Ground-Nesting Bees Identification Chart: 77 Kinds of Bees Live in the Ground

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

Animals | March 5, 2024

Man with a bee on his head that nested in the ground looks on his computer to find a ground nesting bees identification chart and answer the question, what kinds of bees live in the ground?

Using a ground-nesting bees identification chart can help prevent unnecessary bee removal costs.

There are over 77 kinds of bees that live in the ground, helping to ensure that the world’s ecosystem operates.

This complete guide to ground nesting bees explains how they live, where they live, and which ones can present a threat.

It also outlines ways you can help the bee population stay healthy.

Types of Bees

Studying ground-nesting bees identification charts as well as others, reveals that there are 20,000 species of bees in the world today living in virtually all corners of the world, apart from the arctic.

Counting the 100 million bees that are kept in commercial beehives and the estimated 80 million bee colonies worldwide, the total quantity of bees outnumbers humanity by a ratio of 250 to 1.

Wide shot of flower field with beehives for commercial production.

(Image: GoranH10)

That means that with a human population of 8 billion, the number of bees in the world is easily over 2 trillion, and growing.

Even though there is just one queen bee per hive, she has the reproductive capability of laying, just in that one hive, about 200,000 bees a year.

Because bees are classed as monophyletic, meaning all of the different species have one common ancestor, she mates with several different genetic males to add diversity to the colony as has been the system throughout the centuries. This method encourages resistance to diseases, and over time 7 families have evolved to become the dominant strains.

7 Bee Families To Know (Ground-Nesting Bees Identification Chart: Kinds of Bees Live in the Ground)

Around the globe, ground-nesting bees identification comes down to the 7 types of bee families listed below. There are species that, unfortunately, have become extinct due to the factors of climate change, deforestation, and the destruction of their natural habitats.

Bee FamilyHow Many Species?Name of Some SpeciesCountry
1. Apidae5,700Honey Bees, BumblebeesWorldwide
2. Halictidae4,500Sweat BeesWorldwide
3. Megachilidae4,000Mason Bees, Leafcutter BeesWorldwide
Closeup of one of the bees in the Family Apidae.

(Image: FranciscoJavierCoradoR11)

Bee FamilyHow Many Species?Name of Some SpeciesCountry
4. Andrenidae3,000Mining BeesWorldwide
5. Colletidae2,000Plasterer BeesSouth America, Australia
6. Melittidae200Pantaloon BeeAfrica
7. Stenotritidae21AustraliaAustralia

If it ever reached the stage where the population of bees became devastated, it would severely harm the planet.1 Millions of plants rely on their pollination skills to transport pollen far and wide to aid in fertilization, which in turn leads to reproduction and more plants.

These plants are vital to combat the vast amount of carbon dioxide being pumped into the atmosphere every year, as well as being crucial in ensuring that there is enough food available to feed the world.

Without bees, that food chain would be in danger. Without bees, global gas emissions would be causing even more of a climate crisis. Yet our knowledge of bees is somewhat limited.

Ground-nesting bees identification knowledge is helpful to allay the fear that is normally the first reaction when a bee colony is discovered in the backyard, despite their contribution to society.

When the source of the bee colony is revealed to be hidden under the very ground in your backyard, that fear sometimes quickly turns to panic. But what types of bees burrow in the ground?

What Kinds of Bees Live in the Ground? (Ground-Nesting Bee Identification Chart and How To Identify Ground-Nesting Bees)

This ground-nesting bees identification chart can reveal some of the 20,000 species in the world that prefer to nest underground.

As much as 70% of them prefer to conduct their business away from the prying eyes of humans. Yet there are other common types of bees found in backyards and gardens that belong to tribes under the umbrella of the 7 families.

#Bee SpeciesFamilyDescription
1Honey BeeApidaeHairy with brown rings around its brown and yellow abdomen.
2Cuckoo BeeApidaeBlue or white with brown or black bands around the abdomen.
3Carpenter Bee2ApidaeA large bee with a black and shiny abdomen. Black and yellow in color. Typically nest in wood, but nearly 3/4 are estimated to live underground.
4Orchid BeeApidaeGreen, gold, and blue metallic color.
5BumblebeeApidaeAbdomen rings can be yellow, red, or black. Has 4 wings.
6Stingless BeeApidaeBlack/white or black/yellow markings on their furry faces and sides.

#Bee SpeciesFamilyDescription
7Silver-Sided Nomad BeeApidaeSmall dark brown abdomen with a lighter ring around it.
8Brown Carder BeeApidaeBrown hair on top with black hairy underbelly and jet-black legs.
9Shrill Carder BeeApidaeColoring starts off as white behind the head, yellow over the thorax, and orange at the tail, all broken up by rings of black.
10Hairy-Footed Flower BeeApidaeA bulbous body with females having light black hair and males orange, the reverse coloring is on the legs.
11Armed Nomad BeeNomadaA red and black bee with yellow marks on its abdomen.
12Dusky-Horned Nomad BeeNomadaReddish gold color with a hairy black thorax. The abdomen is black with yellow stripes.

#Bee SpeciesFamilyDescription
13Painted Nomad BeeNomadaYellow with a black thorax, head, and stripes on the abdomen.
14Bilberry Nomad BeeNomadaA rich coloration from dark honey to deep brown to rich burgundy with clear wings with a slight tan.
15Mining BeesNomadaSquat, very hairy body, and legs. Light yellow back with a dark abdomen.
16Marsham’s Nomad BeeNomadaA black thorax with a red/brown abdomen ringed with bright yellow bands, and reddish legs.
17Red-Thighed Cuckoo Mining BeeEpeolusA striking-looking bee with red legs and a black abdomen sporting bright yellow markings.
18Variegated Cuckoo Mining BeeEpeolusAn outstanding specimen is known for the unusual half bands around its black abdomen.

(Red-Thighed Cuckoo Mining Bee Image: Janet Graham13)

#Bee SpeciesFamilyDescription
19Long-Horned BeesEuceraYellow faces with very long antennae.
20Green-Eyed Flower BeeAnthophoraLarge green eyes, and dense brown hair over a solid frame.
21Fork-Tailed Flower BeeAnthophoraThick dark abdomen behind a thorax full of spiky dense fur.
22Mourning BeesMelectaHairy feet with spots along the sides.
23Square-Spotted Mourning BeeMelectaBlack with white markings along the sides of its abdomen.
24Blue Carpenter BeeCeratinaAn incredibly bright blue bee contrasted by black wings, a black abdomen, and furry black legs.

(Square-Spotted Mourning Bee Image14)

#Bee SpeciesFamilyDescription
25Violet Carpenter BeeXylocopaDistinguishable by their long violet-colored wings.
26Western Honey Bee3ApisThis red and brown bee has pale hair on its thorax but none on its orange-banded abdomen.
27European Dark BeeApisDark brown with pale rings around its hairless abdomen.
28Cryptic BumblebeeBombusThere’s a band of yellow hair around the collar and the abdomen, and a flash of white on the tail.
29Red-Tailed BumblebeeBombusJet-black apart from the yellow hair on the thorax and the red tinge from half way on the abdomen to the tip.
30Golden-Belted BumblebeeBombusIt has a golden band around its thorax but is known for having a tongue nearly as long as its body.

#Bee SpeciesFamilyDescription
31Sweat BeesHalictidaeVery diverse coloration but often metallic with a green thorax and black, slightly hairy abdomen.
32Southern Bronze Furrow BeeHalictidaeSmall brown bee with thin uniform white rings around the abdomen.
33Orange-Legged Furrow BeeHalictidaeDistinctive orange legs set this bee apart from the rest.
34Square-Headed Furrow BeeHalictidaeLong dark body with 4 white rings, topped off by a flat head.
35Bloomed Furrowed BeeLasioglossum7-10mm in size with an oval-shaped head and black/red bodies.
36Common Green Furrow BeeLasioglossumSmall, metallic dark green in color.

(Bloomed Furrowed Bee Image: USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab15)

#Bee SpeciesFamilyDescription
37Smeathman’s Furrow BeeLasioglossumDark blue-green color with fine hairs.
38Dark Blood BeeSpechodesBlood-red abdomen with dark wings.
39Geoffroy’s Blood BeeSpechodesTiny at 6-8 mm with a black and red body.
40Sickle-Jawed Blood BeeSpechodesStocky, with a groove down its midsection.
41Furry-Bellied Blood BeeSpechodesTranslucent wings with an abdomen part black and honey-colored from the tail up.
42Swollen-Thighed Blood BeeSpechodesDistinctive black and honey-colored abdomen, with thick thighs on skinny legs.

(Bloomed Furrowed Bee Image16, Geoffroy’s Blood Bee Image17, and Furry-Bellied Blood Image18)

#Bee SpeciesFamilyDescription
43Red-Girdled Mining BeeAndrenidaeCharacterized by a broad red band around its black abdomen.
44Violet-Winged Mining BeeAndrenidae13-15 mm with a shiny black body with flecks of white and dark violet wings.
45Yellow-Legged Mining BeeAndrenidae4Black bee with yellow hind legs and yellow bands around the abdomen.
46Hawksbeard Mining BeeAndrenidaeA medium bee with a small, bulbous black body.
47Orange-Tailed Mining BeeAndrenidaeLong-haired, with a tuft of orange on the back and a splash of orange on the tail.
48Large Meadow Mining BeeAndrenidaeA large bee at 16 mm with a black/brown body with red segments.
49Blackthorn Mining BeeAndrenidaeFine short blond hairs around the abdomen, thicker and longer around the thorax.

(Violet-Winged Mining Bee Image19)

#Bee SpeciesFamilyDescription
50Sandpit Mining BeeAndrenidaeFemales are brown while males are dark gray. Both have pale hair.
51Gray-Banded Mining BeeAndrenidaeBlack with dull pale yellow hairs and gray bands around the body.
52White-Bellied Mining BeeAndrenidaeA back stuffed with yellow-brown hair, while its underbelly is overflowing with white fur.
53Ashy Mining BeeAndrenidaeA dull black with a ring of gray/white hair around the thorax.
54Gwynne’s Mining BeeAndrenidaeOrange, spiky hair sits on top of the thorax like a jacket and adds color to the rear legs.
55Hawthorn Mining BeeAndrenidaeAll black with pale yellow wings that match the hair on its legs.
56Buffish Mining BeeAndrenidaeOnly the face has black hair. The rest of the bee, including the legs, are covered in dense brown hair.

(Gray-Banded Mining Bee Image: Ilkka Tuunainen20)

#Bee SpeciesFamilyDescription
57Large Shaggy BeePanurgusJet black exoskeleton with bright yellow wispy hair.
58Plasterer BeeColletidaeBlack with white bands around the abdomen, while males have yellow patches on the side of their heads.
59Ivy Mining BeeColletidaeEvenly striped abdomen in black and yellow colors.
60Heather Colletes BeeColletidaeThin white strips around its abdomen, and a hairy back.
61Sea Aster BeeColletidaeReddish brown hair on its back and pale bands around its black abdomen.
62White-Jawed Yellow Face BeeHylaeusOnly 7 mm, hairless body with yellow marks on the head, hindlegs, and back.
63Short-Horned Yellow Face BeeHylaeusTiny all-black bee apart from its white face.

(Sea Aster Bee Image: jerry201821)

#Bee SpeciesFamilyDescription
64Pantaloon BeeMelittidaeCharacterized by the incredibly hairy hindlegs fluffed with golden hairs.
65Sainfoin Blunthorn BeeMelittidaeOver 13 mm with pale hairs growing everywhere, even from the rings around the abdomen.
66Yellow Loosestrife BeeMacropisThe distinctive clump of gold fur on its hind legs that look like leggings.
67European Wool Carder BeeMegachilidaeYellow markings on its legs, back, abdomen, and face. Varies in size from 11mm to 17mm.
68Small Scissor BeeChelestomaTiny bees at 6mm.5 All black with a big head and a skinny body with thin white rings around the abdomen.
69Large Scissor BeeChelestomaA slightly larger version of the small scissor bee at 10mm, but with a lot more fur.
70Gold-Fringed Mason BeeOsmiaAn attractive brown bee with dull golden coloring around its thorax and abdomen.

#Bee SpeciesFamilyDescription
71Blue Orchard Mason BeeOsmiaIt appears jet black but is a very dark blue/gray and is covered in fine yellowish hair.
72Two-Colored Mason BeeOsmiaThe black top half, while the abdomen is covered with ginger hair and black rings.
73Patchwork Leaf CutterMegachileNot only is it recognized by the leaf it’s always carrying, but by the hair sprouting from its underbelly.
74Silvery Leafcutter BeeMegachileWith silvery-blue hair covering all the legs, it is easy to spot in a crowd.
75Brown-Footed Leafcutter BeeMegachileRich orange hairs hang onto the side of the abdomen and the tips of its legs.
76Dull-Vented Sharp-Tailed BeeCoelioxysAll black, the gold stripes give the impression of it having scales along its lengthy body.
77Rufescent Sharp-Tailed BeeCoelioxysGolden yellow with thick black abdomen rings, the tail ends in 4 sharp spikes.

(Rufescent Sharp-Tailed Bee Image22)

Native North American Bees (Facts About Ground Nesting Bees)

The smallest bee in the world, the fairy bee that measures just 2mm, is just one of the 4,000 native species of bees helping to offset greenhouse gas emissions from the United States of America, yet there are many more species that have not been categorized. The species of bees that form their nests in the ground vary enormously but generally tend to be solitary in nature, the females preferring to set up houses by themselves.

It is often noticed that these solitary queens appreciate their independence but often there are other mounds nearby that signify other colonies have been set up that are generally inhabited by family members. All of the hives will be facing south with a barely noticeable small entrance just wide enough to accommodate one bee at a time to protect against predators like birds and even some insects.

Using a ground-nesting bees identification process, it is possible to identify the ground bees that like to take a quick shortcut to nest building.6

Sometimes, rather than excavate the ground to make a new hive, ground bees will occupy an abandoned hole made by another animal and repurpose it for their needs, fashioning a new abode right under the nose of the homeowner who will only be aware of their presence by the mound of freshly tilled earth on a bare patch of their garden.

Once inside there will be a labyrinth of tunnels meandering under the lawn with busy bees being, well, busy.

Advantages of Ground Bees in Your Yard and Disadvantages of Ground Bees in Your Yard

According to the ground-nesting bees identification, having certain types of ground bees in a backyard ensures that whatever flowers are nearby will be pollinated, especially as they are more active in early spring when plants and flowers are beginning to bloom.

Despite the unsightly appearance of the hives, the soil itself benefits enormously from the introduction of the ground bees as the turning over of the earth allows nutrients to penetrate deeper, aeration, and improved water drainage.

In late spring when the bees disappear, the unsightly mound slowly vanishes with them but the benefit to the ecosystem remains behind. The main complaint of ground bees, and the one disadvantage, are the unsightly mounds.

Fortunately, they are a temporary nuisance but if they need to be removed for aesthetic appeal that can be undertaken without causing harm to the bees. Also, many homeowners do not know how to tell the difference between bees and wasps and are fearful that a sting is just one buzz away.

Identifying Ground Bees vs. Yellow Jackets

Comparing a ground bee against a Yellow Jacket couldn’t be easier, and it’s not because of their bad temperaments.

Closeup of Yellow Jacket Wasp on black berries.

(Image: Emphyrio12)

Generally, if you leave a ground bee alone it will ignore you and casually go on about its business of pollination and tending to its hive, its furry body buzzing happily back and forth throughout the day.

A yellow jacket, on the other hand, can be a whole another level of mean, its skinny, shiny black and yellow striped body primed for action.7 It has a different sort of energy about it, is extremely territorial, and will attack even if you just glance at it sideways.

Should You Kill Ground Bees?

No. It is best to leave them alone and they will die off naturally or go dormant during the winter; remember they are vital pollinators and will do more good than harm to your yard.

Ground-nesting bees identification helps recreational and professional landscapers alike to be aware of what flowers, trees, and shrubs to plant to take advantage of the benefits of having local ground bees.

But before rolling out the red carpet to help these friendly ground bees settle into their new homes in your garden, find out which species has become your new neighbor by studying the ground-nesting bees identification chart: 77 kinds of bees live in the ground.8

How To Identify Bees (Ground-Nesting Bees Identification Chart: 77 Kinds of Bees Live in the Ground)

Ground-nesting bees identification can be done by comparing the overall color of the bee, whether there is hair on the body or just the thorax, size and shape, and the color of the rings on the abdomen.

Most bees are black and gold but there are 26 species in the United States that are black and white.

These black and white bees are predominantly black with white markings on the abdomen or from tufts of white hair.

Although reactionary when molested, they tend to be solitary and live by a credo that if you leave them alone they’ll leave you alone.

How To Get Rid of Ground Nesting Bees

If the point arises where the backyard is so peppered with mounds of bee hives, or just that single unsightly patch on your otherwise pristine garden that has become too much of an eyesore, then there are some simple methods that will solve your dilemma.

The first option is to prevent them from settling in your backyard in the first place by ensuring that there are no bare, dry patches in the lawn by planting more grass and watering regularly.

If they have already started nesting, use a ground-nesting bees identification chart to identify the species, and then follow one or a few suggestions below to coax them to change location

  • Block the entrance to the hive so the bees cannot reenter and they will eventually move on.
  • Heavily water around the hive as bees detest waterlogged soil and will quickly relocate to a drier environment.
  • Cinnamon is a natural deterrent to ground bees. It will take a week or so of sprinkling around their nest before they get the spicy message that they are not quite welcome.
  • A quicker method is to use a mixture of water and vinegar. Spray liberally, but just don’t get caught doing so as they may spring into action and tell you to buzz off in a not-so-subtle way. Best to do it at night when they are sleeping.

Ground-Nesting Bees Identification Chart: 77 Kinds of Bees Live in the Ground

Recognizing a certain species of ground bees that have become new neighbors for a few months, pollinating all your nearby flowers, plants, and vegetables, can be a very rewarding experience.

Related Reading: 35 Types of Lilies Flowers: How To Identify Lily Flowers by Shape, Color

Learning about ground-nesting bees identification will help people to know that they live in a good environment because their presence is a healthy sign that wards off intermingled plant diseases and assist in spreading pollens around the local area, encouraging new plant growth and the absorption of carbon emissions.

Frequently Asked Questions About Ground Nesting Bees Identification

Do Ground Bees Sting? Are Ground Bees Aggressive?

Ground bees only become aggressive and sting when they are provoked, or if their hive is under threat.9

What Attracts Ground Bees to Yards?

Soil that is well-draining and devoid of vegetation makes a good location for an underground beehive as it is easy to excavate and set up a home, and if there are flowers nearby and a good ecosystem all the better.

Do Ground-Nesting Bees Produce Honey?

No, ground-nesting bees do not produce honey, but it can be useful and fun to refer to a ground-nesting bees identification chart to determine which species are buzzing around your yard.

Which Two Bees Are Commonly Confused Backyard Species?

The Carpenter Bee is often mistaken for the Bumblebee because they are very similar in size and appearance, but the difference is in the shiny abdomen of the Carpenter Bee compared to the hairy Bumblebee.


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4NC State. (2015). Andrenidae. Agriculture and Life Sciences. Retrieved January 28, 2023, from <>

5Evans, E. (2023). Oil-Collecting Bees. Department of Entomology. Retrieved January 28, 2023, from <>

6Medical University of South Carolina. (2023). Ground Bees at MUSC. MUSC. Retrieved January 28, 2023, from <>

7University of Maryland Extension. (2022, June 1). Yellowjackets. University of Maryland Extension. Retrieved January 28, 2023, from <>

8PLIESCH. (2021, April 22). In Defense of Ground Bees. Insect Diagnostic Lab. Retrieved January 28, 2023, from <>

9Oregon State University. (2023). Seventy percent of bees live in nests underground, not in hives. OSU Extension Service. Retrieved January 28, 2023, from <>

10GoranH. Pixabay. Retrieved from <>

11FranciscoJavierCoradoR. Pixabay. Retrieved from <>

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13Epeolus cruciger, Ddol, North Wales, July 2016 4 Photo by Janet Graham / CC BY 2.0 DEED | Attribution 2.0 Generic. Cropped, Resized, Changed Format. Flickr. Retrieved March 5, 2024, from <>

14Square-spotted Mourning Bee (Melecta luctuosa) Photo By Thomas (creaturefeature97) / CC0 1.0 DEED | CC0 1.0 Universal. Cropped, Resized, Changed Format. iNaturalistUK. Retrieved March 5, 2024, from <>

15Epeolus cruciger, Ddol, North Wales, July 2016 4 Photo by USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab / CC BY 2.0 DEED | Attribution 2.0 Generic. Cropped, Resized, Changed Format. Flickr. Retrieved March 5, 2024, from <>

16Lasioglossum smeathmanellum, male, Tonfannau, North Wales, Aug 2018 Photo by Janet Graham / CC BY 2.0 DEED | Attribution 2.0 Generic. Cropped, Resized, Changed Format. Flickr. Retrieved March 5, 2024, from <>

17Sphecodes geoffrellus female, Trawscoed, North Wales, Aug 2007 2 Photo by Janet Graham / CC BY 2.0 DEED | Attribution 2.0 Generic. Cropped, Resized, Changed Format. Flickr. Retrieved March 5, 2024, from <>

18Lasioglossum fratellum, nr Maentwrog, North Wales, Aug 2017 Photo by Janet Graham / CC BY 2.0 DEED | Attribution 2.0 Generic. Cropped, Resized, Changed Format. Flickr. Retrieved March 5, 2024, from <>

19Andrena agilissima, m, right, J. Ortiz, Netherlands_2022-02-10-16.40.42 ZS PMax UDR copy Photo by USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab / Public Domain. Cropped, Resized, Changed Format. Flickr. Retrieved March 5, 2024, from <>

20Grey-banded Mining Bee (Andrena denticulata) Photo by Ilkka Tuunainen (ilkkat) / CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED | Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International. Cropped, Resized, Changed Format. iNaturalist Suomi. Retrieved March 5, 2024, from <>

21Sea Aster Cellophane Bee (Colletes halophilus) Photo by jerry2018 / CC BY 4.0 DEED | Attribution 4.0 International. Cropped, Resized, Changed Format. iNaturalist United Kingdom. Retrieved March 5, 2024, from <>

22Coelioxys rufescens Photo by Filip Sebek / CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED | Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International. Cropped, Resized, Changed Format. Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved March 5, 2024, from <>