Get Rid of Ground Bees Naturally
Ah, summer. The time for cookouts, outside fun and, sometimes, unwanted visitors to your yard. One of these unwelcome visitors are ground bees (much like wasps, which we wrote about how to get rid of naturally a while ago).
I was out in the front yard a few weeks ago picking up some branches that came down after a rainstorm and our daughter came up and told me she had seen bees coming out of the ground. I was skeptical at first, as I had mowed the grass recently and done some other yard work and had not seen any bees. But, she took my hand and led me over to where she saw them. Lo and behold, there they were, small black and yellow bees flying out of the ground.
I wanted to get a better sense for the bees and their behavior, so I watched them a while. They were very small, only about an inch long. They were also not very aggressive towards me as I watched them, which made me think that they were not yellow jackets. However, I did not know for sure, and I had heard before that yellow jackets could nest in the ground and be docile at first and get very aggressive later in the summer. So, I started researching ground bees to determine what type they were and how I could get rid of them naturally if it made sense to.
The first thing I learned was that there are several different types of ground bees.
Mining bees, also know as digger bees, are a type of bee that nests in the ground. They range in size from the size of an average honeybee to smaller. They also range in color from a furry yellow and black striped bee, to a bee with a shiny green metallic look. They are fairly docile and are considered solitary bees, as they only live in colonies for a short time to mate. Mining bees are also beneficial in the pollination of many different types of plants.
Ground Nesting Wasps
Ground nesting wasps include wasps like yellow jackets and Cicada Killers. Yellow jackets are social wasps, so they live in large colonies and can be very aggressive in defending their nests. However, Cicada Killers are solitary wasps and are fairly docile.
Now that I knew about the different type of ground bees, I knew that we had Mining bees in our yard. Given that they are fairly docile bees and are solitary and only nest for a short time, I considered just leaving them alone. However, their nest was right next to our driveway. Anyone getting out of the passenger side of the car parked on the right side of the driveway got out right by the nest. I was worried that, as time progressed, the bees may become more aggressive towards people getting close to their nest and start stinging them. So, I decided to persuade them to move their nest.
How to Get Rid of Ground Bees
I set about researching how to get the bees to move. There were plenty of ways to get rid of the bees that would both kill them and do environmental damage to our yard, such as pouring gas, turpentine, pesticides or bleach down the hole or even light fireworks and putting them down the hole.
While I have to admit that putting fireworks down the hole and watching the reaction to that sounds like a bit of fun, I did not want do kill the bees if I did not have to and I did not want to do any environmental damage to our yard if I could avoid it. So, I kept looking for safer and more environmentally-friendly ways to deal with the bees. Luckily it did not take long before I found some great ideas.
* Warning: All of the below ideas should be done at night when the majority of the bees are back in the nest and are at their most docile state! Also, be sure to find ALL entrances to the nest before doing anything. The last thing you want is to try an idea on one hole only to have the bees fly out of another hole and sting you.
- Put a tarp over the hole. This is a brilliant idea and I ended up using a variation of it in my plan. The tarp blocks the entrance and exit hole so the bees inside of the nest cannot get out and those outside of the nest cannot get back in. However, you have to make sure the tarp is flattened the ground and secured or the bees may find a way to dig under it. The downside of this idea is that you have to leave the tarp in place for a few days, which can kill the grass underneath of the tarp.
- Pour water down the hole. This is another great idea. Ground bees do not like their nests to be wet and don’t like water. So, after dark, sneak up to the hole and put the end of a garden hose in it and then turn the hose on and let it run for a few minutes while taking cover to avoid any bees that escape and come after you. Repeat for a few nights to make sure you have gotten to all of the bees. If the bees do not drown in the water, they will get tired of the nest being all wet anyway and will leave.
- Pour vinegar down the hole. Much like water, bees don’t like vinegar and it will not do any damage to your grass. Simply sneak up to the hole after dark and pour a good bit of vinegar down the hole. Repeat for a few nights to make sure you have gotten to all of the bees and convinced them to leave.
- Put a glass bowl over the hole. This is probably the best idea of them all. The glass bowl prevents the bees from being able to fly into or out of the nest. Because the sun comes through the glass, the bees don’t realize that they are trapped and don’t try to dig under the bowl. They just keep trying to fly through it. After several days of no food and water, the bees inside the nest die and the ones outside of the nest relocate. Best of all, the glass bowl allows sunlight to get through it, so it does not kill your grass like a tarp does.
- Put diatomaceous earth all around and in the hole. Diatomaceous earth is a naturally occurring powder made from crushed shells. Once it gets on the exoskeleton of an insect, it dries it out, killing it. By putting it around and in the hole to the nest, bees flying into and out of the nest will get it on their bodies and will slowly dry out and die. They will also spread it to other bees in the nest, which will cause them to die. After enough bees die, the rest will probably decide to relocate.
I chose a mixture of ideas 1 and 2. I went out after dark and put some window screen mesh over the hole and weighed it down with bricks. I then poured water down the hole and ran for cover. The next day, I saw 2 or 3 bees around the hole. I watched them and confirmed that they were trying to get into the nest, but were not successful in doing so. That night, I went back out and poured more water down the hole. The next day, I saw no more bees. I left the window screen in place for another day, just to be safe. On the third day, I took the window screen off and removed the bricks and saw no more bees. Unfortunately though, I did have a small patch of dead grass where the window screen mesh had been.
Have you ever had ground bees in your yard? What did you do to get rid of them safely?
Photo credit: Flickr.
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