FORGET GROUNDHOGS: GENTLE MINING BEES' ARRIVAL MEANS SPRING IS HERE
Updated: Mar 14, 2018
When most people think of bees, they picture honeybees, but 70% of the world’s bee species actually live solitary lives in the ground. Mining bees make up a large portion of those ground dwellers, and their arrival in our area each spring means winter is finally over.
In Decatur, early March brings with it the annual emergence of mining bees (andrena genus) from hibernation in the soil. These gentle, native bees create small piles of dirt with pencil-sized holes in the center that are often mistaken for ant hills.
Unlike the ground-dwelling yellow jackets we see in the fall (which are wasps and not bees at all), mining bees are extremely docile. Plus, they’re terrific pollinators, so there’s no need to try to get rid of them.
You’ll see mining bees zooming around at high speed in search of mates a few inches above their mounds. When many nests are clustered in an area, the sight of all those bees in motion can be pretty intense. Even so, you can stand right in the middle of the action and not be bothered at all. In previous years, we’ve seen large groupings of them near the south end of the front of Decatur High School if you want to check them out.
Mining bees are active for only a few weeks before they disappear into the ground until next spring. Again, they very seldom sting people, so take a few minutes to appreciate these busy creatures when you see them.
Tips for a mining-bee friendly yard:
• Avoid pesticides and sprays
• Leave patches of bare earth
• Leave fallen logs and hollow stems for nesting habitats
• Plant native, perennial plants to provide blooms across all seasons
• Provide a water source for bees to drink