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Anthophora urbana

Q: I have found several small bees hovering in my lawn. I wonder if I should be concerned?

Q:  I have found several small bees hovering in my lawn.  They are white and black so I know they are not yellow jackets.  They don’t seem to be aggressive but I wonder if I should be concerned?
A:   You know how much I enjoy seeing insects and this one was particularly interesting as they were the first I had seen since I have began working in Nassau County 5 years ago.  These insects are probably one of the andrenid bees, most likely a male, Anthophora urbana .  These bees are solitary, ground-nesting insects.  The bees nest in the ground in cylindrical tunnels dug by the females. A large group of bees frequently nests in a small area where the grass or ground cover is thin. Entrance to the tunnels is marked with small piles of soil. The opening to the nest will be approximately as small as the diameter of a pencil to the size of your index finger.  It seems strange to call them solitary when they build large nests in one area but the solitary connotation means each female does her own work to provide a nest cell with nectar and pollen as a food for her offspring. Several females may cooperate to use a common entrance tunnel and corridor. The bees are about 1/4 to 1/2 inch long and variable in color (mostly dark, but some with markings of white, yellow or reddish brown). The ones you brought me were covered with fine, white hair and the stripes on the abdomen were also white.  These beautiful creatures are not a serious pest and therefore chemical treatment is unnecessary unless they are in a high traffic area for child’s play. The entrances to the tunnels may be disruptive to the lawn but not usually damaging. It appears the grass is thin because of the bees, but it is more likely the bees are in the area because the grass was already thin. The threat of being stung by these insects is usually highly overrated. The bees are docile and not likely to sting unless handled or threatened.  I released yours in the Nassau County Extension Demonstration garden hoping they might decide to stay – unfortunately, they quickly flew away.  I suspect they were so glad to be out of their class prison, they did not take time to stop and visit the flowers.  If the grass in your yard is thin, you might need to talk to me about how to care for your lawn grass.