How to Get Rid of Ground Bees: Safe & Easy Ground Bees Nest Removal
What Are Ground Bees?
Ground bees are also known as miner bees or digger bees because they normally burrow deep into the ground creating volcano-like nests. Ground bees differ from the popular honey bee because they do not need a colony to survive, and instead, are solitary. On the other hand, bumblebees are a species of ground bees and prefer to live in colonies.
Female ground bees often lay eggs in the tunnels created underground. These ground bee eggs will eventually hatch underground and will come out during the summer, often drawn to your home garden and vibrant flowers.
What Do Ground Bees Look Like?
Ground bees can be seen in various sizes and colors. The largest variation of ground bees are usually very furry and often darker than an average honey bee. You may even be surprised to find a ground bee with bright stripes and metallic-green in color.
If you're dealing with ground bees that are less than an inch long, this may be a cause for concern as these are most likely yellow-jackets - highly aggressive ground bees or wasps. Even though these types of ground bees eat common pests and insects in your garden, they pack a killer sting and are responsible for the majority of bee sting-related deaths in the United States. They also are known to sting more than once - yikes!
Do Ground Bees Sting?
Female ground bees have stingers but won't likely sting you unless they feel threatened as these miner bees are generally not aggressive. Male ground bees are more likely to chase you but they do not have stingers and can frequently be seen guarding or hovering around the miner bees nest.
Should You Kill Ground Bees?
If you have pets or children that often play in your yard, you should consider getting rid of burrowing ground bees to minimize the possibility of getting stung or having an allergic reaction. While it's not necessary to kill miner bees due to the potential threat to the bee's ecosystem over time, safely removing them from your yard could be a better option.
How to Get Rid of Ground Bees
Follow our step-by-step guide for how to get rid of ground bees below!
1. Locate the ground bees nest site
Start by identifying where the ground bees nest is located in your yard. You'll want to ensure that you're actually dealing with miner bees and not some other critter. So, be sure to use the helpful techniques and tips we've mentioned above to correctly identify ground bees and nesting holes.
2. Choose an extermination method
Select a method for getting rid of the miner bees, attracting them to a new location using a honey bee attractant, or exterminating them with insecticides. Or, call a local pest control business to remove the ground bees from your property.
3. Apply the treatment to the nest
If using an insecticide or any other chemical treatment to get rid of an underground bee nest, be sure to familiarize yourself with the product before using it. You may not see results immediately, so be sure to remain patient and give the ground bees an opportunity to fully clear out.
How to Get Rid of Ground Bees Without Using Chemicals
If you're looking for a way to remove ground bees from your yard without using chemical products or without harming the good bugs, here are some safe solutions you can try!
- Cover the miner bees nest using solid, bricks or another object to block the bees from entering the nesting hole.
- Use a sprinkler and water your yard frequently.
- Ground bees hate cinnamon. Sprinkle cinnamon over the ground bees nest and around your garden.
- Mix together equal parts water and vinegar and spray the solution on and around the nesting hole.
FAQs: Ground Bees vs. Wasps vs. Yellow-jackets
While ground bees, yellow jackets and cicada killer wasps all nest in the ground, the yellow jacket is the most concerning. Yellow jackets are responsible for many of the "bee sting" deaths in the United States. These aggressive insects are protective of their nests and able to sting repeatedly. Ground bees are beneficial pollinators that rarely sting unless threatened. Cicada killer wasps are the largest of the three ground-nesting insects and the least likely to sting. The males may dive bomb people, but have no sting. Cicada killer wasps are useful for controlling cicada populations.
How to Identify Bee Species
Cicada killer wasps are known for their large size, often 1½ inches long. Their black bodies have yellow striping across the abdomen. Yellow jackets are about half the size of cicada killer wasps. Their hairless bodies are usually 5/8-3/4 inch long, and their black abdomen has yellow stripes. Ground bees usually have a fuzzy appearance, and depending on the type, may be up to 1/2-inch long.
How to Keep Wasps Out of Yard
While it can be tricky to keep wasps from nesting in your yard or around the home, repellents may keep wasps away, especially if used early in the season. Wasps and bees generally don't like peppermint oil. A combination of clove, geranium and lemongrass essential oils may also be effective. Avoid luring yellow jackets to your picnic area and outdoor spaces by keeping them free of pet food and human food.
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.
[Note: I sent an advance copy of this answer to our three 'questioners' and JUST got this response back from one:"Read the article you sent about using a shop vac, and decided to give it a try. I stuck it on the opening, turned it on and ran away. Let it run for about an hour, then hit some wood near the nest with a hammer to make sure no more bees were in there, and none came out. Two days later, I opened up the shop vac and it was full of former bees. Very cool—and no poisons near the garden. Thanks very much for the advice; Gary Herrmann."
Thank You for the report, Gar!]
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