The first sign of ground or digger bees in lawns may be strange little mounds of soil with a hole nearby. These appear in early spring. The ground bees will be flying over this area. |
If you encounter a swarm of low flying black wasps or bees in your garden then you have an infestation of digger wasps or ground digging bees. They are not very aggressive and most cases you can walk through them without getting stung.
If you find mounds of soil, similar to anthills but with larger openings, these may be ground bee nests. Watch for bees flying low over the ground and entering their burrows. Ground bees come in all shapes and sizes. Some are dangerous and some not so bad. Learn more here:
The best way to handle most of these ground bees is to dust their holes with a good insecticide dust.
Female ground bees can sting, but rarely do. Ground bees are not aggressive. However, they will sting in defense if threatened. Males of some species may behave aggressively around nesting areas, but they lack a sting. Sweat bees do have a somewhat startling habit of landing on people to lap up the perspiration from their skin; this behavior is, in fact, why they are called sweat bees. Should you swat at a sweat bee when it lands on you, it may sting you in self-defense.
Before you decide to evict your ground bees, consider this. These bees serve an important purpose as pollinators. They're not aggressive, and in most cases, you can still mow your lawn and continue your regular outdoor activities without fear of being stung. And nesting activity is limited to spring, so ground bees won't stay for long. Unless you have concerns for a family member with a bee venom allergy, it's usually preferable to leave ground bees alone.
Ground bees will probably only be around for four to six weeks and then disappear until next year. Ground bees are generally more much more helpful than harmful – so avoid treating them wherever possible!
If you must control them, use cultural controls.
• Ground bees like dry soils. Water the soil when bees first become active. Apply one-half inch of water twice 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 make the changes necessary to meet them! • In areas that will not grow grass, mulch the area.
Ground bees nest in dry soil, and avoid damp areas when choosing nest sites. The easiest and least toxic method of controlling ground bees is simply to water the area. As soon as you see ground bee activity, start soaking the area with a full inch of water per week. This is usually enough to discourage the burrowing females, and to make them relocate to drier ground. A thick layer of mulch on bare garden beds will also make ground bees think twice about nesting there.
Pesticides are not recommended for the control of ground bees.
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