How to Get Rid of Ground Bees

Ground bees can be gotten rid of using various methods, such as mulching, watering your yard, changing the kinds of flowers you grow, and using natural repellents. 

The most effective way to stop your bee problem from coming back is to make your backyard less attractive to ground bees.

Unlike honey bees, ground bees nest in burrows underground, or in tunnels bored into wood. Most ground bees are considered harmless, as they are non-aggressive and won’t sting unless roughly handled. However, they can be a nuisance. Although ground bees are solitary, multiple bees will often nest in the same place, which can cover your backyard with dirt piles. 

What are ground bees, and are they harmful?

Ground bees are species of bees that nest in burrows, rather than in a communal hive (like honeybees do). Ground bees dig tunnels into the Earth or wood and account for around 70% of the 20,000 known bee species worldwide. Unlike bees that live in hives, female ground bees are solitary insects. This means that each individual bee builds her burrow, which she will use as a nursery for her single larva. The larvae emerge from their burrows as adult bees the following year.

Like most bee species, ground bees can sting you if they feel threatened. However, none of the ground bee species in North America are particularly aggressive, and will only sting in extreme circumstances. Therefore, ground bees nesting in your garden are usually considered more nuisance than a danger

The ground bee nest entrance resembles a small hill with a hole in the middle, and hundreds (or even thousands) of female ground bees may build their nests alongside one another. If you have a large infestation of ground nesting bees, this can seriously impact the aesthetic of your backyard.

Types of ground bees

North America is home to around 3000 species of ground nesting bees, but the most common ground bees are Bumblebees, carpenter bees, mining bees, and Colletes inaequalis.

C.inaequalis (AKA the plasterer bee)

If you live in the northeastern or midwestern regions of North America, the most common type of ground bee is Colletes inaequalis (sometimes called plasterer bees or polyester bees). These ground bees usually nest in sandy soil on south-facing slopes, so they are naturally drawn to backyards with these conditions. These burrowing bees are not aggressive and won’t sting unless handled roughly, so they aren’t considered dangerous. However, they can show up in large numbers. Although female C.inaequalis build solitary burrows, they often show up in large groups. This means you could have hundreds or even thousands of ground bees building nests in your backyard.

Mining bees (AKA digger bees)

Mining bees, also called digger bees, have small, stout, furry, black-and-yellow bodies. They are smaller than the honey bee, and are often mistaken for bumblebees. Like other ground-nesting bees, miner bees live in underground burrows, which they build in well-drained soils (like hills, banks, and clay-rich soils). Female miner bees often dig their nests in clusters, but live solitary lives and care only for their own burrow.

Bumblebees

Bumblebees are the most recognizable type of ground bee, and can often be seen collecting pollen in the summertime. These large, fuzzy bees are often mistaken for honey bees, but bumblebees are actually a type of ground bee.

Unlike honey bees, bumblebees make their nests underground or at ground level. 

Whereas most ground bees dig their burrows and tunnels, bumblebees are more likely to make nests in existing nooks and holes. As ground bees, they will choose sites close to the ground, such as rodent burrows, tree hollows, and lumber piles.

Carpenter bees

Carpenter beesCarpenter bees are not strictly ground bees because they tend to make their nests in wood rather than underground tunnels. However, they are burrowing bees that bore into wood to make their nests. Adult carpenter bees overwinter in pre-constructed tunnels before emerging in the spring to breed. Female bees will then bore new tunnels in which to lay eggs.

Carpenter bees are not aggressive, but are still considered a nuisance species because of their potential to damage wooden structures. They are rarely as destructive as termites, but they can still cause cosmetic and structural damage to wooden buildings. 

Carpenter bee infestations are best dealt with by a pest control professional, as they will be able to accurately assess the extent of any damage.

Sweat bees

Sweat bees are one of the more bothersome species of ground bee, as they are more likely to sting than other ground bees. As their name suggests, sweat bees are attracted to perspiration and will likely land on your skin in the summer. They often sting when brushed away, though fortunately,most people only consider them mildly painful.

Sweat bees lay eggs in underground tunnels, where the larvae spend their winter living on a supply of pollen and nectar gathered by the female bee. The new adult bees emerge from the underground nest in springtime and are prolific pollinators.

Should I get rid of ground bees?

Ground bees are important pollinators and are widely thought of as beneficial insects. However, if a large ground bee infestation is ruining the appeal of your garden, there are pest control measures you can take to get rid of them.

Is killing ground bees a good idea?

There are many products available that can kill ground bees, but chemical insecticides can have a detrimental effect on the overall health of your garden. Ground bees (like other types of bees) are important pollinators that help your plants to thrive. Another downside to using products that kill ground bees is that they are often indiscriminate in the insects they kill and can wipe out many species that keep soils and plants healthy.

Fortunately, there are many natural ways to get rid of ground bees that won’t affect your garden’s ecosystem or involve the use of potentially hazardous chemicals.

How to get rid of ground bees? 

If you want to get rid of ground bees without resorting to insecticidal remedies, there are plenty of ways to go about it. You can repel ground bees by making a number of small changes to your backyard and using natural remedies rather than harsh chemicals.

A Step-by-step guide to get rid of ground bees effectively

Limit open soil patches

Ground bees dig their burrows into the soil, so they naturally prefer loose, open patches of soil. You can make your garden less appealing to ground bees by covering bare soil with turf, grasses, or other shrubberies. Another easy method is to apply mulch to bare soil patches, as this makes the soil beneath harder to access and can repel ground bees from digging there.

Water your backyard

Water your backyardGround bees like loose, dry soil, as it’s easier to burrow into. Water your garden regularly to keep the ground moist during early spring, as this is when ground bees look for places to build their nests. If your garden is too damp, ground bees are more likely to overlook your backyard in favor of somewhere with dry soil.

Remove plants that attract bees

Bees are pollinators, so they are naturally attracted to flowers. However, some blooms are more appealing to bees than others, especially those with blue or purple petals. One study found that ground bees (and other bee species) are most attracted to geraniums, calamint, blueweed, Canadian goldenrod purple-top vervain, and common sneezeweed. Another study clearly showed that bees have a strong preference for purple tones.

Therefore, you can discourage ground bees from nesting in your backyard simply by removing their favorite plants.

Home remedies to get rid of ground bees naturally

A natural, homemade bee repellent may do the trick if you want to repel ground bees without using chemical insecticides. One commonly used bee-repellent recipe uses:

  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ⅛ teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 2-3 drops of liquid soap
  • 2-4 drops of peppermint oil
  • A spray bottle of water

Home remedies to get rid of ground bees naturallyOnce you have mixed the various spices and liquids into the water, use the spray bottle to spritz flowers and other plants around your backyard. This natural remedy won’t kill bees, but it is thought to repel them and works as a natural method of bee control.

How to prevent ground bees from coming back?

Keeping them out of your backyard is easy once you know how to get rid of ground bees.

The best way to prevent ground bees from coming back is to make your backyard less appealing. Ground bees build their nests in early spring, so this is the best time of year to take action. If you have patches of bare soil, cover these in mulch, grasses, or shrubs; keep the soil moist with regular watering, and remove plants that are particularly attractive to ground bees.

You could also try to repel ground bees using your homemade insect repellent, or other natural remedies such as:

  • Scattering cucumber peels around your yard
  • Sprinkle cinnamon or garlic powder over the soil
  • Light citronella candles in the backyard

Frequently asked questions

Should I Kill Ground Bees?

Ground bees pollinate plants, just like other bees, making them a vital part of your garden’s ecosystem. You can avoid killing ground bees using natural methods to repel them from your property. However, if you have a severe infestation of ground bees, contact a pest control professional is the best action. Although ground bees are not typically aggressive, they can be dangerous in large numbers. Therefore, ground bee removal is best left in the hands of pest control experts.

Do ground bees sting & why?

Like most other bee species, ground bees do have stingers. All bees use their sting to protect themselves or their nest, but will only do so if they feel threatened. Most ground bees won’t sting unless they are roughly handled. Sweat bees are attracted to human perspiration and are more likely to sting when brushed away or swatted at. However, sweat bee stings are reported to be only mildly painful.

What attracts ground bees?

Ground bees are attracted to areas with dry, loose soil that is easy to dig into. Bumblebees may be attracted to your property if you have rodents living nearby, as they often make their nests in abandoned rodent burrows.

Ground bees are also attracted to particular flowers. Bees, in general, seem to prefer flowers with a purple or blue hue but are especially attracted to geraniums, calamint, blueweed, Canadian goldenrod purple-top vervain, and common sneezeweed.

What animals eat ground bees?

birds eat ground beesBees have a lot of natural predators, including various bird, mammal, reptilian, and amphibian species. Even other insects, like dragonflies, centipedes, and spiders, prey on wasps and bees. If you hate bees but don’t mind other bugs and critters, encouraging more wildlife species onto your property could help keep their numbers in check.

Final thoughts – When should you contact pest control to get rid of ground bees?

Ground bees can often be eliminated using natural methods that don’t require professional help. They are not usually aggressive and, although they can sting, aren’t considered dangerous for most people. However, you should always call a professional pest control service if:

You have a bee allergy

If you are allergic to stinging insects, you should always call pest control to safely remove bees and wasps. Ground bees are non-aggressive, but they can sting if they feel threatened, so it’s

Better to call pest control than to risk an allergic reaction.

Your bee infestation is severe

If your ground bee infestation is out of control, you may need to call in the experts for help. A pest control professional can accurately assess the extent of the infestation and will decide upon the best course of action to get rid of the ground bees.

You don’t have time to deal with ground bees

Getting rid of ground bees can be a multistep process that not everyone has time for. Pest removal companies are highly-equipped to eliminate infestations most quickly and efficiently, and can save you a great deal of time.

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