Ground bees are often seen in lawns and gardens, especially gardens with plenty of flowering plants. Although they’re harmless, many people want to know how to get rid of ground bees out of fear of being stung.
After investigating this problem deeply, I’ve found that methods of deterring (water, vinegar, cinnamon) work best, but even then, these bees are very difficult to get rid of.
Read on to learn all about ground bees, how to get rid of them, and most importantly – do you even need to bother?
- How to Get Rid of Ground Bees
- How To Get Rid of Ground Bees Naturally
- Preventing Ground Bees from Returning
- Why Get Rid of Ground Bees
- Identifying Ground Bees
- FAQ How To Get Rid of Ground Bees
- Final Thoughts on How To Get Rid of Ground Bees on Lawn
How to Get Rid of Ground Bees
If you’re not 100% sure that you fully understand ground bees and the benefits they bring, be sure then read to the end of this article before taking action. As there are in fact many wonderful reasons why we should protect these amazing harmless little creatures.
That being said. let’s assume you have already made your decision, and you just want to get rid of the ground bees in your yard. I am going to give you a few fatal yet functional methods of dealing with ground bees and a number of options to repel or deter ground bees, allowing you to get rid of them without killing them.
1. Use a Chemical Insecticide
Using an insecticide will definitely kill bees, while the same applies to broad-spectrum pesticides. Bees die immediately after coming into contact with liquid insecticide.
Bees that live in colonies (this doesn’t apply to ground bees, though) often transport the insecticide back to the nest and kill the entire colony.
Spraying an insecticide on plants frequented by bees will definitely kill them. However, the insecticide will dissipate after some time and you’ll have to constantly reapply it if you want the bees gone for good.
However, I’d strongly urge you to skip to the natural methods of removal, as they’re not lethal to bees and they can get rid of them all the same.
Insecticide use is unfathomably bad for pollinating insects and the European Commission strongly discourages the use of pesticides if not absolutely necessary.
2. Ground Bee Zappers
Electric bee zappers can be very effective if they’re placed in the right spots. However, since they work by using a light to lure in unsuspecting insects, they’re not as nearly as useful for bees as they are for moths and some other insects.
There are two reasons for this. Firstly, most bees are diurnal. They like to spend the night resting and they’re only active at night if the nest is disturbed. In the case of ground bees, they’ll get into their hole in the soil and only emerge in the morning.
Secondly, while bees are attracted to lights, they’re not as nearly as attracted to lights as other insects. Most bees won’t even get the chance to see the light of an insect zapper as they’re gone as soon as the sun goes down.
Therefore, bee zappers are probably the least effective of these methods.
3. Call In a Specialist
Going from the least to the most effective of all methods – calling in a specialist for any sort of insect infestation is probably the smartest thing you could do.
Insect extermination specialists have access to insecticides that you could never get on the public market as they require licenses. They also have years of experience behind them, as well as well-developed methods and tools for insect extermination.
A specialist will find ways to prevent the bees from returning, which is something that amateurs usually know nothing about. Additionally, specialists don’t necessarily have to use lethal methods as methods of deterring are sometimes more than enough to clear an infestation.
If you do call a specialist, they’ll take care of your ground bee problem at a moment’s notice. However, they’re also the most expensive option as expertise isn’t cheap. If your budget is open, then this would be the best solution.
How To Get Rid of Ground Bees Naturally
These methods are easier and safer to apply than the methods above, and they’re also more affordable (both from a financial and an ecological standpoint).
Both these and the lethal methods explained above are only applicable if bees are actually nesting in your yard. This likely isn’t the case – the bees you see in your yard are most likely nesting far away.
In that case, you might think that applying deterrents to flowers will keep the bees away. While this is true, I would strongly discourage that, as applying deterrents on flowers will prevent insects from pollinating them.
1. Use Cinnamon Powder
Yes, it’s true that cinnamon powder is a powerful (and natural) bee deterrent. You could sprinkle it around the nests, over a wider area (otherwise they’ll just build a new nest near the same spot), and it will most likely deter them.
Bees naturally hate cinnamon, most likely because of the smell.
What you most certainly shouldn’t do is sprinkle cinnamon on the flowers of your plants. While that move will definitely keep bees away from your flowers, it will also prevent all beneficial insects from pollinating them.
Keep in mind that this method might not be 100% effective – bees are known for their stubbornness and there could be an individual (or several individuals) that outright refuse to leave.
2. Use Horticultural Vinegar
Vinegar is another deterrent found in every home, and it can be used for other insects as well. Bees can’t stand it because of its pungent smell (a bee’s sense of smell is about 100 times more sensitive than a human’s), and spraying it around the nests will force the bees to move.
Don’t spray pure vinegar (especially if you’re applying it to flowers) – but a 1:1 solution of water and vinegar. Just like with cinnamon, spray around the nesting areas of the bees.
The issue you’ll face if you opt for this method is the same one you’ll face if you use cinnamon powder. You can’t spray it on your flowers as you’ll prevent beneficial insects from pollination, but bees will keep coming back into your yard to pollinate those flowers even if they don’t live there anymore.
You will also have to keep reapplying it every few weeks, otherwise, the bees will return – the same problem seen with insecticides and cinnamon.
3. Liquid Dish Soap Solution
A dish soap solution is different from the previous options as it isn’t a deterrent – it’s a lethal method that will kill bees upon contact. Mixing dish soap with water in a 1:4 ratio and spraying it on the bees or in their nests is the best solution, according to Texas A&M University.
There are two things to keep in mind. Firstly, this method is recommended for the control of bee swarms (usually made of honeybees, not ground bees) in case you can’t call a professional.
Bee swarms can be very dangerous, especially if there are children around, and using this method to kill ground bees, which are harmless, is overkill.
The very same experts behind this method also warn that bees “…should not be killed indiscriminately…unless a swarm is causing a distinct problem and cannot be tolerated, it should be left alone.”
On a side note; if there is a bee swarm in your yard, know two things. These are not ground bees, but honeybees, and you should not attempt to remove them yourself.
My advice is to call an expert and stay away from the swarm. Bees have killed more than 1000 people between 2000 and 2017 in the United States alone, says the CDC.
The other thing to keep in mind when applying these methods is that doing it at night is much safer than doing it during the day. Bees are docile at night and they aren’t as jumpy as they are during the day.
You still don’t want to disturb them, so it’s best to use a red light if you need to see. Bees can’t see the color red, and covering a flashlight with red cellophane will make the light invisible to them.
Bees have to come into contact with the solution for it to take effect. If you’re spraying the inside of the nest, it’s possible that it will only cover the walls and never reach the bee. A bee will instinctively avoid the solution.
4. Flooding Them Out
Although they’re not usually thought of as aquatic animals, bees don’t drown easily. They can hold their breath for about 5 minutes, which is something a vast majority of people on the planet can’t do.
Despite this – bees can still drown and they can’t fly well in the rain. They’ll avoid areas with too much water, especially if it’s raining.
This is why flooding the bees out of their nests can be a viable strategy. You won’t harm the bee (unless it somehow gets stuck in the nest), and the bee itself will need to find a new home once it realizes this nest isn’t safe.
There are a few downsides to this strategy too. Firstly, if the water doesn’t destroy the bee’s nest, the soil will soak the water up. The bee could simply move back into its home after that. Even if the water destroys the nest, the bee could simply dig out another nest right next to it.
It will likely take more than a single flood for the bee to realize this area is prone to flooding and leave.
Secondly, this can be a very long process – you would have to locate all the bee holes in the ground and fill each one with water…several times.
While definitely worth a shot if you are adamant you want to get rid of the bees, this strategy needs constant work. The bees will return next year if they want to and you’ll have to do it all over again.
As an alternative, using sprinklers in the yard might be exactly what you need. Bees hate the rain – they can fly while it’s raining, but they prefer not to.
If you keep the sprinklers going on and off for a few days, the bees will most likely leave your yard and look for greener pastures.
5. Blocking the Nest Holes
This method can be both a hit and a miss. If you put pebbles over nest holes, bees will definitely be unable to get to their nests.
Two things can happen – either the bees leave or they simply dig out a new nest. This is the simplest and the easiest method, but there’s no guarantee of success.
Preventing Ground Bees from Returning
Once you got rid of the ground bees for this year, you’re probably wondering how to get rid of ground bees for good. Truth be told, there’s no permanent deterrent for ground bees (or any bees, for that matter).
Encouraging natural predators, such as small birds, could help manage the situation, but it’s unlikely to prevent them from coming at all.
Bees are simply too mobile to be controlled, which is why so many people see them returning year after year.
Why Do I Keep Getting Ground Bees?
Because your garden is most likely full of flowering plants or it’s close to a place with a lot of flowering plants. There also may be a lack of natural predators (other insects, frogs, birds, etc.) and the soil and humidity are optimal for bees.
Luckily, ground bee infestations last no more than a few weeks (or about two months in the most extreme cases), so this won’t be a long-term problem.
What’s The Best Way to Permanently Get Rid of Ground Bees?
Although it’s almost impossible, you might be able to get rid of ground bees by eliminating all the flowering plants in your yard. Bees frequent spots with food – if there’s no food, they won’t stick around.
The alternative to this is spraying your plants with insecticides, but you would have to respray very often and that would be expensive and timely.
Why Get Rid of Ground Bees
A lot of people wonder not how to get rid of ground bees, but whether should they get rid of them. After all, bees are known for pollinating plants and are crucial for the environment.
Truth be told, there’s no reason to get rid of ground bees. They are in no way detrimental to your plants and they’re not dangerous to your or your pets.
These animals are immensely important to the global ecosystem, as well as to your home garden, and I, personally, wouldn’t recommend removing them from the environment.
A problem you could face with bees, be it ground bees or honeybees, is that they can converge on your flowers in great numbers even if their nest or burrow isn’t in your yard.
In this case, the only option is to deter them from the flowers, but this will only damage the flowers. Because of this, most experts suggest that understanding that bees aren’t a threat (unless you’re allergic) and accepting them is a better and healthier approach than learning how to get rid of ground bees.
In fact, according to Tamra Reall of the University of Missouri, ground bees aren’t only bees that you shouldn’t try to control – they’re often bees that you can’t control. Their nests can be impossible to find and they’re most likely not in your yard, but miles away.
These bees are known for crossing large distances to get to the flowers they want to pollenate and, simply put, it’s easier (and better for your plants) to leave them be rather than kill them.
If you, however, still want to remove bees from your yard, you’ll find method explanations and walkthroughs, as well as descriptions of bees, below.
Are Ground Bees Aggressive?
No, ground bees are not aggressive insects. They’re mostly uninterested in people. These bees are usually solitary and they won’t sting unless they’re threatened.
Actually, only the female ground bee can actually sting – male ground bees are harmless as they don’t have a stinger.
If you’re thinking about removing ground bees from your yard out of fear of injury – know that there’s nothing to fear. Since ground bees are solitary animals, you don’t have to fear that an entire swarm of bees will develop in your yard.
Identifying Ground Bees
The term ‘ground bee’ is short for ground nesting bee. These bees are characterized by living underground. In fact, about 70% of all bees don’t live in large colonies and they don’t build nests – they live under the ground instead.
In fact, the first thing everyone thinks of when they hear the word ‘bee’ is a buzzing colony in a hive. In fact, only 10% of bees are social. More than 90% of bee species are solitary insects.
Ground bees are, in fact, bigger pollinators than honeybees as they pollinate 80% of all flowering plants in the world, while honeybees pollinate a third of the world’s food supply.
Pollination by ground bees isn’t only important for wildflowers, but for the everyday home garden as well. The numbers of European honeybees have been dropping recently, making the presence of ground bees very important.
What Do Ground Bees Look Like
It’s impossible to describe all ground bees as more than 70% of all bees are ground bees and there are more than 16,000 bee species (you do the math). However, here are the most common ground bee species you could find in your garden.
Bumblebees – these large bees vary in appearance from place to place, but they’re usually very furry, round, and stocky. They’re usually yellow and black, but there are unicolor monochromatic species too. Bumblebees have long tongues to collect nectar.
Unlike honeybees, they can sting repeatedly. However, they’re not aggressive towards humans and their stings aren’t medically significant (aside from the pain).
Cellophane Bees – also known as ‘polyester bees’, bees of the Colletidae family are solitary insects with a great population in Australia. More than half of all bees in Australia are cellophane bees. They can still be found in Europe, Asia, and the Americas.
They often appear furry, similar to bumblebees, but they’re noticeably smaller in size – usually no longer than 12mm.
The tail has black and yellow stripes, while orange hairs are also apparent. Their name derives from the sticky substance found on the inside of the nests, similar to cellophane or polyester.
Sweat Bees – bees of the Halictidae family are often referred to as sweat bees because they’re naturally attracted to sweat. They’re not aggressive though, as they want to drink the sweat off our bodies, and the males can’t even sting.
They’re found around the entire world (barring Antarctica) and they’re hard to describe. Some species have the classic black-yellow pattern, while other species are patternless. There are, believe it or not, partly green and blue species (Agapostemon genus bees, often found in the Americas). Females are usually larger than males.
Mining Bees – found all over Europe, Asia, North America, as well as parts of sub-Saharan Africa, these bees are known for their digging abilities. They don’t grow larger than 17mm and they’re largely black, although they can grow white hairs.
They prefer sandy soil, while plenty of them are specialized for certain host plants, so they won’t appear in your yard unless you have that exact plant species.
Ground Bee Lifecycle
Since there are so many different species, it’s impossible to describe a definitive lifecycle for all of them, but the general life history is as follows.
Ground bees don’t live in colonies. Although they fly close to one another during pollination and males will create a cluster when mating, both males and females stay alone for the entirety of their lives.
They bury themselves beneath the ground – the exact type of soil used for nesting is different from one ground bee to another. Some of them like mud, others like sand, while there are species that prefer hard soil. Although they don’t share nests, they can build nests very close to one another.
Some of them are only active in the evening or after nightfall, but most bee species are diurnal (they sleep at night and work during the day).
Male ground bees usually emerge earlier than female ground bees. They both overwinter, either as fully-grown bees or as pupae. Their larvae are white and round, sometimes transparent.
After emerging, a bee will feed on nectar and pollen that it collects from a wide range of flowering plants. There are, however, specialist bees that only feed from a specific plant species (or several plant species).
A honeybee’s entire life revolves around pollination and the hive. Ground bees, however, aren’t social and their lives revolve only around pollination.
If you’re looking at how to get rid of ground bees in your yard, know that they’re most likely attracted to your flowering plants (which is actually a compliment).
FAQ How To Get Rid of Ground Bees
Final Thoughts on How To Get Rid of Ground Bees on Lawn
Ground bees are highly beneficial insects that don’t pose a threat to anyone. They’re very useful in the garden and they don’t bite unless they’re stepped on or squeezed.
In fact, it is recommended to encourage their presence in the garden, rather than deter it.
They can be extremely difficult to eradicate – most deterring methods (vinegar, cinnamon) require constant application as the active agent will dissipate with time. Lethal methods will prove useless as other bees will come next year.
The only two ways to completely remove ground bees from the lawn area are to remove all flowering plants or to keep applying insecticides during the flowering season.