Ground Bees – Signs of Ground Bees and What to Do

Ground Bee
Ground bee. Photographed by Jaspar Nance.

Ground bees (aka underground bees, aka digger bees) are, as the name implies bees that live underground. There are many different types of bees that burrow but they all share some common traits – specifically, the fact that they dig little holes in your lawn. How to tell if you have ground bees? As we learned, it was pretty easy. Actually, they were impossible not to notice. Like, carpenter bees, ground bees leave an unmistakable sign of their presence. Instead of piles of sawdust, it’s piles of dirt. Unlike many of their cousins, like the hyper-social honey bee, which builds and lives in hives of up to 60,000 bees, ground bees are much more solitary.

Like robins, ground bees are a sign that spring is coming. Signs of them begin appearing in the earliest weeks of spring and may look a little alarming. Each female builds its own nest and although ground bees are largely solitary, they do tend to dig holes ear one another. Sometimes a dozen or more holes can be found in a relatively small area of your yard, easy to identify thanks to the conical pile of dirt that collects around their tiny excavation.

ground bees holes
Holes created in our yard by Ground Bees.

Looks pretty bad, doesn’t it? Thankfully, these holes are quickly vacated and our lawn is on its way to making a full recovery.

Like their brethren, ground bees collect pollen and nectar, making them excellent pollinators. So if you have seen signs of them in your yard, don’t panic! It’s a good thing (as long as you’re not entering your lawn in any beauty contests).

Removing Ground Bees

Although they are beneficial and useful pollinators, you may want to remove ground bee nests because, well, the dozens of little hills they create in your yard can be rather unsightly. Ground bee removal is simple: flood the buggers out. They prefer dry soil, so watering your lawn will not only create an unwelcome environment, it will also flood any existing nests to ensure the ground bees don’t return.

ground bees
The former underground homes of our ground bees

If you want to take more drastic action, there are several pesticides and traps that specifically target ground bees and other insects, including spiders, ground-nesting hornets, and yellowjackets.

Do Ground Bees Sting?

Do ground bees sting? Well, yes. But only when provoked. They’re not generally prone to stinging. As solitary insects, ground bees are not likely to sting you unless they are mishandled. Moreover, most of the bees you see buzzing around dirt holes are males, who don’t sting, looking for for a mate. And because they benefit the environment as great pollinators, there’s no need to fear them.

Do Honey Bees Live in the Ground?

Ground bees may look very much like honey bees, but they are not, in fact, honey bees. Some bumblebees build hives in abandoned rodent burrows or other larger holes but ground bees are, typically, a more solitary species – hence their little holes.