Bee Nice! The Truth About Ground Bees
My Sorted “Ground Bee” Past:
Growing up, my best friend Anna and I were always in the mud and the woods. Most days we could be found mucking around in the weeds behind my parent’s house. We picked wild grapes, made forts and had grand adventures. One afternoon we were getting a good haul of grapes when suddenly my legs felt like they had been lit on fire. I looked down to see bees stinging me all over and crawling in my shoes. I was standing on a “ground bee” nest.
Anna was deathly allergic to bees and she standing just feet away from me. Kicking off my shoes we ran for our lives, seeking refuge at my neighbor Pat’s house. I was nursing 7 stings. Anna, had zero (thank goodness).
Since that day my relationship with “ground bees” has been rocky. My father killed that nest pouring chemicals in it at night while the bees slept.
My second encounter with these flying demons was a few years ago. I was hiking the finger lakes trail with my friend Amy when once again fire returned to my legs. I was so engrossed in taking pictures of my dogs that I did not notice I was on a nest, again.
We were an hour into the hike and with 5 stings I decided to keep hiking hoping to distract myself from the burning. If I was lucky, the pain would fade before my hour drive home.
The Steve and The Bees:
My husband Steve is not a nature person. He puts up with a lot for me. Climbing mountains, eating on the patio, hiking, etc. The one thing he will not put up with is bees. He hates them. We even built a patio instead of a deck hoping it would decrease the likelihood of wasps. I also try not to plant too many flowers to decrease our yards bee population. If there are bees outside, Steve stays inside.
Even though he has never been stung and I have been swarmed twice, I have a much higher tolerance for them. Bees, in general, are good. They are pollinators, endangered, and if you don’t hurt them they won’t hurt you.
Wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets I can do without, and certainly “ground bees” are the worst! But honey bees or bumble bees are more than welcome in my yard and garden.
When I got the panicked text from Steve saying that there are bees going in and out of a hole in our garage floor, I was more than on board with his EXTERMINATION plan. From past experiences, I know they are vicious little bugs and what if they attacked my dogs? Pouring wasp spray in their whole at night seemed completely reasonable…at first.
The more I observed our new bees, however, the less sure I became. These bees did not seem aggressive. My dogs ran over the hole to go outside multiple times a day, I mowed the lawn near it and zero stings. So I decided to do some research. For some reason, I could not stomach pouring pesticides down the hole while the bees slept. It felt like murder.
After doing some Googling, we decided we either had yellow jackets or miner bees. Yellow jackets are jerks! They are likely what swarmed and stung me in the past. Apparently, they are very defensive and will attack first ask questions later.
Miner bees are more solitary. The Queens live alone in the holes and males come and go looking for mates. Queens can sting but are not aggressive unless handled. Males have no stingers and are harmless. Miner bees are pollinators and generally appear in May and June. Yellow jackets are more common in July and Aug.
If they were miner bees we should be able to drive them off with just water. If they were yellow jackets we should call a professional. Yellow jackets will craw over the dead bodies of their friends to attack you if you try to spray the hole! Their nests are large and water will just make them angry.
Overall, I still wasn’t sure which we had. Timing wise they should be miner bees but there seemed to be a lot of them going in and out of the nest, so maybe they were yellow jackets?
Steve had to go out of town for the weekend so I called a professional. A tall, woodsy looking gentleman showed up later that day to look at the hole. He watched a few bees flying in and out for a few minutes and informed me that they were miner bees. He could even see the pollen on them. He offered to drown them for us and I said NO!!!
Later that night I informed Steve via text that our bee friends were staying. In fact, I was already attached and thinking of names for them. Poor Steve, good thing he really seems to like me.