Recently, a friend and customer of Canton Termite and Pest Control texted me a photo asking for help with insect identification. Now, don’t assume I am some kind of bug aficionado. Not at all. I simply know who knows, and that would be the extremely knowledgeable staff at Canton Termite. Our techs are absolutely amazing and my go-to for all things “bug”.
So I forward the photos to the group text and await the results. It’s a puzzling photo of hundreds of little dirt mounds in my friend’s yard. What spring newcomer could be making those strange holes?
Very quickly, the answer comes digger bees. What you might ask is a digger bee? Let’s explore together and find out!
How do I know I have digger bees?
The biggest indicator is probably the presence of the little holes and seeing the bees hovering close to the ground. As for the bees themselves, they are about ¼ to ½ of an inch long and typically dark or shiny metallic in color. Frequently they have yellow, white, or rust-colored markings. The girls are quite fuzzy, allowing them to carry pollen.
Are digger bees dangerous?
Digger bees are not aggressive and tend to be quite docile. They are solitary, so no group attack is likely when it comes to the digger bee. It is possible for them to sting but typically do not unless threatened or disturbed. I mean let’s face it, these mighty females are building a house, collecting food, and caring for babies; she really doesn’t have time to mess with you! However, it is very important to be sure you know what variety of bees you are dealing with, as the bumblebee, wasp, or yellowjacket is quite a different story. Anyone who is allergic should stay away from the area and take precautions. As far as danger to your lawn, maybe for those few weeks, it looks less than perfect. But consider…you’re allowing nature to aerate your lawn. For free! Why fuss?
Why are they called digger bees?
Digger bees are often called ground or mining bees. In the early spring, the female diggers dig a vertical tunnel only a few inches deep. Off the main tunnel, she carefully prepares special chambers and secretes a waterproof substance to protect the “nursery”. Then the industrious little bee finds plenty of pollen and nectar from flowering spring blooms. She goes back and forth to her little home, collecting pollen and nectar for her future babies. This process takes hundreds of trips and provides much pollination for the area. After collecting enough food, she forms it into little balls to await the hungry larvae.
Then the female lays her eggs on the food balls so that the larvae are able to spend the winter eating and maturing in the safety of the little tunnel home. When spring arrives again, the bees are ready to emerge. When you see the bees hovering low to the ground in the spring, you are likely to see the males waiting for the females to leave the nesting area. The bees stay around the area 2 to 4 weeks to mate and then the process begins over again with females looking for a new place to dig their hole for the following season.
Where do digger bees like to dig?
You often find them where the soil is somewhat exposed or the grass is thin. They basically look for areas with excellent drainage and shade or partial sun. Some people try to blame the bees for the bare spots they enjoy so much, but the truth is that the bees found it that way. They are looking for easy digging. There’s no time to waste when survival is at stake!
Why are there so many holes?
Native to the United States, there are estimated to be about 450 bees in the Adrenid genus. The bees are docile and only active in the spring. Even though the bees may create their tunnels close to one another, they are not forming a colony and actually live as solitary bees. And their solitary status is the reason for the many holes you are seeing in the yard. Here’s why: Each bee actually has its very own entry to the tunnel and a private chamber, thus hundreds of holes.
Tell me about these holes.
The holes you see are about ¼ of an inch in diameter and are typically surrounded by a small pile of freshly excavated dirt. Many people mistake them for ant hills or the work of earthworms.
The underground nests are about 6 inches deep and house the female digger bees. Remember that the females have prepared chambers filled with pollen and nectar to feed the larvae.
The newly matured males are busy tunneling to the surface to wait for the females to make their spring appearance, and the cycle repeats.
Are digger bees good?
Yes, digger bees are excellent pollinators and great friends to have in your yard and garden. They pollinate hundreds of flowers and plants as the females collect pollen for their future babies. The digger bees are especially helpful in the pollination of tomatoes and eggplants, so the next time you bite into a delicious tomato, thank the digger bee.
How can I discourage digger bees from an area?
While they are extremely helpful and should be protected, if you really need to discourage bees from a certain area, here are some tips. Water the area well in early spring and use a thick mulch to create a less desirable environment for the bees. Also, try to patch the bare areas of your lawn. They might move on. Still, they are only going to be around a few weeks, so it’s usually best to simply leave them alone and appreciate their pollination efforts.
If you need help identifying bees in your yard or if any other bugs are bugging you, give us a call at 770-479-1598. Canton Termite is happy to help!