If you’ve seen things buzzing in your backyard or signs in the soil that something’s moved in, you’re probably wondering if you have ground bees.
Here are all the tell-tale signs to know if you have ground bees nesting in your yard or not:
Look for small mounds of dirt with one hole
The easiest way to tell if you have ground bees is to look for small mounds of soil a few inches wide in your yard. These mounds are entrances to ground bee nests. Each bee nest has a hole in the middle that’s between one quarter to half an inch wide, where the bee enters and exits.
Ground bee nests look a lot like anthills, but there are two main differences:
- A ground bee nest has one hole in the middle, up to half an inch wide, for the entrance. An anthill’s entrance hole is usually no more than one-quarter of an inch wide, and there are often many holes for the ants to get into and leave their underground nest.
- A ground bee’s nest mound is only a few inches wide, and never gets bigger than this. An anthill mound may start off two to three inches wide, but depending on the type of ants building the nest, the anthill mound may keep growing to become several feet wide.
You will find ground bee nests in areas with dry, sandy soil, where there’s not much vegetation or grass growing. This includes hydrophobic soil in plant pots (which ants also love to nest in) and flower beds, bare patches in your lawn, and dry, sandy areas around the perimeter of your property.
Ground bees actually help to aerate soil, and their nests make it possible for water and nutrients to flow back in to replenish the soil.
It’s very important that the area is dry and doesn’t get much water or rain as ground bees do not like getting wet. You can actually use water as a natural way to get rid of ground bees if you have to.
Ground bee nests are often built in south-facing areas, where they get the most sunshine during the day and plenty of warmth. This keeps the eggs in the nest warm and cozy.
Most ground bees are solitary bees, which means that there is only one female bee living in one nest. But just because they live alone doesn’t mean they don’t like having neighbors…
Ground bees often build their nests close to each other. In natural areas, where ground bees are left to breed freely and are undisturbed, there may be hundreds of nests in an area.
Sometimes ground bees do not dig their own nests underground. These bees take over the abandoned underground tunnels of other animals, such as rabbits or rodents. These nests may or may not have a small mound at the entrance.
Watch for bees entering and exiting the holes
If you think you have ground bees, watch to see what enters and exits the ground nests. Because most ground bees are solitary, you should see a single female bee coming and going from the nest. But a few ground bees are social, and you might see more than one bee flying in and out of the nest.
If you watch the nests, you will soon be able to tell if you have ground bees or not.
If the nests do not belong to ground bees, they might be abandoned ground bee nests or be signs that you have:
- Ants (field ants, fire ants, harvester ants, Texas leafcutter ants, pyramid ants)
- Cicada killer wasps
- Green June beetle grubs
- Mole crickets
- Periodical cicadas
- Yellow jackets (here’s how to tell the difference between ground bees and yellow jackets)
Ground bees are seen in spring
If you want to know if you have ground bees, think about what season it is. Ground bees are only active above ground in spring. If it’s any other season, the adult ground bees will have died – but there may still be eggs or larvae in the underground nests.
Ground bees collect pollen and nectar while they are active, which is what makes ground bees very important pollinators.
The female ground bee places pollen and nectar into cells in her underground nest, and lays eggs on top of it.
The larvae hatch and live on the pollen and nectar until they become big enough and strong enough to leave the nest, which is usually in early spring as the weather starts warming up.
Bees disappear after 4 – 6 weeks
Most ground bees are active around their nests for four to six weeks. These bees only live long enough to nest, mate, and lay their eggs, before dying.
Because ground bees pollinate so many plants and do so much good for your soil, it’s best to leave them alone in peace for the month or so that they are alive.
Once the ground bees die, the mounds around their nests wash back into the ground and you will never know they were there.
Look for bees hovering over the lawn, near nests
If you see bees hovering around your lawn, above the grass, then you probably have ground bees. These are usually male ground bees who are wanting to mate with the female ground bees as they emerge from their underground nest in spring.
Ground bees are not dangerous, and the males do not even have a stinger so they can’t sting you.
Bees have hair on their midsections
If you see bees in your yard and want to know if they are ground bees, check out this post that tells you how to identify ground bees based on what they look like (with pictures to refer to).
Ground bees come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. But all ground bees have one thing in common: they all have a fuzzy or hairy midsection, called the thorax. Ground bees also often have fuzzy legs and fuzzy heads.
What’s all the “fuzz” about?
It’s this fuzz that helps ground bees collect pollen when they visit flowers. Click here to find out how ground bee pollination works.