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Revision Date: 5/17/2004 Dewey Caron, Extension Entomologist Derby Walker, Extension Agent ENT-07

Mining Bees

Mining (or digger) bees nest in burrows in the ground. Unlike the honey bee, mining bees are "solitary" i.e. they don't have long-lived colonies. Each mining bee female digs her own individual burrow to rear young. Although large numbers of mining bees may nest close together when conditions are suitable they aren't social. Mining bees are not aggressive and seldom, if ever, sting. The presence of many bees flying close to the ground may be considered a nuisance by some. Nesting females attract large numbers of males that fly around the same spot for several days in a mating display. The large species of mining bees are furry and about the size of honey bees, but usually darker in color. Other mining bees are noticeably smaller than honey bees. Some are brightly striped; others are a metallic green. Mining bee burrows may be located wherever there is exposed soil and good drainage. They are typically found in banks, along road cuts or in an area of excavation. They nest in level ground or areas of lawn and turf. Nest entry holes are about 1/4 inch or smaller in diameter. They sometimes are surrounded by a small mound of dirt that the bee has brought to the surface. Burrow structure varies according to species, but generally is a vertical main tunnel with side tunnels branching off from it, each terminating in a single cell. Female mining bees stock each cell with pollen and nectar collected from flowers. When each cell is provisioned, she deposits an egg on the food mass. The larva which hatches from the egg consumes the pollen and nectar, changes into a pupa and finally becomes an adult bee. The adult passes the winter below ground in the burrow site. The next spring adults emerge, mate, and females dig their burrows. Numbers can increase dramatically from one season to the next.

Ground-Nesting Wasps

Many wasp species also are solitary and nest in the ground. Their life patterns are similar to that of the mining bee. After preparing a burrow, the female wasp stocks it with provisions, which consist of insect prey rather than pollen and nectar. She deposits one or more eggs on the food, seals it and departs. Some species don't seal the nest permanently but return

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repeatedly with additional prey as the larvae grow. Provisioning wasps range in size from extremely small forms to the large, fearsome-looking "cicada killer." Despite their appearance, cicada killers are inoffensive and won't bother people, even when provoked. Their sting is for paralyzing prey and normally does not cause a reaction in humans. Another ground-nesting wasp, the yellow jacket, is a social wasp with 1,000 or more workers inhabiting a ground nest with a single entrance. Their sting is painful. Yellow jackets may be very aggressive and quick to use their sting.


Mining bees are extremely beneficial insects, important in the pollination of many types of plants. Their burrowing will not harm vegetation and they may even help to loosen and aerate soil. Species are active an extremely brief time, one to two weeks. In many instances, the bees observed are males flying around their territories; males can't sting nor do they make burrows. If control is desired, wasp, hornet, and bee aerosols are available from ordinary outlets can be used but they may not be very efficient on mining bees. Individual bees can be sprayed as they go about their activities, and you can spray individual burrows. Repeat applications are often required. A better means of control is a dust or liquid insecticide formulation sold for lawn insect control. Apply the product at the recommended rate in the lawn area where the mining bees are nesting. Disturb the soil with a hoe or back of a rake to disrupt as many tunnel openings as possible. Apply the spray or dust again. As mining bee females attempt to repair the damage and construct or repair tunnels, they come in contact with the insecticide and are killed. Repeat applications are usually necessary. It is virtually impossible to eliminate mining bees in a single season. Pesticides mentioned in this publication are generally listed as the active ingredient or common chemical name. The active ingredient is the chemical in the formulation that is active against the pest. Read the pesticide label to determine if the correct active ingredient is present. Regardless of the product you choose, be sure the plant and/or the pest you want to control is on the label. Disclaimer: Mention or exclusion of any product is not intended to discriminate for or against any products. No endorsement is intended for the products mentioned, nor is criticism meant for products not mentioned. Please read labels before purchasing and then read them before using to ensure that target sites are listed.



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