The warm and sunny season is here, and sometimes the best place to relax is in the great outdoors. Whether you are a fan of hiking, picnics, or just a good cookout in your backyard, summer is just the time to do it.

However, we aren’t the only creatures that become more active. It’s possible you may hear a familiar buzzing and immediately start looking to the trees for a hive. However, you may want to look at your feet instead of the skies. So, do bees actually live in the ground and what should you know before digging up any nests?

Do bees actually live in the ground

Watch Your Step: Ground Bees

First, not all bees live in hives. Most bees prefer to remain out of sight and nest underground. The most common bees you may see floating around, including the fuzzy bumblebee, would rather build a nest in empty holes or dig deep to lay their eggs. Over 70% of bees burrow to nest. Most of these bee types are solitary insects that do not live in hives or colonies.

Bumblebees are the exception here, as they prefer to live in colonies. They nest in the ground in large holes and work together to survive.  While it can be pretty easy to spot a nest in a tree or on the side of a house, it can be much more difficult to see something that may be right under your feet.

Spotting a Nest

If you are worried about spotting a ground bee nest, put your mind at ease. The nests can be easy to spot once you know where and what to look for. Since most ground bees are solitary, it’s easy to spot single holes in the ground. The bees will burrow down leaving small piles of dirt with a large hole in the center.

When the females burrow, they lay their eggs in the holes. After the eggs hatch, the larvae will stay underground overwinter and then emerge in the summer. 

Spotting a Ground Bee

Ground bees come in a staggering number of different sizes and colors, but they are easy to spot. These bees are typically furry and darker than honeybees. Sometimes they can sport different colors, like metallic green or brightly colored stripes.  The most common ground bees you’ll find in Northeast, PA are the following:

  • Bumblebees 
  • Carpenter bees
  • Miner, borer, ground bees

Bumblebees are social bees, known for their fuzzy black and yellow bodies. They also perform the crucial task of pollinating flowers and plants. Unfortunately, these bees, though severely important, are at risk of facing extinction.

Carpenter bees are a little less furry than bumblebees, and they are easy to spot by their dark black abdomens. Unlike their fuzzier counterparts, carpenter bees are solitary insects, and they also prefer to burrow in wood rather than the ground. These bees also serve as pollinators.

Borer or miner bees have plenty of variations. They come in a variety of bright colors from orange to white. Also solitary insects, borer bees dig into dry soil to lay their offspring. They tend to build their nests close to family members,

Are ground bees dangerous?

When compared to other bee and wasp species, ground bees are far less aggressive. In fact, these bees can be docile, for the most part. Males of the species are incapable of stinging, though they will fly furiously around you should you get too close to their nest. Females can sting, but they usually only do so if they are threatened or mishandled. 

Should you get rid of ground bees?

Before rushing for the pesticides, step back and think for a moment. The benefits from ground bees far outweigh the negatives. These bees serve a crucial purpose as pollinators, which can be great for your garden and other plant life. 

Ground bees are also not aggressive, and their nesting is limited to the spring. They can leave just as fast as they’ve come. As long as they aren’t burrowing into your home and someone you live with doesn’t have an allergy, it may be best to leave the bees alone – especially in the case of bumblebees. As endangered species, the goal is to not disturb their nests if possible.

Keep bees out of your yard!

If you’d rather not have bees in your yard, the best thing you can do is make it less habitable for them. Ground bees tend to seek out dry soil, empty holes, and in the case of carpenter bees, old, unfinished wood. They will avoid damp areas if they can.

To keep them at bay, simply keep up with your yard. Cut grass often and keep it hydrated to limit any dry soil areas. You can also apply mulch, as this acts as a deterrent for most ground bees. Don’t use pesticides; they will do way more harm than good. 

Keep in mind, most ground bees will not stick around. They typically look for a place to lay their eggs and leave on their own. If you’re having trouble identifying what type of bees you have, consider calling a pest control expert to help handle the problem.

Bee free and happy

Though we may shiver when we see a bee and run for the hills, ground bees are nothing to be frightened of. Just keep your distance and these docile insects will go about their business. As crucial parts of the ecosystem, you may be glad to have these pollinators in your garden.