If unusually high summer temperatures have you sweating, you may find yourself attracting large numbers of sweat bees. These hovering bugs are abundant during the warm season and are irresistibly drawn to human perspiration. Their habit of hovering in faces and landing on skin makes them a nuisance to have around, though their sting is very mild, and they are not considered to be dangerous for most people.
Sweat bees are important pollinators and are of great benefit to your garden and the larger surrounding ecosystem. Fortunately, there are several non-toxic methods you can use to keep them away from you, without harming these vital insects or damaging the health of your plants.
What are sweat bees?
Sweat bees belong to the Halictid family, a very large group of bees with species found all over the world. They get their name from their love of perspiration, which is thought to contain salts and nutrients that are attractive to them.
This trait makes them very annoying; however, sweat bees only sting if disturbed, and most people consider the sting to be only mildly painful.
Sweat bees vary greatly in appearance, due to the large number of different species that may be found in this group. However, most are slender in shape and dark or dull in color, with a distinctive metallic sheen.
Why are the sweat bees so bad this year?
If it seems like the sweat bee situation is especially bad this year. It could be due to the weather conditions in your part of the world. Hot, humid weather creates the perfect conditions for sweat bees to feed and breed.
If you find yourself sweating more than usual in the high summer heat, this is sure to attract large numbers of the bugs, which can make it seem as though there are more of them around than there really are.
How to keep sweat bees away from you
Sweat bees are very important pollinators for a variety of wildflowers and crops like watermelon, stone fruits, sunflowers, and alfalfa. As such, they are highly beneficial insect species and the best course of action is to leave them alone, so they can continue their good work in maintaining the world’s biodiversity.
However, thanks to their habit of invading people’s personal space to get at their perspiration, large numbers of sweat bees can quickly become a nuisance.
Sweat bees may have a mild sting, deployed only when they are disturbed, but the temptation to bat or brush them away when they land on you can be too much to resist. As a result, a nest of sweat bees on or near your property may be hazardous for children or people with allergies.
So, how can you keep sweat bees away – without killing them?
Use a natural, non-toxic insect repellent
Sweat bees are most likely to bug you because they are attracted to the scent of your perspiration. This encourages them to hover near you and even land on your face and body, where most people can’t resist the urge to brush them away.
Unfortunately, this disturbs them, which is when they’re most likely to sting you. Using a natural insect repellent (containing essential oils such as lemon eucalyptus oil) can be an effective way to keep sweat bees away.
Alternatively, you can make your own repellent by mixing a few drops of peppermint extract with water in a spray bottle and applying this to your skin.
By effectively deterring a wide range of insects, these natural repellent sprays can help to keep sweat bees away without harming them. As they are entirely non-toxic, they are also safe to use on all skin types (unlike some sprays, which can contain harsh chemicals).
Spread a thick layer of mulch around problem areas in your garden
Sweat bees build their nests in burrows in the ground, and for this, they prefer thin, dry soil. If you have a problem with sweat bees setting up home on your property, spreading a thick layer of mulch around problem areas can be an easy and effective solution.
This can discourage the bees from making their home in your yard, reducing their numbers in the summer months when they look for a more suitable habitat.
What not to do to repel sweat bees
Chemical insecticides may seem like a quick fix for your sweat bee problems, but this is the very worst thing you can do for your garden.
The majority of insecticides are non-specific killers and will take down every bug they come into contact with.
This can strip your garden of bees and other beneficial insect species, reducing pollination and providing an opportunity for pest species (like aphids, mealybugs, and whitefly) to multiply.
This can have disastrous consequences for the health of your plants, and your garden may never fully recover from such an assault.
Instead, use non-toxic preventative methods (such as natural repellents and mulching) so you can coexist peacefully with your bees.
Sweat bees are important pollinators and, having only a mild sting, are widely considered to be harmless. However, these bees are attracted to human perspiration and will often land on people to drink up the valuable salts and nutrients in your sweat. This makes them a nuisance in the summertime, especially during hot and humid spells when their numbers can increase rapidly.
Fortunately, you can keep sweat bees away from you using simple, inexpensive, natural methods.
Natural insect repellents containing essential oils (such as lemon eucalyptus or peppermint oil) can effectively deter sweat bees without harming them. Alternatively, try spreading a thick layer of mulch in areas of your garden with dry, thin soil. This will make your yard less habitable to sweat bees, who make their burrows in the ground and can help to reduce their overall numbers during the warm, summer months.