off naturally, fill the nesting holes with sand so they don’t get taken over by other ground bees. When winter comes, rake or turn over the area with a garden fork to get rid of any overwintering eggs and larvae.
Keep the area watered and consider putting a thick layer of mulch over bare areas, to keep the soil underneath moist.
Here’s a great video from the University of Maryland that shows a digger bee nesting site, explains what the bees are doing there, and why they chose this area to build their nests. She also gives tips on how to stop ground bees from choosing your property to nest in [this info starts at 1:40 in the video]:
How to stop ground bees from coming to your yard
If you don’t have active ground bees in your yard but you want to make sure you don’t get these bees again or that new bees don’t find their way into your yard, here are some things you can do to stop ground bees from nesting in your yard:
Fill in holes in the soil
Some ground bees take over the abandoned underground burrows of rodents and other small animals, such as rabbits.
Take regular walks around your yard in early spring, when ground bees become active, and look for any existing holes, cracks or burrows in the ground. Fill these up with sand.
Cover bare patches in your yard
Ground bees look for open, sunny, sandy patches to build nests.
If you have any sparse or bare areas in your yard, plant grass, flowers, or thick vegetation there. Or you can try putting thick mulch over the area, to keep the soil in that area moist and unattractive to ground bees.
Ground bees won’t nest in moist sand, so keep your yard wet and watered. This incudes regular watering of all potted plants, flower beds, and turf. Remember to water the perimeter of your property, even if you don’t go there often.
Remove plants that ground bees are attracted to
Ground bees are most attracted to bright flowers, especially those that are yellow or blue. But many flowers bloom later in spring, when ground bees have died off.
If you want to stop ground bees from coming into your yard, you simply need to remove the plants that flower brightly in early spring.
Some of the plants and flowers that ground bees love are:
- Black Eyed Susans
- Blue and White Vervains
- Cardinal Flowers
- Evening Primrose
- False Blue and White Indigos
- Golden Alexanders
- Indian Hemp
- Lanceleaf Coriopsis
- Ohio Spiderwort
- Partridge Peas
- Perennial Blue Flax
- Tall White Beardtongues
- Wild Bergamot
- Wild Indigo
Source: Adapted, with thanks, from the information provided by the US Natural Resources Conservation Service
Plant plants that repel ground bees
There are some plants that ground bees stay far away from, so it’s a good idea to plant these in your yard if you are trying to stop these bees from nesting on your property.
Here are some of the plants that ground bees don’t like:
- Marigolds (marigolds repel many pests in your yard)
Attract ground bees’ natural predators to your yard
Attracting animals and insects that eat bees to your yard will keep the ground bee population under control.
Ground bees’ natural predators include:
- Birds, such as bee-eaters
- Robber flies
- Small mammals, such as hedgehogs and skunks
- Wasps (click here to find out what interesting things wasps enjoy nibbling on)
Spray or spread smells in your yard that ground bees hate
Some gardeners say that if they spray or put certain things in their yard, ground bees stay away. These methods are not proven and seem to work better for some than they do for others.
But perhaps you’d like to give them a try?
Here are some things you can try sprinkling or spraying in areas where ground bees like to nest:
- Cucumber peels
- Ground garlic powder
- Mothballs (place in a mesh bag and hang near ground bee nests)
- Organic talcum powder
- Uncut peppermint oil (add 10 drops to 2 cups of water in a spray bottle)
- Pure essential oils: cedarwood, citronella, clove, cinnamon, eucalyptus, or peppermint (soak cotton balls in the oil and put them in bee nesting areas)
- Used coffee grounds
- Pure vanilla extract (make a spray of water and a few drops of extract. Be sure to use pure extract and not vanilla essence)
- Vinegar (make a spray with half water and half white vinegar)