Ground bees (often called miner bees) may blight an otherwise picturesque lawn and flowerbed, yet their nest entrances serve as air aeration holes to increase water and nutrient penetration into soil. Furthermore, they offer important pollination services, particularly during apple and berry crops’ spring bloom periods.
Even with their great importance, many ground-nesting bee species remain poorly understood with regard to their nesting ecology. This may be partly because existing habitat selection methods don’t easily apply.
Ground-nesting bees such as Colletes inaequalis can often look similar to yellow jackets and honeybees when seen on flowers or flying, yet these creatures differ considerably. Honeybees make honey and are social insects with stingers; native ground-nesting bees, in contrast, tend their nests solitaryly within a tunnel hole in the soil and each mother lays her own eggs before tending them by herself.
Female ground-nesting bees usually construct their tunnels in areas of soil that offer both good drainage and open access to sunlight, preferring sandy patches over clay soils for construction of their nests.
Although small in size, bees are highly effective pollinators. Their long legs enable them to travel long distances in search of nectar and pollen from flowers, spreading it as they travel among plants as they go. Their presence greatly enhances crop yields such as berries, apples and grapes.
Ground-nesting bees can be vulnerable to various predators that prey upon them, including mammals like badgers and skunks as well as birds such as woodpeckers that feed on bee larvae and pupae. Furthermore, numerous insect and arachnid predators such as dragonflies, robber flies, and spider species also prey upon ground-nesting bees.
Solitary ground-dwelling bees create small mounds of soil roughly 6 inches across where they raise their young. While their burrows may detract from the appearance of lawns, they’re not considered an obstruction to healthy turfgrass as their holes help aerate and penetrate water and nutrients more readily into the soil. Experimental research should continue into which below-ground factors (texture, compaction, moisture) female bees prefer when selecting nest sites for their offspring – this factor must be considered when designing garden spaces to promote biodiversity – the more options that exist for nesting opportunities, the better will be the results!
Ground bees are independent and build their nests alone without division of labor for foraging or nest building.
Ground bees inhabit burrows abandoned by animals such as skunks, rodents, rabbits and gophers, including gophers. Bumble and leafcutting bees among others live there to aerate hydrophobic soil while collecting pollen to fertilize gardens and lawns with fertilization services provided by pollination bees.
These bees are polylectic, meaning they collect pollen from multiple plant species. Farmers who wish to maximize crop production often breed these bees for maximum pollination efficiency.
Ground bees tend to nest in areas that offer ideal daily temperatures, such as those receiving morning sunlight (Sakagami & Hayashida 1961). Although soil texture may also play a factor, clay-rich soils appear to retain more water while sandy ones do not; further research must be conducted into how significant these two variables are for ground-nesting bee habitat selection.
Honey bees tend to form colonies, while ground-nesting bees and yellowjackets live as individual workers in nests they build from paper-like material in abandoned rodent burrows, woodpiles, tree cavities or walls. An entire yard could potentially host thousands of individual worker bees that don’t present a significant stinging risk or actively defend their nest from people or pets.
Animal species of many kinds have been observed hunting and devouring bees. Skunks, bears and badgers are predatory insectivores who will raid bee hives for honey; dragonflies and robber flies prey upon bees as well; the latter use powerful legs to capture one midair before injecting paralyzing venom into it before devouring its victim at leisure.
Bees are important pollinators and natural pest control. An estimated one out of every three bites we eat depends on pollination by bees such as bumblebees. Therefore, protecting their habitat is paramount so they may live out their lives freely.