Tag Archives: pollinators

Ground Bees Come in Peace


A female ground bee in her burrow

One of the first springtime insects that observed in school yards are ground bees. These insects create ant-hill like mounds in areas of bare soil with a ¼” opening in the center (about the thickness of a pencil). On warm, sunny days there may be dozens to hundreds of bees flying low to the ground among the mounds. Despite a general and perhaps debilitating fear of bees – the truth is that this species is relatively harmless and may not require any management. Here’s why:


  1. Ephemeral: ground-nesting bees are pollinators of early blooming flowers. Because their lifecycle is tied to the cycle of these plants, ground bees are only active for a short period of time in early spring.
  2. Solitary: fear of bees arises from the idea

    Two female ground bees hunker down in their burrows in response to movement.

    that disturbing a nest will provoke an entire colony of stinging insects. However, as it true of carpenter bees, cicada killer wasps, and mud dauber wasps, ground bees are solitary with only a single female bee per mound.

  3. Shy Gals: female bees make nests for the purpose of reproduction. After gathering nectar and pollen as food for their offspring, females will mate and lay eggs in the nest. While in the nest, females appear shy, and will retreat into the burrow if they see an approaching object.
  4. Males Hover, but Can’t Sting: All those bees you see flying low to the ground en masse – are males! And male bees do not possess a stinger. Their low, hovering flight is part of their effort to pair up with a female. Indeed, male ground bees are quite docile. See how one school responds to this insect with curiosity and affection in this video.


    Male ground bees cannot sting and are quite docile.

If you wish to discourage ground bees from taking up residence on your school grounds, an effective, safe and long-term solution is over-seeding with grass. By creating a dense lawn, bees will not be able to dig in the soil and will nest elsewhere. For information on creating a healthy lawn, see the Cornell Turfgrass Program.


Additional information about ground bees is available from the Cornell Department of Entomology.

Pollinator Week

Are you concerned about the reduced numbers of pollinating  insects? Pollinators are a necessary part of plant and crop success, which mean we depend on them for food as well.  Even with the valid concern about loss of bee colonies, this is a good time to understand that pollinators also include many insects, birds, butterflies, bats, beetles and other animals.  Some plants even depend on four-legged mammals to move pollen from plant to plant.


The U.S. Senate supported National Pollinator Week years ago, and it has spread internationally. Events are planned around the country to celebrate and educate.

Two simple ways to help pollinators are 1) reduced used of pesticides and 2) protection of habitat.

Protecting habitat can be as simple as adding a few new perennial flowers to your garden and leaving more un-mowed, or un-cultivated natural growth areas along the edges of properties.  This also ties in with the simple basics of IPM. Creating habitat for pollinators also encourages natural predators of insect pests.

220px-Bidens_flwr composite flower A typical Asteraceae flower head (here Bidens torta) showing the individual flowers


Composite flowers, those from the asteraceae family, are favorites of pollinator insects and beneficial insects. The above image  from Wikipedia shows the center of composite flowers are actually groups of small separate flowers surrounded by large attracting petals. Flowers within a flower!

Composite flowers and a variety of plant material in your yard and garden are a helpful and beautiful way to support pollinators.

Here are three ‘fast facts’ from the Pollination Partnership:

About 75% of all flowering plant species need the help of
animals to move their heavy pollen grains from plant to
plant for fertilization.
About 1,000 of all pollinators are vertebrates such as birds,
bats, and small mammals.
Most pollinators (about 200,000 species) are beneficial
insects such as flies, beetles, wasps, ants, butterflies,
moths, and bees.

Learn more at their website: Pollinator Partnership

Happy Summer!