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.
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 Family||How Many Species?||Name of Some Species||Country|
|1. Apidae (Image11)||5,700||Honey Bees, Bumblebees||Worldwide|
|2. Halictidae||4,500||Sweat Bees||Worldwide|
|3. Megachilidae (Image12)||4,000||Mason Bees, Leafcutter Bees||Worldwide|
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.
|1||Honey Bee||Apidae||Hairy with brown rings around its brown and yellow abdomen.|
|2||Cuckoo Bee||Apidae||Blue or white with brown or black bands around the abdomen.|
|3||Carpenter Bee2||Apidae||A 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.|
|4||Orchid Bee||Apidae||Green, gold, and blue metallic color.|
|5||Bumblebee||Apidae||Abdomen rings can be yellow, red, or black. Has 4 wings.|
|6||Stingless Bee||Apidae||Black/white or black/yellow markings on their furry faces and sides.|
|7||Silver-Sided Nomad Bee||Apidae||Small dark brown abdomen with a lighter ring around it.|
|8||Brown Carder Bee||Apidae||Brown hair on top with black hairy underbelly and jet-black legs.|
|9||Shrill Carder Bee||Apidae||Coloring starts off as white behind the head, yellow over the thorax, and orange at the tail, all broken up by rings of black.|
|10||Hairy-Footed Flower Bee||Apidae||A bulbous body with females having light black hair and males orange, the reverse coloring is on the legs.|
|11||Armed Nomad Bee||Nomada||A red and black bee with yellow marks on its abdomen.|
|12||Dusky-Horned Nomad Bee||Nomada||Reddish gold color with a hairy black thorax. The abdomen is black with yellow stripes.|
|13||Painted Nomad Bee||Nomada||Yellow with a black thorax, head, and stripes on the abdomen.|
|14||Bilberry Nomad Bee||Nomada||A rich coloration from dark honey to deep brown to rich burgundy with clear wings with a slight tan.|
|15||Mining Bees||Nomada||Squat, very hairy body, and legs. Light yellow back with a dark abdomen.|
|16||Marsham’s Nomad Bee||Nomada||A black thorax with a red/brown abdomen ringed with bright yellow bands, and reddish legs.|
|17||Red-Thighed Cuckoo Mining Bee||Epeolus||A striking-looking bee with red legs and a black abdomen sporting bright yellow markings.|
|18||Variegated Cuckoo Mining Bee||Epeolus||An outstanding specimen is known for the unusual half bands around its black abdomen.|
|19||Long-Horned Bees||Eucera||Yellow faces with very long antennae.|
|20||Green-Eyed Flower Bee||Anthophora||Large green eyes, and dense brown hair over a solid frame.|
|21||Fork-Tailed Flower Bee||Anthophora||Thick dark abdomen behind a thorax full of spiky dense fur.|
|22||Mourning Bees||Melecta||Hairy feet with spots along the sides.|
|23||Square-Spotted Mourning Bee||Melecta||Black with white markings along the sides of its abdomen.|
|24||Blue Carpenter Bee||Ceratina||An incredibly bright blue bee contrasted by black wings, a black abdomen, and furry black legs.|
|25||Violet Carpenter Bee||Xylocopa||Distinguishable by their long violet-colored wings.|
|26||Western Honey Bee3||Apis||This red and brown bee has pale hair on its thorax but none on its orange-banded abdomen.|
|27||European Dark Bee||Apis||Dark brown with pale rings around its hairless abdomen.|
|28||Cryptic Bumblebee||Bombus||There’s a band of yellow hair around the collar and the abdomen, and a flash of white on the tail.|
|29||Red-Tailed Bumblebee||Bombus||Jet-black apart from the yellow hair on the thorax and the red tinge from half way on the abdomen to the tip.|
|30||Golden-Belted Bumblebee||Bombus||It has a golden band around its thorax but is known for having a tongue nearly as long as its body.|
|31||Sweat Bees||Halictidae||Very diverse coloration but often metallic with a green thorax and black, slightly hairy abdomen.|
|32||Southern Bronze Furrow Bee||Halictidae||Small brown bee with thin uniform white rings around the abdomen.|
|33||Orange-Legged Furrow Bee||Halictidae||Distinctive orange legs set this bee apart from the rest.|
|34||Square-Headed Furrow Bee||Halictidae||Long dark body with 4 white rings, topped off by a flat head.|
|35||Bloomed Furrowed Bee||Lasioglossum||7-10mm in size with an oval-shaped head and black/red bodies.|
|36||Common Green Furrow Bee||Lasioglossum||Small, metallic dark green in color.|
|37||Smeathman’s Furrow Bee||Lasioglossum||Dark blue-green color with fine hairs.|
|38||Dark Blood Bee||Spechodes||Blood-red abdomen with dark wings.|
|39||Geoffroy’s Blood Bee||Spechodes||Tiny at 6-8 mm with a black and red body.|
|40||Sickle-Jawed Blood Bee||Spechodes||Stocky, with a groove down its midsection.|
|41||Furry-Bellied Blood Bee||Spechodes||Translucent wings with an abdomen part black and honey-colored from the tail up.|
|42||Swollen-Thighed Blood Bee||Spechodes||Distinctive black and honey-colored abdomen, with thick thighs on skinny legs.|
|43||Red-Girdled Mining Bee||Andrenidae||Characterized by a broad red band around its black abdomen.|
|44||Violet-Winged Mining Bee||Andrenidae||13-15 mm with a shiny black body with flecks of white and dark violet wings.|
|45||Yellow-Legged Mining Bee||Andrenidae4||Black bee with yellow hind legs and yellow bands around the abdomen.|
|46||Hawksbeard Mining Bee||Andrenidae||A medium bee with a small, bulbous black body.|
|47||Orange-Tailed Mining Bee||Andrenidae||Long-haired, with a tuft of orange on the back and a splash of orange on the tail.|
|48||Large Meadow Mining Bee||Andrenidae||A large bee at 16 mm with a black/brown body with red segments.|
|49||Blackthorn Mining Bee||Andrenidae||Fine short blond hairs around the abdomen, thicker and longer around the thorax.|
|50||Sandpit Mining Bee||Andrenidae||Females are brown while males are dark gray. Both have pale hair.|
|51||Gray-Banded Mining Bee||Andrenidae||Black with dull pale yellow hairs and gray bands around the body.|
|52||White-Bellied Mining Bee||Andrenidae||A back stuffed with yellow-brown hair, while its underbelly is overflowing with white fur.|
|53||Ashy Mining Bee||Andrenidae||A dull black with a ring of gray/white hair around the thorax.|
|54||Gwynne’s Mining Bee||Andrenidae||Orange, spiky hair sits on top of the thorax like a jacket and adds color to the rear legs.|
|55||Hawthorn Mining Bee||Andrenidae||All black with pale yellow wings that match the hair on its legs.|
|56||Buffish Mining Bee||Andrenidae||Only the face has black hair. The rest of the bee, including the legs, are covered in dense brown hair.|
|57||Large Shaggy Bee||Panurgus||Jet black exoskeleton with bright yellow wispy hair.|
|58||Plasterer Bee||Colletidae||Black with white bands around the abdomen, while males have yellow patches on the side of their heads.|
|59||Ivy Mining Bee||Colletidae||Evenly striped abdomen in black and yellow colors.|
|60||Heather Colletes Bee||Colletidae||Thin white strips around its abdomen, and a hairy back.|
|61||Sea Aster Bee||Colletidae||Reddish brown hair on its back and pale bands around its black abdomen.|
|62||White-Jawed Yellow Face Bee||Hylaeus||Only 7 mm, hairless body with yellow marks on the head, hindlegs, and back.|
|63||Short-Horned Yellow Face Bee||Hylaeus||Tiny all-black bee apart from its white face.|
|64||Pantaloon Bee||Melittidae||Characterized by the incredibly hairy hindlegs fluffed with golden hairs.|
|65||Sainfoin Blunthorn Bee||Melittidae||Over 13 mm with pale hairs growing everywhere, even from the rings around the abdomen.|
|66||Yellow Loosestrife Bee||Macropis||The distinctive clump of gold fur on its hind legs that look like leggings.|
|67||European Wool Carder Bee||Megachilidae||Yellow markings on its legs, back, abdomen, and face. Varies in size from 11mm to 17mm.|
|68||Small Scissor Bee||Chelestoma||Tiny bees at 6mm.5 All black with a big head and a skinny body with thin white rings around the abdomen.|
|69||Large Scissor Bee||Chelestoma||A slightly larger version of the small scissor bee at 10mm, but with a lot more fur.|
|70||Gold-Fringed Mason Bee||Osmia||An attractive brown bee with dull golden coloring around its thorax and abdomen.|
|71||Blue Orchard Mason Bee||Osmia||It appears jet black but is a very dark blue/gray and is covered in fine yellowish hair.|
|72||Two-Colored Mason Bee||Osmia||The black top half, while the abdomen is covered with ginger hair and black rings.|
|73||Patchwork Leaf Cutter||Megachile||Not only is it recognized by the leaf it’s always carrying, but by the hair sprouting from its underbelly.|
|74||Silvery Leafcutter Bee||Megachile||With silvery-blue hair covering all the legs, it is easy to spot in a crowd.|
|75||Brown-Footed Leafcutter Bee||Megachile||Rich orange hairs hang onto the side of the abdomen and the tips of its legs.|
|76||Dull-Vented Sharp-Tailed Bee||Coelioxys||All black, the gold stripes give the impression of it having scales along its lengthy body.|
|77||Rufescent Sharp-Tailed Bee||Coelioxys||Golden yellow with thick black abdomen rings, the tail ends in 4 sharp spikes.|
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.
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.
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
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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1University of Minnesota. (2023). Native Bees. Bee Lab. Retrieved January 28, 2023, from <https://beelab.umn.edu/Native-Bees>
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9Oregon State University. (2023). Seventy percent of bees live in nests underground, not in hives. OSU Extension Service. Retrieved January 28, 2023, from <https://extension.oregonstate.edu/gardening/pollinators/seventy-percent-bees-live-nests-underground-not-hives>
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