Is it the first time you have heard of bees living underground? If so, then this article will give you a better understanding of what kinds of bees live in the ground and how they survive there. But before we get there let us understand what bees that live in the ground are, exactly.
A Little About Ground-Nesting Bees
The bees that live in the ground are known as ground-nesting bees. Ground nesting bees include bumblebees, carpenter bees, digger bees, leafcutter bees, sweat bees, and mason bees.
Ground nesting bees construct nests underground, usually in loose soil, sand, or gravel, or under stones or logs. Some species excavate tunnels through soft soil, while others use preexisting holes or cracks. The entrance hole may be covered with mud, clay, or leaves. A few species make nests directly out of wood, stone, or plant material.
Ground nesting bees are generally smaller than other types of bees. Bumblebee queens weigh about 2 grams and lay eggs weighing 1 gram. Carpenter bees and digger bees are slightly larger, with queens averaging 3–4 grams and laying eggs weighing about 0.5 grams. Leafcutter bees are among the smallest of all bees, with queens averaging less than 1 gram and laying eggs weighing only 0.2 gram.
Most ground-nesting bees nest alone, although some species build large colonies. Most bumblebees nest singly; however, some species form small groups. Digger bees and leafcutter bees often nest together in aggregations. Mason bees tend to nest in groups, sometimes numbering in the hundreds.
Most ground-nesting bees feed on nectar and pollen gathered from flowers. They also eat insects, including aphids, caterpillars, beetles, flies, grasshoppers, spiders, and wasps.
Bumblebees have long been used by humans for their ability to pollinate fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Bumblebees are social insects, meaning they live in colonies consisting of several thousand individuals. Queens mate with multiple males during mating flights. After mating, the queen lays eggs in an aggregation of wax cells, called a “nest.” She then dies after the larvae hatch. Workers emerge from the nest and begin collecting pollen and nectar.
Bumblebees are commonly found in gardens, parks, and meadows. Although most gardeners don’t notice them because they’re so busy enjoying their own blooms, bumblebees can play an important role in pollinating flowering plants. Gardeners should encourage native bumblebees to visit their gardens by planting attractive bee-attracting plants near their homes. These plants will attract both solitary and social bees.
• Bombus impatiens
• Bombus terrestris
Carpenter Bees (Xylocopa)
Carpenter bees are common throughout North America. They are mostly active at night and spend the day in sheltered areas, where they collect pollen and nectar. Because they prefer to nest in cavities, they are often found inside walls, beneath eaves, or in hollowed-out tree trunks.
Carpenter bees are very useful pollinators. Like many other bees, they gather pollen and nectar from flowers and carry it back to their nests. However, unlike honeybees, they do not store this food in honeycombs but instead leave it in conspicuous piles around their nests. This allows carpenter bees to easily find their way home when returning from feeding trips.
Carpenter bees differ from other bees in that they are almost completely dependent upon animal prey for protein. Adult workers consume up to 10% of their body weight each day. The rest is provided by larval food. To survive, adult females must be able to locate suitable sources of protein.
The best known carpenter bee is Xylocopa virginica, the eastern carpenter bee. It has a distinctive orange abdomen and black head. Other carpenter bees include Xylocopa auguralis, Xylocopa pyrrhoptera, Xylocopa latipes, Xylocopa ocularia, Xylocopa erythrocephala, Xylocopa rufa, Xylocopa cinctella, Xylocopa brunnea, Xylocopa californica, etc.
Leafcutting Bees (Megachile)
Leafcutting bees are tiny bees that cut leaves into pieces and use these as building materials. Leafcutting bees are among the smallest bees in North America. Their bodies are about 1/16 inch long. They are usually brownish yellow in color.
Leafcutter bees are generally solitary bees, although some species form small colonies. Most leafcutters are generalists, visiting a variety of different types of plants. Some species specialize in particular plant families, such as Asteraceae (sunflowers), Fabaceae (peas), Lamiaceae (mint family), Rosaceae (rose family), Solanaceae (nightshades), Urticaceae (honeysuckle family), or Zygophyllaceae (spurges).
Many leafcutter bees are insectivorous. They feed on caterpillars, aphids, scale insects, mites, and even spiders. In addition, some species eat pollen and nectar.
Some leafcutter bees construct nests out of fresh leaves. Others build nests out of dried leaves. Leafcutter bees also make mud nests and live in burrows.
Leafcutters have been observed carrying pollen between plants. When they return to their nests with pollen, they may deposit it directly onto the brood cells or place it in special structures called pollen baskets.
Leafcutters are beneficial pollinators. They tend to visit early morning blossoms before any other type of bee. As a result, they can contribute significantly to the reproduction of certain plants. For example, the western redbud (Cercis occidentalis) depends heavily on the presence of leafcutter bees for successful seed set.
Leafcutting bees are important pollinators of fruit trees. Many fruits depend upon them for fertilization. These include apples, apricots, cherries, plums, peaches, sweet cherries, strawberries, blueberries, and cranberries.
Mason bees (Osmia)
Mason bees are social bees. They nest underground and raise their young communally. Mason bees are often confused with bumblebees because both groups share similar nesting habits. But there are several differences:
• Bumblebees do not build large, communal nests. Instead, they create individual nests in soil excavated by themselves.
• Mason bees are much smaller than bumblebees. A worker mason bee is only about 3/8 inch long.
• The queen of a mason bee colony is larger than the workers. She is about 2 inches long.
• Masons are more likely to be found in dry areas where they can find shelter from rain and wind.
Mason bees are very common throughout most of North America. They are especially abundant in warm regions like California and Florida.
There are many kinds of mason bees. Some species are solitary; others live in colonies. All mason bees are carnivores. They feed mainly on larvae of beetles, grasshoppers, ants, wasps, and flies.
Most mason bees are native to North America. However, one group of European mason bees has become established in parts of Canada and the United States. This group is known as the “European mason bees” because they were first discovered in Europe.
Mason bees do not sting. Their stings contain an enzyme that causes the skin to break down. If you get stung by a mason bee, your body will absorb the enzymes through your skin.
Mason bees collect pollen and carry it back to the hive. They use this pollen to feed the developing eggs and larvae.
Mason bees are good pollinators of flowers. They visit blooming plants at night when other types of bees are sleeping.
Mason bees help control pests. They attack the larvae of certain moth and butterfly species. They also prey upon adult butterflies and moths.
Mason bees play an important role in the ecosystem. They consume harmful insects that would otherwise harm crops and livestock. In addition, they prevent the spread of diseases among plants.
Mason bees provide honey for human consumption. Honey made from mason bees is considered superior to honey produced by other types of bees. It contains less water and more nutrients than honey harvested by other types of bees and does not spoil easily.
Yellow Jackets are small-bodied bees. They have short legs and long abdomens. They are related to bumblebees and sweat bees. Yellow jackets are found across North America.
They are aggressive hunters who defend their territory against intruders. They may chase away birds or mammals that come too close to their nests.
They eat mostly caterpillars, but also eat some aphids and spiders. Yellow jackets make nests in hollow logs, rocks, tree trunks, and even abandoned buildings.
They are active during spring and summer months. They hibernate over winter in protected places such as caves and mines.
Yellow jackets are beneficial to humans. They protect our gardens and fields from unwanted insect predators. They also keep populations of destructive insects under control.
Sweat bees also live in the ground. However, they are solitary bees. Like yellow jackets, they are native to North America.
Their name comes from their ability to secrete a waxy liquid called “sweat” when disturbed. Sweat bees use this secretion to repel predators. Sweat bees are known to be good at finding flowers. They tend to favor blue and purple blooms.
They are most active during spring and summer. During fall and winter, they enter a state of dormancy. Sweat bees build nests out of grasses and leaves. Their nests are usually located near bodies of water.
Sweat bees carry pollen and nectar back to their nests. They also store extra food in special storage structures. Sweat bees are excellent pollinators. They visit many different types of flowers throughout the year.
They help to ensure flower production by visiting blooming plants before other insects arrive. Sweat bees do not sting unless provoked. You can easily remove them from your yard by sweeping or vacuuming.
What Is The Importance Of Bees?
Bees are insects that belong to the order Hymenoptera. The term honey bee is often used as a synonym for all members of the genus Apis, but other genera within the tribe Apini also produce honey. Honey bees are social insects with a sophisticated division of labor.
Bees can be found on every continent except Antarctica. Their distribution is not limited by latitude, but rather by temperature and precipitation. Because of their importance to agriculture, humans have domesticated several species of honey bee, including the European honey bee (Apis mellifera), the Asian honey bee (Apis cerana), and the stingless honey bee (Apis dorsata).
The honey bee has been kept since ancient times and was one of the earliest animal cultures to develop written records. It is mentioned in Egyptian hieroglyphics dating back to 3000 BC. Ancient Egyptians called the honey bee ka-peruw (“the giver of life”), while the Greeks called it melipona. In China, India, Japan, Korea, and Southeast Asia, the honey bee was revered as a symbol of good fortune and longevity.
Honey bees are important pollinators of many crops, such as apples, blueberries, cucumbers, grapes, peaches, plums, raspberries, strawberries, tomatoes, and watermelon. However, honey bees are not essential to these plants’ reproduction, and therefore do not provide a direct benefit to human consumption. Many wild plants depend upon insect pollination, and honey bees are responsible for much of this activity. For example, honey bees contribute to the pollination of 80% of the world’s commercial fruit trees.
In addition to being an important source of food, honey bees play a role in the ecosystem by helping control pests and diseases. Honey bees are natural enemies of mites, aphids, beetles, and other plant-eating insects. They also protect plants against pathogens. Honey bees are very effective at controlling the growth of weeds.
Honey bees also protect plants by producing a substance called propolis. Propolis is made up of resins, waxes, and other substances secreted by glands in the abdomen of honey bees. This sticky substance protects the hive from intruders and helps to seal cracks and holes in the hive.
Propolis contains antimicrobial compounds that kill bacteria and fungi. These chemicals may account for some of the health benefits attributed to honey. Some studies suggest that propolis may reduce inflammation, inhibit cancer cell growth, and prevent infection.
A study published in 2013 showed that propolis could be used to treat wounds. A mixture of propolis and silver sulfadiazine cream healed infected diabetic foot ulcers more quickly than either treatment alone. Another study suggested that propolis might help fight infections caused by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA.