There are a few main varieties of solitary bees, including digger bees, mining bees, leafcutting bees, and sweat bees.
Their name comes from the fact that these are solitary and not social bees, and that they usually nest in the ground or in natural cavities. These solitary bees can become urban nuisance pests when they nest in large numbers near structures due to their painful stings. These particular stinging insects are found throughout the United States.
APPEARANCE AND BEHAVIOR
This group includes small to medium-sized bees with females and males that measure 1/8 to 3/4 inch long. They are usually dark; although some are metallic and some have pale bands on the abdomen.
- Digger bees measure 1/2 to 2/3 inch long, are robust and hairy and are darker than most strains of honey bee.
- Mining bees measure 3/8 to 5/8 inch long and are colored dark brown to black. Some species have the abdomen banded with pale hair and/or have pale hair on the body.
- Leafcutting bees range 1/4 to 1/2 inch long, are metallic (combinations of green, blue, bronze and copper) or dark colored and nest in existing cavities or excavate slender tunnels in the ground or in soft wood siding. These bees line their nests with circular pieces of leaves & chewed petals of blossoms from nearby plants.
- Sweat bees are 1/8 to 1/2 inch long and often have a metallic (green, blue, bronze or copper) luster. Most species live in excavated burrows. Sweat bees are attracted to human perspiration and will light on skin to drink droplets of sweat. They can give a mild sting, especially when being brushed away.
These are solitary bees that do not live in colonies. Adults are queens or males. Ground burrows usually consist of a long vertical tunnel with lateral branches off of this tunnel to each cell. Sometimes large numbers of these bees will nest close together, particularly in bare-ground areas. They provision each cell with pollen and nectar. Both sexes overwinter in the nests.
Solitary bees have a habit of nesting in large numbers in the limited bare areas found around foundations or yards. All of these bees visit various flowers for both pollen and nectar. Some species are even very important pollinators of agricultural crops.
SOLITARY BEE CONTROL & PREVENTION
The areas being utilized by solitary bees for nesting should be roped off and avoided until a Plunkett’s technician can treat the access holes in the soil or structural material. A thin layer of mulch or re-seeding with grass will help eliminate the attractive bare-ground areas and serve as a long-term solution to discourage return.
PROFESSIONAL PEST CONTROL
These are beneficial insects and control should be avoided when possible. However, if control is necessary, you can contact a Plunkett’s technician that will treat the bare nesting area and bee entrance holes with an appropriately labeled residual insecticide. Additional treatments are sometimes warranted, especially if treated soil is mechanically disturbed or wetted by rain showers or irrigation.