What’s the difference between ground bees and ground nesting yellow jackets?

August 17, 2022

Ground bees are bees that nest in the ground. Simple, right? Well, ground bees are not as aggressive as ground nesting yellow jackets.  This article will discuss both and offer options to keep your family safe as summer flows gently into fall.

What are ground bees?

According to newgarden.com, Ground nesting or miner bees are solitary bees that create underground galleries, with queens living individually and raising their own young.  The entrances to the nests are small piles or patches of bare soil.  They do not form hives, but several females may nest in the same area.  Ground bee queens do not defend their nesting areas and are very docile and unlikely to sting, posing little or no threat to people.  The males often patrol an area inhabited by females seeking mates.  While the males can be very active and seem aggressive, they lack a sting and are also harmless.  Like other bees, they are active foragers of nectar and pollen from flowers, making them beneficial pollinators.

Their nest entrances are small mounds of soil a few inches across.  While they may briefly detract from the aesthetics of a well-tended lawn, they do absolutely no harm to the grass or soil—even improving it as their nests function as aeration holes, improving the penetration of water and nutrients.  Eventually, as the nests are abandoned after the spring nesting season, the soil washes back into place with rain, disappearing completely.  

Are ground bees dangerous?

A female Yellow-legged Ground bee/Mining Bee searching her nest on the ground.

Not really. Female ground bees have stingers but will not necessarily sting unless they feel threatened.  They are not aggressive. The male bees are usually up for a good chase but do not have stingers, so they act more as guards.

What’s the difference between ground bees and yellow jackets?

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Unlike bees with a hive, yellowjackets often build paper-like nests in underground holes or inside walls. Thousands of yellowjackets can make up a colony.

Ground-nesting yellowjackets construct paper nests that may contain thousands of larvae and adult workers. These nests are typically underground in abandoned rodent burrows or enclosed spaces such as tree cavities, wall cavities, wood piles, and dense ivy. During the fall, young queens mate and find protected areas (such as fallen logs, tree cavities, cracks in buildings, etc.) where they remain for winter.

Yellowjackets are much more aggressive than other stinging insects such as wasps, hornets, or bees. Yellowjackets can both sting and bite and do not lose their stinger. This gives them the advantage of stinging numerous times. Yellowjackets will sting even when unprovoked. They are carnivorous and are not severe pollinators. They have been known to poach honeybees’ hives for that sugary goodness when their food supply dwindles.

What can I do to keep my backyard and family safe?

We live in nature, and understanding and respecting nature can help reduce the chance of injury. Be vigilant and read these simple tips. Ground nesting yellowjackets might get aggressive near outdoor eating areas and will defend the nest if you approach.

  • Do not attempt to disturb or remove the nests.
  • If you know you have ground nests, do not walk barefoot near the area.
  • Leash your dogs to ensure they are not poking around near the nest.
  • In the evening, carefully mark off the area so all family members know the nest location.
  • If you are picnicking in the yard, cover all sweet drinks (bees will go into a soda can) and remove garbage and unwanted food as soon as possible.

Please note: if you are stung by a ground bee or yellowjacket and unsure of your reaction, please see immediate medical attention. Do not delay.

How do I get rid of ground bees and yellowjacket ground nests?

Ground bees and underground yellow jacket nests can be tricky. Hiring a professional outfitted and trained is the best course of action.

Our technicians are trained and outfitted to safely remove all types of bees, wasps, and hornet nests. Contact us for a free estimate.

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Resources: Marin/Sonoma Mosquito & Vector Control District, abcwildlife.com,

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