Up to 70% of our native bees are ground dwellers. They dig holes from 6 inches to 36 inches in the ground. For most of their lives they are developing underground and only emerge to forage for about one month. Leafcutter bees are ground dwellers. They are so named because they cut a few elliptical holes in your garden plants but reward you by pollinating all your vegetables and flowers.
Bees, like us, are fussy about where they want to live. Some bees like one kind of soil while others prefer another kind but all of them need soil that is about one third sand so it is easy to dig into. Therefore experiment creating different soil piles up to two feet high or just use a patch of land with southern exposure and that has good drainage, not a spot that turns into a puddle each time it rains. Leave the area untidy, leaves scattered about for them to hide nest holes under and to scavenge to tuck into their burrows. You will know you have ground dwellers when you see small holes in the ground with the earth slightly piled up on the edge. Sometimes ground dwellers like to nest right beside your house. It is often a place that is undisturbed.
Social Bumble Bees
One of my favorite bees. Have you ever watched one in a flower? They shake their little butts causing pollen to fly everywhere which is why they are the most effective pollinators of all the bees. Bumble bees nest in the ground in whatever abandoned burrow or cavity they can find and will even nest above ground in an abandoned bird nest. This latter nesting site in a farm field is a farmer’s nuisance when the tractor runs over the nest and 30 angry bumblebees take after him for destroying their home. (From reports I have heard you can quickly outrun them and they quickly give up the chase but the hapless farmer will have sustained several stings.) According to the USDA bumble bees often occupy the grassy area between open fields and woods or hedge rows. The grassy area should be at least five feet wide and mowed in the late fall or early spring once every two or three years. I’ve seen bumble bees come and go out of an inch and a quarter size hole in our front lawn. Like other ground nesters these bees usually prefer undisturbed ground with leaf debris littering the area.
Bumble bees live in colonies of several dozen to several hundred bees. The queen bumble bees begin nests each spring so the bees are in full force by summer, hunting for flowers to gather pollen and nectar from.