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Let That Digger Bee Be

Digger bees resemble honey bees, although they do not sting, and would only bite if mistreated. Photo by Molly Jameson.

Have you noticed many little dirt piles that resemble mini ant mounds around your yard? Well, fear not, for these mini mounds are made by digger bees who are excellent, yet ephemeral, early-spring pollinators.

These solitary ground-nesters are native to our area and only appear for four to six weeks to raise their offspring. Although they do not produce honey, they resemble honey bees in size and shape. They also do not sting and would only bite if they were handled roughly.

Female digger bees build their nests close together, creating clusters of many small mounds. Photo by Molly Jameson.

Otherwise known as miner bees, females create their underground cylinder-shaped nests in dry, well-drained soils, often right next to each other, creating patches of many mounds in a small area.

These bees will pollinate many early-spring blooming flowers – a bonus for gardeners – as they collect pollen to add to each cell that they excavate. They then lay their eggs on these pollen masses, cap the cells with clay, and complete their life cycles. The eggs hatch about five days later and emerge from the chamber created by their mothers.

While digger bee mounds may detract from an otherwise tidy lawn, they will do no harm, and can actually be beneficial, in that they improve air, water, and nutrient percolation. If you feel you must discourage their presence, simply run a sprinkler over the area as their season approaches. They prefer dry soil rather than wet soil and will look elsewhere to build their nests.

But better yet, take a seat on your front or back porch, pour yourself some lemonade, and take in the soothing hums of their wings as they do their work.