All About Ground Bees
Contrary to most people’s jerk reaction to bees in general, most ground bees and earth-nesting wasps are generally peaceful and not aggressive. The most common type of ground bee is a small, dingy colored insect who houses one female per colony. The female will burrow vertically into the earth, creating a small, 2 inch mound of loose soil in her wake with several entry and exit holes in it. The female will then create several horizontal tunnels within this chamber, and lay a single egg at the end of each one.
During a female ground bee’s nesting period, you will see swarms of males dancing over her chambers, in a ceremonial mating form. These bees are utterly mellow, and it is not unheard of for people to repeatedly walk right through the center of these formations without being paid any mind. If these ground bees worry you, however, or you don’t appreciate their chosen nesting grounds, you can encourage them to move by simply soaking the ground with a garden hose.
Bumble bees are another type of bee which will nest in the ground, as the queen will look to abandoned field mouse holes, existing holes, and stumps for an easy starter nest. These bees are prone to returning to their former nesting grounds after the mating and hibernation seasons. On a sad note, the smallest worker drones, or undeveloped females, are not permitted to enter the over winter hibernation sites with the rest of their colony and fall to frostbite and freezing temperatures, homeless and alone.
Sweat, or miner bees, are another common type of ground bees. They burrow about ½ inch into loose soil in shady, barren areas. They are one of the more aggressive types of ground bee, as they are highly attracted to the strong, salty odor of human sweat, and nearly always sting when contact is made. Digger bees, closely resembling carpenter bees, are a fairly peaceful species who prefer sunny clay or sand areas for their nesting grounds. They can sting, but are most likely the bee that goes about his important business of helping you quietly in your garden.
The thread-waisted wasp are of two types, the blue digger and the larger golden digger. Measuring between ¾ and 1 inch, it is not unnatural to feel intimidated by these beautiful, sleek insects. Contrary to our first instinctive impression, however, these wasps are especially amiable and rarely sting humans. These ground nesting wonders have a curious nature, and are often seen hovering over humans and their pets, but save their poison for paralyzing their most prized prey, crickets and grasshoppers. Most of these species can be encouraged to move their nests via a simple flood out with a garden hose, but if you can manage to tolerate them sharing your space, your environment will thank you greatly.