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"Bees" Nesting in the Ground? 'Wasp Out'—they might be Yellowjackets!
Question. Mike: We have vegetables growing in anabove ground garden made of logs. About six inches from one of theplants is the entrance to an underground bee's nest. Is there somethingI could just pour in there, like vinegar, that would get the beeswithout poisoning the soil? Thanks,
           ---Gary Herrmann; Bala Cynwyd, PA

I have a yellowjacket nest under adecorative boulder in my front garden.  One nailed me above thekneecap 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 toget rid of these pests.  They are too darn dangerous. Anysuggestions 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 holesin the ground in our front flowerbeds.  They make these piles ofdirt that look like sawdust when they dig out their holes.  Theyhaven'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 everysummer 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 yearfrom anxious homeowners about "ground nesting bees". There are twoinsects with stingers you might notice emerging from holes in your lawnor flowerbed right now, but neither are bees. (The only bees that nestin the ground are gentle pollinators that are only active in theSpring.)

If, like Cindy, the black and yellowinsects you see are around two inches long, relax; those are the famouscicada-killing wasps and they have no interest in stinging you. Themales don't have stingers, and the rarely-seen females often won't evensting when provoked!  And besides, their season of dragging giantcicadas into those holes for their young to feed upon is almost done.To prevent their harmless presence NEXT year, keep your ground coveredwith plants or mulch; they only make their solitary nests in bare soil.

If those insects are under an inchlong, however, do NOT relax. Those are yellowjackets, a type of highlyaggressive wasp, not a bee. Although technically beneficial becausethey eat pest insects, yellowjackets are responsible for almost all ofthe so-called 'bee sting deaths' in the United States. They like tosting people, each insect can sting repeatedly, they generally attackin large numbers, and they can bite ya too. They are especiallydangerous this time of year. Their nests have gotten HUGE, and theworkers are on a constant prowl for food.  

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