What kind of bee digs holes in the ground?

Which Bees Dig In The Ground?

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“Bees” Nesting in the Ground? ‘Wasp Out’—they might be Yellow-jackets!

Question. Mike: We have vegetables growing in an above ground garden made of logs. About six inches from one of the plants is the entrance to an underground bee’s nest. Is there something I could just pour in there, like vinegar, that would get the bees without poisoning the soil? Thanks.

—Gary Herrmann; Bala Cynwyd, PA

I have a yellow-jacket nest under a decorative boulder in my front garden. One nailed me above the knee cap last Saturday. It felt like a 4-penny nail was stuck in there. I am against killing any bugs just for convenience sake, but I need to get rid of these pests. They are too darn dangerous. Any suggestions for an organic way to drive them away? Keeping it green…

—Rich Beaumont; Haycock Twp, Bucks County, PA

Mike: We have wasp-like insects (about 2″ long with striped abdomens) living in perfectly round holes in the ground in our front flowerbeds. They make these piles of dirt that look like sawdust when they dig out their holes. They haven’t tried to sting us, but they are right around the front door, and I’d love to get rid of them. They have been visiting us every summer for 3-4 years now. I try to fill in the holes in the fall, but no luck so far. Do you have any suggestions? Thank You.

—Cindy Lefkowitz; Havertown, PA

Answer. We get a lot of calls this time of year from anxious home owners about “ground nesting bees”. There are two insects with stingers you might notice emerging from holes in your lawn or flowerbed right now, but neither are bees. (The only bees that nest in the ground are gentle pollinators that are only active in the Spring.)

If, like Cindy, the black and yellow insects you see are around two inches long, relax; those are the famous cicada-killing wasps and they have no interest in stinging you. The males don’t have stingers, and the rarely-seen females often won’t even sting when provoked! And besides, their season of dragging giant cicadas into those holes for their young to feed upon is almost done. To prevent their harmless presence NEXT year, keep your ground covered with plants or mulch; they only make their solitary nests in bare soil.

If those insects are under an inch long, however, do NOT relax. Those are yellow-jackets, a type of highly aggressive wasp, not a bee. Although technically beneficial because they eat pest insects, yellow-jackets are responsible for almost all of the so-called ‘bee sting deaths’ in the United States. They like to sting people, each insect can sting repeatedly, they generally attack in large numbers, and they can bite ya too. They are especially dangerous this time of year. Their nests have gotten HUGE, and the workers are on a constant prowl for food.

To keep individual wasps out of your outdoor areas, don’t leave pet food or human food outside, and keep trash sealed tight. Oh and take it from me—always give opened cans of soda a little shake before drinking. Talk about ouch! And if you’ve got a nest in a frequently-used area, it must be destroyed. Insecticides—natural or organic—aren’t recommended this late in the season; the nests are so big and intricate that the sprays can’t reach the inner layers.


The best way I’ve found to destroy a nest is to smother it. Fill a wheelbarrow with a big load of ice (like from a motel ice machine—its just the right size) and quickly dump it over the hole on a cool evening after the scouts have gone inside for the night. The cold will prevent their attacking you. Then cover the hole and the area around it with a heavy tarp weighted down with bricks, a piece of sheet metal, a big wooden board or other heavy object. Then cover that with soil or wood chips. Or cover the hole with a thick piece of clear plastic, seal the edges tight to the ground, and the nest will cook in the sun once the ice melts. Be sure and pick a cool night when these dangerous wasps will be unable to respond quickly—and ‘bee careful’!

Traps are the most effective way to capture yellow-jackets trying to muscle in on a picnic or other outdoor event—and they can also be used to cut the numbers in an underground nest. You can buy ready-made traps at any hardware store or make you own: Just remove the cap from a glass or plastic container, drive a single hole into it with a Phillips-head screwdriver, put a bit of bait in the container, and put the cap back on.

To keep the pests away from your picnic, place the traps on the outskirts of your outdoor area. To reduce the numbers in a nest, place lots of traps near the nest in the cool of the evening—when the wasps won’t be active. Try two different kinds of bait—put some spoiled ham or smelly pet food in half the traps and some apple juice or a piece of rotting peach in the rest. Sometimes the pests want sugar, sometimes meat. Either way, they’ll fly in for the food, but they won’t be able to fly out.

Last year, an inventive YBYG listener told us that they had used one of those backyard bug zappers to destroy a nest. The listener simply set the zapper right near the entrance to the nest—again, always do this on a cool evening—and then turned it on. The aggressive wasps kept flying out trying to sting the zapper and were eventually all electrocuted. Finally—a good use for those otherwise useless zappers!

And just this year, we’ve heard from two different YBYG listeners– Phil Getty from

New Hope, PA and Jim Lauther of Pine Hill, New Jersey—who used shop vacs to capture the pests as they flew out of their underground nests. Both attached their longest extension poles to the end of their vacuum hoses, positioned the poles close to the openings, turned the machines on and let them run. Both reported great success. (This is much the same solution the pros use when the pests build a nest in the wall of a house.) If you’d like to try it, position the hose of your shop vac right near the opening of the nest on a cool evening and then turn it on the next day.

Be sure to leave the vac on for a LONG time; there could be five thousand yellow’s in a nest this time of year. Be sure to plug the hose right away when you’re done so they don’t fly back out and take revenge. Then leave the vac sit in the sun for a few days to kill the occupants.

Sensational First Aid for ANY Sting!

Get a jar of Adolph’s meat tenderizer and keep it nearby whenever you’re outdoors. That way, if you DO get stung by one of these aggressive wasps, you can cure it instantly! Just wet the area, shake some of the Adolph’s (or any papain/papaya-based meat tenderizer) onto the sting, cover it with a damp napkin or cloth and the same enzymes that break down tough cuts of meat will denature the protein-based venom. It’ll be like you were never stung!

Of course, if you’re allergic to ‘bee stings’, don’t go anywhere without your emergency injector this time of year.

You Bet Your Garden ©2004 Mike McGrath

Imagine standing in a swarm of bees close to the ground and not being stung. While working in pest control, I helped many of our customers deal with Digger bees. As with any insect in the wasp family, they appear frightening but, for the most part, they are harmless. Here’s what Willie Chance has to say about digger bees in an article from Pest Control Alert:

The first sign of ground or digger bees in lawns may be strange little mounds of soil with a hole nearby. The ground bees will be flying over this area. Ground bees are solitary bees that dig and nest in the ground. These bees live one per hole but there may be many holes in an area creating ground bee communities. There are many types of ground bees that vary in color and range from one-half to three-quarter inch in length. Some types of solitary wasps live like this as well.

Female ground bees dig nests in the ground up to six or so inches deep in which to raise young. The bees pile earth around the sides of the hole. These bees can be very active in March and April. The female ground bee stocks the nest with pollen and nectar to feed the young bees. Some solitary wasps stock their nests with insects.

Ground bees typically cause little problem. The digging should not be enough to damage the lawn. If anything, they help aerate the lawn which allows water and oxygen to penetrate the soil. The bees are not very aggressive and probably will not sting. You should be able to work and mow grass around them with few problems. People that are allergic to bee stings may want to be cautious when working around the bees.

We do not recommend chemical controls for ground bees or wasps. These bees can be beneficial — serving to pollinate plants or destroy harmful insects. They will probably only be around for four to six weeks and then disappear until next year.

If you must control them, use cultural controls.

* Ground bees like dry soils. Water the soil when bees first become active. Apply one inch of water once a week if it does not rain.

* Ground bees nest in dry areas where the grass is thin. Find and correct the problems making the turf thin. This may involve soil sampling, irrigation, soil aeration or other practices.

* Find ways to thicken the turf in these areas to reduce ground bee problems. Know the needs of the turf grass and meet them!

* In areas that will not grow grass, mulch the area.

If you must use a pesticide, watch during the day to see where the holes are located. After dark, dust these areas with carbaryl dust (sold under the name Sevin and other names). A dust insecticide should cling to the bee’s body better than a spray. Keep people and pets out of the area while it is being treated.

The bees are not generally harmful and pesticides are toxic. The cure may be worse than the problem. Try to put up with the bees if you can. These bees may be difficult to control and may return year to year. If you have ongoing problems with them, follow all recommendations very carefully. See this site where I found much of this information http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/ent/notes/O&T/lawn/note100/note100.html.

There is one large caution in connection with ground bees and wasps. Ground bees are not aggressive but can look like other bees and wasps that are very aggressive and harmful. Make absolutely certain that you are not dealing with a yellow jacket or bumble bee nest. Both of these insects can literally cover you with stings very quickly. They can also have extremely large nests in Georgia. If you ever get into trouble with these, run until you escape them. Running inside may help. Do not stop to swat, roll on the ground, etc.

Before you begin control of any stinging insect, make certain of your pest. This or other websites can help you identify the lawn invader

One difference between ground bees and other bees or wasps is that ground bees live by themselves and make many holes in the ground. Yellow jackets and bumble bees have many insects per hole. Use the following from Dr. Will Hudson, UGA Entomologist, as a guide for identification.

Many holes with one 1 bee per hole = solitary bees (like ground bees) that sting only as a last resort.

One hole, many bees = social bees (like yellow jackets and bumble bees). Keep away! These are non-reproductive workers that will sacrifice themselves in defense of the nest.

For insects other than ground bees, homeowners may want to hire a pest control company. They should have the training and equipment to do the job properly.

For further questions, contact Thomas County extension office at 225 – 4130.


Aussie Bee > Save Australian Native Bees > Save Ground Nesting Bees

Australia has over 1,700 species of native bees and 70% of these species build nests in the ground! Some, such as Blue Banded Bees and Teddy Bear Bees, dig shallow burrows in clay soil. Others, such as Homalictus Bees, may dig burrows that are well over a metre deep. In many species, just one female uses each nest burrow, while in other species a nest burrow may be shared by dozens of bees.

A ground-nesting native bee busily digging her nest in a bare patch of ground.

The bees often prefer sandy or loamy soil with good drainage for their nests, and sites that are covered with little vegetation. In some species the nests are easy to spot — a small conical mound of excavated soil surrounds the opening of each nest. However, the nests of other species may be very hard to see — they are just tiny holes in the flat ground and the bee kicks soil over the entrance hole to conceal it when she leaves.

Nest blocks for Blue Banded Bees can be made from clay soil pressed into a section of drainpipe or other container. However, providing nest sites for species that dig deeper burrows is more challenging.

A good starting point is simply to leave some areas of ground in your yard bare, instead of covering all the yard with lawn, mulch, weedmat or pavers. You could also experiment with making a raised bed of sandy loam, at least 60 cm deep, for your local bees.

Overseas, systems have been well developed for creating nest sites for some species of ground-dwelling bees (e.g. the Nomia Alkali Bees that pollinate alfalfa crops). However, little experimentation has been done so far in Australia for our hundreds of ground-nesting native bee species. Perhaps you could help by trying out some ideas in your backyard!

Further reading:
AgGuide: Australian Native Bees

Save Australian Native Bees
Help Stingless Bees
Help Reed Bees
Help Carpenter Bees


When most people think bees, they think of aboveground hives or perhaps swarms of bees hanging in trees. However, there are several bee species commonly referred to as ground bees, which make their home in the ground.

Like their aboveground counterparts, ground bees gather pollen and nectar. However, they are more solitary and prefer a semi-social environment. Instead of building one shared hive, ground bees burrow in the ground, or appropriate the abandoned holes of rodents and other small mammals. While they often burrow near each other, only one female bee digs each burrow.

Multiple bee species are referred to as ground bees, including alkali bees, bumble bees, leafcutter bees, mining or digger bees and sweat bees.

Common ground

Most species of ground bee are similar in size. They are typically one-half of an inch long or smaller, though some may be up to three-fourths of an inch long. They can be black and yellow, blue, purple, red or green and are often metallic-looking.

They all belong to the same order, Hymenoptera, but are in different families.

People typically notice the males buzzing in large groups during mating season in the spring, or by seeing large numbers of small holes grouped near each other in patches of open ground.

Mating season is March to May, with most species emerging from their underground burrows in March and early April. Because they are solitary bees, there is no queen bee. All female ground bees are fertile. The female bees also serve as worker bees, building the burrows and collecting food for the larvae. Larvae will develop into adult bees while underground, waiting until the next year’s mating season to dig their way out.

During mating season, each female will dig a burrow. These burrows are at least 6 inches deep into the earth, and may have vertical, horizontal or slanted tunnels depending on the species. Most types of ground bee then fill these burrows by laying an egg, pushing in a ball of pollen mixed with nectar and sealing the hole. The young bee will eat the pollen until it is time to exit the burrow the following year.

Most species of ground-dwelling bee are considered semi-social because they build burrows near each other. The clusters of small holes may be unsightly, but these underground colonies aerate the soil and are not harmful to plants or lawns.

Many ground bees are polylectic, meaning they will collect pollen and nectar from multiple plant species. Because of this, farmers often raise them for their help with crop growth.

Alkali bees, Nomia melanderi

This species of bee belongs to the family Halactidae, and is also a type of sweat bee. They nest in the ground, but have a preference for salty soils. They are typically found in the western and southwestern United States. This type of ground bee is also found in salt flats.

They are slightly smaller than honey bees, and are similar in appearance. However, alkali bees have iridescent yellow stripes on a black abdomen. The stripes are made from enameled scales.

Each female bee digs a network of tunnels for her burrow. It is possible for thousands of females to build burrows near each other if a large enough patch of salty earth is available for them to use.

Due to their proclivity for salty soil, these bees are often found in areas that other bees cannot pollinate. Alkali bees are of particular importance to plants in the pea family. These plants are more difficult to pollinate, as the male and female parts of the flower are not exposed initially. Alkali bees land on the flower, bouncing the lower petal or keel to expose the antlers and stamen for pollination. These bees hold particular importance for crops such as alfalfa, a member of the pea family that requires pollination this way. Alfalfa farmers in many states have learned how to attract these bees rather than drive them away because alkali bees can pollinate more than 1,000 flowers per day.

Bumble bees, Bombus pennysylvanicus

American bumble bees are members of the Apidae family. They are black and yellow, and their abdomens are covered in fuzzy hairs that allow them to collect pollen.

They are social bees, unlike other ground-dwelling bees, and they build underground hives. Not all species of bumble bee build their hives underground, though. Of those that do, the bees may burrow into the soil, or just repurpose the abandoned hole of a small rodent or other animal. It is common to find colonies under sheds or in compost piles, in addition to rotting wood.

The hives have a queen bee, helped by drones (male bees) and worker bees. A large bumble bee hive has an average of 400 bees.

Unlike other ground bees that do not make honey, bumble bees make honey with the pollen.

Leafcutter bees, Megachile spp

Leafcutting bees belong to the family Megachilidae. They make their nests in soft or rotting wood or sometimes in plants that have thick, pithy stems, such as roses. They are darker in color than honey bees, but still have light stripes on their abdomen.

They collect pollen, and also cut off semicircular pieces of leaf to line the cells in their nest. After choosing a nest site, a female leafcutter bee will bite off pieces of leaf to use in her burrow. Plants commonly chosen by leafcutter bees for use in burrows include roses, creepers, ash and lilac. Similar to the alkali bee, leafcutter bee colonies are often cultivated by alfalfa farmers for use in crop production.

Mining/Digger bees, Centris pallida

This type of ground bee belongs to the family Andrenidae, and may also be called chimney bees in some parts of the United States. They burrow into soft soil to make their homes, and are sometimes found in desert climates.

Digger bees are quite small, and often have velvety patches on their faces. They can be furry, and are sometimes brightly striped or metallic-green.

As with other ground bees, females seal each egg into a cavity with plenty of pollen. The larvae develop into adults over the summer, but will remain buried until the following spring.

Sweat bees, Lasioglossum spp

Sweat bees belong to the Halictidae family, and are one of the most diverse groups of bee types. About half of the sweat bee species are metallic or dull black in color, while the other half are shades of metallic-blue, green and purple. Unlike other ground bee species, sweat bees may be social, semi-social, solitary or communal.

Sweat bee females carry pollen on their back legs, as opposed to other bee species which typically collect pollen on their abdomens.

After mating season, females dig burrows and fill them with nectar, pollen and eggs. For some species the larvae hatch and emerge quickly, while other species will overwinter in the burrow.


Ground bees are useful pollinators and should not be controlled unless absolutely necessary. Pesticides should be used as a last resort. There are several easy ways to prevent these types of bees from choosing to nest in your yard:

  • Limit open ground

    Ground bees need open space to dig their burrows. Planting thicker grasses and making sure there are no large, open patches of earth will limit your yard’s attractiveness.

  • Change the watering system

    If ground bees are already in your yard, water more often. These bees need drier earth to build stable burrows. If you saturate the ground, the bees are likely to leave in search of a better habitat by the next mating season.

  • Insecticide dust

    If you must kill them, use an insecticide dust applied sparingly to the tops of the open burrow holes. Because they are beneficial pollinators, follow all directions and avoid spreading the poison in a wider area than necessary. Also check that the insecticide used is approved for bees.

If you are unsure which species of bee has taken up residence in your yard or the best method to treat the problem, call Terminix® and a Service Technician will help you find a solution.

A dirt pile like this one is a sign that you have ground bees nesting in your lawn.
(Courtesy: Pestguy)

Have you ever surveyed your lawn in early spring and noticed little burrows or dirt piles? These piles are signs of ground nesting bees.

Ground nesting or miner bees are a solitary species of bee that create their nests underground with galleries where queen bees live individually and take care of their own young. Unlike other species of bee including bumblebees and honeybees, they do not form hives.

Ground bee queens do not attempt to protect their young and are very docile and unlikely to sting. The males commonly frequent the area patrolling for females who are seeking mates. The male bees are also docile. They may be very active and even appear aggressive. However, they don’t have a sting and are harmless. Like other bees, they are foraging for nectar and pollen.

Although the little burrows may appear unattractive, they do not pose a threat to your lawn. In fact, they actually enhance it because the holes also serve to aerate the lawn and permit the penetration of water and nutrients.

After the spring nesting season, the ground bees leave and the soil washes back into place until the holes ultimately disappear.

There is really no need to do anything about these bees or their nests. Many homeowners simply leave them alone. Still, if you wish to rid your property of them you can do it without the use of pesticides. The fact is these bees favor dry soil to nest in. Watering the area will cause them to leave.

A colletes inaequalis also known as a ground nesting bee.
(Courtesy: United States Geological Survey Native Bee Inventory and Monitoring Laboratory via Wikimedia Commons)

If you have a problem of ground nesting bees returning to your lawn year after year and you want to rid your property of them, run a sprinkler in the area before they show up. When they appear, they will find the soil to be too wet to inhabit and go somewhere else.

Another specie of bee that nest in your lawn is yellow jackets. Unlike the docile ground-nesting bees, yellow jackets are very aggressive. So aggressive in fact that they will attack if you use water to get rid of them.

The yellow jackets begin to appear soon after the ground bees leave their nests. They tend to occupy old rodent burrows, holes between tree roots and cavities in structures. Actually, yellow jackets are not bees, but a specie of wasp. They do not feed on pollen, but rather prey on other insects and nectar.

Fertilized yellow jacket queens appear in early spring and search for a suitable place to build a nest. Once found, the queen builds the next, lays her eggs and once they hatch she feeds the young, who grow into workers and feed the larvae. Yellow jacket workers are seen foraging as early as June. Their peak season is late summer and early fall.

If yellow jackets are a problem on your property, seek assistance from a professional to get rid of them. They have the proper tools and equipment to do the job.


Every spring and throughout the summer months, different species of bees will emerge from lawns and turf. These bees have been in the ground all winter developing in the third stage of being an insect called the pupa. As the soil warms, pupa hatch. And with the hatching of pupae come adult bees.

One of the most common is the Andrena digger bee.


These bees come in all sizes and colors. Some are black, blue, brown, white and orange, yellow, and probably mixes of any listed above. Digger bees tend to look more like common bumble bees, but can look like a yellow jacket, a honey bee or certain types of flies. Most all of these species have common behavior which make them easy to control and understand.


1) Nearly all are solitary. Although it appears you have thousands of “nests” in the yard, in fact they are all independent nests owned by different bees.

2) Most like to fly around their “airspace” at different times of the day or season. This may have something to do with mating, air temperature or simply staking territory.

3) Most are not too aggressive, but stay clear of them. One never knows if they may be allergic to a certain sting or venom. Don’t let children or pets play around nest sites.


4) The first year these pests start to nest in a yard, they usually go unnoticed. It is easy to miss a few holes. Every year this will grow exponentially. Within 3-5 years, expect to have several thousand!

5) Although nests may be under pine straw or wood chips, most species prefer to dig on bare ground between grass and plants. Holes are easy to mistake for worm castings.

6) Most are predatory feeders foraging for grubs, small flying insects and ground dwelling pests. It is not uncommon for nest sites to be established in a yard which has little food supply. Because they can fly, food can be found in adjoining property. Nest locations may only be taking advantage of the free place to live without offering any help in controlling your pests! Once food is found, it is stung to death, brought back to the nest and buried. Eggs will be laid on it, in it or close to it so that hatching larva will have a ready food supply.

7) Some are pollen or other organic food feeders; not all are predatory.

8) Most nest sites tend to be where sunlight, moisture and soil density meet some requirement they like. Once a nest site is started, expect it to expand each year and become larger and larger. Although nests are abandoned each year, they are not reused. New nests will be made adjacent to old nests and most old nests fill in over the winter.

9) Expect populations to vary from year to year, based on things such as the severity of the past winter, local insect levels, rain patterns, humidity and temperature.

10) Most live a full year, emerging from pupa stages in the spring, building nests, laying eggs and then dying in the fall. Their offspring will emerge next year to continue the cycle.


1) Most people fear their presence. Although they usually will leave you alone if you don’t bother them, nests pose a hazard when built in play areas of the yard.

2) Infestations will start small and rapidly grow. If you have a nest or two, expect to have several more in the next year. This will quickly grow out of control if left alone to develop.


3) Nest sights will become unsightly. It is not uncommon for thousands of holes to be created within a few thousand square feet.

4) Large nest sites are scary when the species nesting goes into their hovering activity. During these times, you will expect to have thousands of them flying low to the ground, around 1-3 feet high, simply flying in circles. Be sure to keep children and pets away during this activity.

5) In every case, small infestations will eventually get too large and move into areas of the yard where you don’t want them. Be sure to prevent this by taking care of initial infestations before they grow.


If all you have is a few holes – less than 30 – and you want to get control of the problem before it gets control of you and your yard, get some DELTAMETHRIN DUST. This product works fast, lasts long and will kill off all which are active at the time of treatment. Just 2-3 “puffs” of dust down every hole you can find will take care of the nest immediately.

Use a good HAND DUSTER to apply the dust. And treat at night, close to dark, when the bees will be inside their nests.

Deltamethrin dust will work even if it gets wet. And though it will hold up well to water and moisture, plugging it will insure it lasts that much longer just in case it rains or if you have an irrigation system. Digger bee holes are generally small and easy to “cover up” which should be done within one day of treating.

Since most nests have eggs and pupa which are still developing, having the dust in the nest for extended periods of time insures there is something around to knock out young that will hatch throughout the season. And by capping off the top entry hole after the hole is treated will help the dust to last longer.

Once treated, most nests will die off and show no activity within one day. However, it is common to have new holes “pop” up from nowhere within a week which will need immediate attention. Furthermore, if the nests treated have a lot of eggs and pupa developing, you will assuredly get some new nests at some point in the future so be prepared to treat in the coming weeks.


If you have 50 or more nests and you are uncertain of every hole entry point, broadcasting PROTHOR over the yard will prove to be a big time saver. This non repellent can be used down bee or wasp holes in the yard as a drench but for large problems, spraying it over the grass, mulch and pine straw will get all active bees too.

Prothor uses a unique “non repellent” active so the bees won’t know its present. Prothor is labeled for use on turf grass for a range of insects including grubs so for long term control, Prothor is well suited. It will not only kill the active bees digging and nesting but months later it will still be active enough to kill the hatching young.

Using a good HOSE END SPRAYER, you’ll need to add 2.5 oz of Prothor to the sprayer and then fill it to the 5 gallon line. Next, hook it to your garden hose and spray the entire amount over 5,000 sq/ft of turf.

Its important to understand Prothor will not kill quickly. In fact it will take 2-4 days for the bees to start dying. But within 7 days, they will succomb to the treatment and all activity will cease. In general, one application of Prothor a year will keep them away for good

It’s important to understand that the water used to apply the spray will serve you by carrying the chemical down into the soil. This is important to ensure all the hatching young will be affected in the future. And where possible, spray directly down any holes you see. Treatments done early in the year will help stave off the spring hatching so if you have a history of problems, get the yard treated in April-June and you should be able to keep activity minimized for the entire year. Since Prothor will control any type of “plant” eating pest, it will help keep your yard happy and healthy as well.

Apply Prothor using a good PUMP SPRAYER. Remember, 1 gallon of mixed material for every 1,000 sq/ft.

For large yards, use a good HOSE END SPRAYER. Using our sprayer, you’ll need to add 2.5 oz of Prothor to the tank and then fill it with water to the 5 gallon line. Next, hook it to your hose and apply the contents over 5,000 sq/ft of turf.


Lastly, its important to understand that digger bees will be marking infested areas as a good place to nest which will make the yard attractive to bees in the community. For this reason problems will tend to be ongoing once you get active nests. To prevent this from happening, get all active nests dusted with Deltamethrin Dust if possible but if you cannot locate all nests, broadcast Prothor for long term control.


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Digger Bees in the Landscape

There are several kinds of small hairy or metallic bees that dig into the soil to nest, hence one common name, digger bees. This is a diverse group that comes from different families and the term digger bee can include the andrenid bees, halictid bees, and colletid bees such as the plasterer and yellow-faced bees. These are solitary bees and native pollinators that are active early in the season. Each female digs a cylindrical underground tunnel as a nest where she reproduces (as opposed to social bees such as honey bees where only the queen reproduces and maintains a colony with the help of sterile workers). The subterranean nest is provisioned with a mixture of nectar and pollen collected from nearby flowering plants. This “bee-bread” is food for the bee’s offspring (larvae) that develop in the underground chamber and emerge as adults the following year.

Digger bees are 1/4 to 1/2 inch long and variable in color (mostly shiny metallic or dark, but some with markings of white, yellow or reddish brown). There is one generation of digger bees per summer and once the adults finish perpetuating the species by laying eggs of the next generation there will be no activity till the following spring.

Digger bee nests are commonly located in areas of the landscape where the grass is sparse, either from too much shade, previous drought conditions or other stress. It is tempting to blame the bees for causing the turfgrass to be thin but it is the opposite; the bees are in the yard because the grass was already thin. The entrances to the tunnels (mounds of soil) are disruptive and annoying to the homeowner but are not usually damaging to otherwise healthy turf.

The threat of being stung by digger bees is highly overrated. The bees are docile and not likely to sting unless handled or threatened. There is no nest guarding behavior or attack behavior like there is with social insects such as honey bees and yellowjacket wasps. Control is usually not necessary unless the bees are nesting close to human activity.

Digger bees are important pollinators of several native plants and spring crops. Coexistence rather than eradication is encouraged where possible. If that’s not going to happen then rejuvenate the turfgrass by leveling the area and re-establishing a thick turf or ground cover tolerant to the site (shade-adapted, for example). Small numbers of burrow openings can be treated individually with insecticide dust (Sevin or permethrin). Larger infested areas can be sprayed or treated with insecticide granules to discourage the bees when the problem warrants a response.

Digger bee mounds. Photo from Ornamental Entomology ListServe.

Diadasia bituberculata – Digger Bee

The hills are alive with the sound of BEE-EEZZE. And often they are found crawling on the ground, as is the case of Digger Bees. At this time of year, they might be seen along the margins of avocado orchards, near hiking trails or in undisturbed areas of citrus orchards. They are called Digger Bees commonly, but this is just a generic name for a large group of bees that nest in the ground. There are many genera and species and because of the general lack of study of these bees they are lumped under the name Digger for lack of any greater knowledge and naming of them. In the case of this bee find reported here, they are possibly Diadasia bituberculata – as suggested by Robin Thorpe, retired UCD entomologist. They are uncommon in the rest of the world, but found here in California and western US.

There are several kinds of small hairy or metallic bees that dig into the soil to nest, hence the common name, digger bees. They are a diverse group that comes from different families and the term digger bee can include the andrenid bees, halictid bees, and colletid bees such as the plasterer and yellow-faced bees. These are solitary bees and native pollinators that are active early in the season. Each female digs a cylindrical underground tunnel as a nest where she reproduces (as opposed to social bees such as honey bees where only the queen reproduces and maintains a colony with the help of sterile workers). Although solitary, they form colonies that may have several hundred nests in one spot, but all nests are independently owned.

The subterranean nest is provisioned with a mixture of nectar and pollen collected from nearby flowering plants. This “bee-bread” is food for the bee’s offspring (larvae) that develop in the underground chamber and emerge as adults the following year.

Digger bees are 1/4 to 1/2-inch-long and variable in color (mostly shiny metallic or dark, but some with markings of white, yellow or reddish brown). There is one generation of digger bees per summer and once the adults finish perpetuating the species by laying eggs of the next generation there will be no activity till the following spring.

Digger bee nests are commonly located in areas where grass and mulch are scarse, either from too much shade, previous drought conditions or other stress. Most of them like to fly around their airspace at different times of the day, something to do with mating, air temperature or staking territory. They often travel great distances to forage.

The threat of being stung by digger bees is unlikely. The bees are docile and not likely to sting unless handled or threatened. There is no nest guarding behavior or attack behavior like there is with social insects such as honey bees and yellowjacket wasps.

Image: Digger Bee “Colony”, Thanks to Pest Control Adviser Jane Delahoyde’s friend.

Ground nesting bees in your backyard!

Not all bees live in hives like honey bees do. In fact, 70% of all the 20,000 species of bees nest under ground. In North America, most of these ground bees become active in early spring. Nests of these bees are easy to identify above ground because of the conical piles of dirt with a large hole in the middle that serves as the entrance to the bee burrows (Photo 2).

One of the most abundant ground nesting bees in northeastern and midwestern region of North America is Colletes inaequalis (photo 1). Even though this bee is solitary, meaning that every individual female builds her own nest, it is also a gregarious nester (photo 2). Many females (hundreds and sometime thousands) build their nests next to each other. The nests are obvious above ground because of the conical piles of dirt with a hole in the middle (photo 2). Colletes inaequalis has a strong preference for sandy soils on south facing slopes. Thus, if you have these conditions in your backyard, you may find these bees showing up every year where you live. Unlike social bees and wasps, solitary species are not aggressive insects even though females do have sting. These bees will not attempt to sting humans unless handled. Most activity at nest sites in early spring is of males looking for females to mate with – male bees cannot sting (photo 3).

Besides C. Inaequalis, many other ground nesting native bees can be found in your backyard. For example, species of the bee genera Agapostemon, Andrena, Halictus and Lasioglossum are also very abundant in North America (photo 4 – 6). All of these native bee species provide important ecological services that include pollinating many of the plants in your garden and nearby. Specifically, Colletes inaequalis and similar looking Andrena species are important pollinators of spring crops like apples, blueberries and cherries. Therefore, we do not consider these bees as pests and strongly recommend avoiding the use of chemicals to control them. Pesticides are bad for humans and beneficial insects. Usually, using water over the area of the nest is enough to encourage the bees to look for a different nesting area. However, due to their beneficial role as pollinators and their lack of aggressive behavior, please consider maintaining these important bee pollinators in your backyard!

Photo 5: Andrena sp. female excavating soil
Credit: Jason Gibbs
Photo 6: Halictus ligatus female next to a larva on top of a pollen mass
Credit: Jason Gibbs

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