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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 homeowners 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.