Ground Bees

martin2525October 13, 2007

I have a very large and aggressive nest of ground bees at the edge of my 1800 gal. pond. I want to avoid pesticides for obvious reasons but need some effective suggestions for eliminating this problem so I can begin winterizing my pond. i can't get near it now without being attacked!

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How close to your pond? My daddy, many many moons ago..would take a long pole, like maybe a real sturdy fishing pole, tie a rag on it, dip it in kerosene or charcoal lighter fluid, light it and stick it to the hive. Only takes a minute, but don't spill the lighter fluid in the pond and don't burn anything else. But get ready, there is fixing to be an uproar about killing innocent beings..... Glenda

    Bookmark   October 13, 2007 at 1:25PM
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Hi Glenda,

Thanks for the response. The nest is just inches from the water line, right under the stone edging around the pond. I don't want to take any chances with chemicals which could leech over the liner and harm my fish, I have 6 beautiful Koi @ 26-30 inches long. These bees are nastier than an ex mother-in-law so whatever I do, I only want to do it once!

    Bookmark   October 13, 2007 at 3:04PM
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I think night time is best to try to eradicate them since in the daytime some will be out of the nest working and gathering food. Another thing you might could try is throw a big pot of boiling water on them. I've never had an ex mother-in-law, but I have been one. Actually twice, the fist one I was pretty nice, the second one I as well as several more people would have shot if had been given the chance. Glenda

    Bookmark   October 13, 2007 at 4:25PM
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Once I remove my foot from my mouth I'll probably go out and try to stomp the bees to death. In the meantime I'll try the boiling water. Thanks for the suggestion.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2007 at 8:34PM
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I just want you to know your last post is "priceless". I can't remember when I have laughed so hard. Thanks. Glenda

    Bookmark   October 13, 2007 at 11:13PM
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sleeplessinftwayne(z4-5 IND)

I absolutely refuse to have any comments about ex anything except bee hives.
You do have a problem since the only thing that reliably gets rid of the ground bees is deadly to aquatic animals. I get my information from publications from the Purdue Extension Service. The bees may have been attracted by the shelter of those rocks over disturbed soil and the close access to a water source. The only thing I can think of doing in this case is to cover the area with some sort of enclosure that can be sealed off so there is no drift over the pond. A wooden case would work much better (safer) than cardboard. The main thing is to get all the bees at the same time. After you finish winterizing the pond and the bees are dead, you should dig up and dispose of all the contaminated soil and the hive since it could collapse or attract critters like raccoons. Don't be surprised if the hive is right up against the liner. Fill the hole in with soil and compact it as much as possible. Be really careful that none of the contaminated soil gets in the pond. Good luck. Sandy

    Bookmark   October 14, 2007 at 12:23AM
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railheadwitz(z5 Il.)

These are more than likely yellow jackets which can sting repeatedly.
Buy a can of wasp and hornet killer. Go out well after dark with a flashlight, find the hole and spray at least half the can into the hole being careful not to get any in your pond. You can use a large piece of cardboard to place between where you're spraying and the pond. Then take a small stone and plug the hole.
That should take care of them.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2007 at 1:59AM
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ccoombs1(7B SC)

I like the idea of spraying bug spray directly in the hole at night. Only instead of sealing it with a stone, I'd squirt some great-stuff foam in the hole. In fact, filling the hole with great-stuff might take care of them without the insect spray. That stuff sticks to whatever it touches so even if they tried to fly up against the plug, they would get so gunked up they would never survive.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2007 at 10:08AM
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Thanks for the great ideas. This was my first post on this site and the suggestions were very helpful. Last time I went near the pond I was swarmed by those xxxx bees. They got into my hair and my clothes and I was stung 16 times. I've never seen anything like it. Im gonna try the water tonight, I'm still afraid of chemicals so close to the pond.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2007 at 3:39PM
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chazparas(USDA zone 9 , San Jose, CA)

If they are yellow jacket wasps be careful!!! they will more than likely have an alternate exit from the nest!!! They shouldn't fly at night but will crawl out and surprise you from the other exits! They'll most likely die off after the first freeze if you can wait it out. But if they are nesting up against the liner, it's not going to freeze the nest until the water itself stops warming it! you'll have to wait a bit longer.
Personally, if they are yellow jackets, I'd hire a professional, at this time of year there can be hundreds of them in the nest.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2007 at 11:33AM
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ccoombs1(7B SC)

maybe a good way to find out if there are alternate exits is to block the one exit at night and leave them alone. Watch them the next day from a distance and locate the second exit.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2007 at 11:56AM
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sleeplessinftwayne(z4-5 IND)

And just a few years ago I had difficulty convincing anyone there was such a thing a ground dwelling bee. There are an amazing number of ground bees and related insects. Some of the suggestions here are good and some are hazardous although they might work. I have a tendency to go with one of the many publications that are put out by the Cooperative Extension Services since they have by far the greatest resources for problems like this and THEY ALL AGREE ON THE MOST EFFECTIVE SOLUTION. All of them suggest the use of Carbaryl or Sevin in one of it's many forms. Not only is it very effective in killing the insect, it has a very short residual time which means that it doesn't hang around to contaminate the pond if the area is disturbed later. This is an important issue since all of the pesticides that are effective against bees are also deadly to aquatic life.
Your situation is unique in the colony is right up to the pond edge and you need to act soon so you can winterize the pond. To protect the pond it is necessary to prevent drift. A barracade can be set up to isolate the area to be treated. This can be a large coffee can with both ends cut out set over the entrance. This would allow all the bees to be inside the nest when night falls and you can safely approach. Restrict the application to the area enclosed by the coffee can. Twenty four hours later you can water the interior of the can and the residue will enter the soil where it will be safely broken down and is no longer a threat to the pond. Carbaryl is a contact poison and it needs to be carried into the nest to be effective. Bees going into the hive carry the dust inside to poison the queen(s) who would otherwise live to reestablish the hive next spring.
If you are concerned about poisoning the pond you may have to wait until after the first killing frost which will kill the bees naturally although the queen(s)will survive for next year. The queens usually do not sting. The nest will not be reused and you should locate new nests and treat them early next spring to avoid the problem reccuring. Sandy

    Bookmark   October 15, 2007 at 2:38PM
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Wow Sandy, you really know your stuff! Thank you for the info. I was going to use water last night but now I'm glad I waited. I will try the coffee can and sevin. I hope the little buggers suffer as much as I did from their stings! At this point I'm a little gun shy of going near their nest and not ashamed to admit it but until they're gone I can't work on my pond. I'll get the sevin tomorrow and will let you know how it works out. Thanks again.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2007 at 7:32PM
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chazparas(USDA zone 9 , San Jose, CA)

Good Luck Martin! You're much braver than I! definitely not a do it yourself for me! Sandy, great info. I've got many different kinds of ground dwelling bees here, they mostly swarm around and try to scare you off, but ground dwelling yellow jacks are much more aggressive and prone to stinging! Sounds like what you've got Martin.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2007 at 10:51PM
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sleeplessinftwayne(z4-5 IND)

LOL! Thank you, thank you, bows all around. I owe what I know to the many thousands of publications the Cooperative Extension makes available. I am one of the many volunteers who man the telephone lines to answer questions from the public reguarding mostly garden related subjects. Bee questions are common and I have had to do more than a little research myself to find the correct response to the particular situation.
I had a cousin die from stings from a swarm nesting in a cornfield and I have shown an allergy to the sting myself so I have learned to use extreme caution. When one lands on me I freeze and let it wander anywhere it wants to go. If I move very slowly and calmly, I can get to a place where there is something more enticing than me. I never go barefoot. Sandy

    Bookmark   October 16, 2007 at 12:13AM
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"I had a cousin die from stings from a swarm nesting in a cornfield..."

I hope Martin doesn't check this thread before going out there today.... :D


    Bookmark   October 16, 2007 at 9:06AM
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zinniachick(southwest Ohio)

This from "You Bet Your Garden"

"Bees" Nesting in the Ground? Wasp OutÂÂthey might be Yellowjackets!

Q. Mike: We have vegetables growing in an above ground garden made of logs. About six inches from one of the plants is the entrance to an underground bee's nest. Is there something I could just pour in there, like vinegar, that would get the bees without poisoning the soil? Thanks,
         ---Gary Herrmann; Bala Cynwyd, PA
I have a yellowjacket nest under a decorative boulder in my front garden. One nailed me above the kneecap last Saturday. It felt like a 4-penny nail was stuck in there. I am against killing any bugs just for convenience sake, but I need to get rid of these pests. They are too darn dangerous. Any suggestions for an organic way to drive them away? Keeping it green...
         ---Rich Beaumont; Haycock Twp, Bucks County, PA
Mike: We have wasp-like insects (about 2" long with striped abdomens) living in perfectly round holes in the ground in our front flowerbeds. They make these piles of dirt that look like sawdust when they dig out their holes. They havenÂt tried to sting us, but they are right around the front door, and I'd love to get rid of them. They have been visiting us every summer for 3-4 years now. I try to fill in the holes in the fall, but no luck so far. Do you have any suggestions? Thank you,
         ---Cindy Lefkowitz; Havertown, PA Â
A. We get a lot of calls this time of year from anxious homeowners about "ground nesting bees". There are two insects with stingers you might notice emerging from holes in your lawn or flowerbed right now, but neither are bees. (The only bees that nest in the ground are gentle pollinators that are only active in the Spring.)
If, like Cindy, the black and yellow insects you see are around two inches long, relax; those are the famous cicada-killing wasps and they have no interest in stinging you. The males donÂt have stingers, and the rarely-seen females often wonÂt even sting when provoked! And besides, their season of dragging giant cicadas into those holes for their young to feed upon is almost done. To prevent their harmless presence NEXT year, keep your ground covered with plants or mulch; they only make their solitary nests in bare soil.
If those insects are under an inch long, however, do NOT relax. Those are yellowjackets, a type of highly aggressive wasp, not a bee. Although technically beneficial because they eat pest insects, yellowjackets are responsible for almost all of the so-called Âbee sting deaths in the United States. They like to sting people, each insect can sting repeatedly, they generally attack in large numbers, and they can bite ya too. They are especially dangerous this time of year. Their nests have gotten HUGE, and the workers are on a constant prowl for food. Â
To keep individual wasps out of your outdoor areas, donÂt leave pet food or human food outside, and keep trash sealed tight. Oh and take it from meÂalways give opened cans of soda a little shake before drinking. Talk about ouch! And if youÂve got a nest in a frequently-used area, it must be destroyed. InsecticidesÂnatural or organicÂarenÂt recommended this late in the season; the nests are so big and intricate that the sprays canÂt reach the inner layers.
The best way IÂve found to destroy a nest is to smother it. Fill a wheelbarrow with a big load of ice (like from a motel ice machineÂits just the right size) and quickly dump it over the hole on a cool evening after the scouts have gone inside for the night. The cold will prevent their attacking you. Then cover the hole and the area around it with a heavy tarp weighted down with bricks, a piece of sheet metal, a big wooden board or other heavy object. Then cover that with soil or wood chips. Or cover the hole with a thick piece of clear plastic, seal the edges tight to the ground, and the nest will cook in the sun once the ice melts. Be sure and pick a cool night when these dangerous wasps will be unable to respond quicklyÂand Âbee carefulÂ!
Traps are the most effective way to capture yellowjackets trying to muscle in on a picnic or other outdoor eventÂand they can also be used to cut the numbers in an underground nest. You can buy ready-made traps at any hardware store or make you own: Just remove the cap from a glass or plastic container, drive a single hole into it with a Phillips-head screwdriver, put a bit of bait in the container, and put the cap back on.
To keep the pests away from your picnic, place the traps on the outskirts of your outdoor area. To reduce the numbers in a nest, place lots of traps near the nest in the cool of the eveningÂwhen the wasps wonÂt be active. Try two different kinds of baitÂput some spoiled ham or smelly pet food in half the traps and some apple juice or a piece of rotting peach in the rest. Some times the pests want sugar, sometimes meat. Either way, theyÂll fly in for the food, but they wonÂt be able to fly out.
Last year, an inventive YBYG listener told us that they had used one of those backyard bug zappers to destroy a nest. The listener simply set the zapper right near the entrance to the nestÂagain, always do this on a cool eveningÂand then turned it on. The aggressive wasps kept flying out trying to sting the zapper and were eventually all electrocuted. FinallyÂa good use for those otherwise useless zappers!
And just this year, weÂve heard from two different YBYG listeners-- Phil Getty from
New Hope, PA and Jim Lauther of Pine Hill, New JerseyÂwho used shop vacs to capture the pests as they flew out of their underground nests. Both attached their longest extension poles to the end of their vacuum hoses, positioned the poles close to the openings, turned the machines on and let them run. Both reported great success. (This is much the same solution the pros use when the pests build a nest in the wall of a house.) If youÂd like to try it, position the hose of your shop vac right near the opening of the nest on a cool evening and then turn it on the next day.
Be sure to leave the vac on for a LONG time; there could be five thousand yellowjackets in a nest this time of year. Be sure to plug the hose right away when youÂre done so they donÂt fly back out and take revenge. Then leave the vac sit in the sun for a few days to kill the occupants.
[Note: I sent an advance copy of this answer to our three Âquestioners and JUST got this response back from one:
"Read the article you sent about using a shop vac, and decided to give it a try. I stuck it on the opening, turned it on and ran away. Let it run for about an hour, then hit some wood near the nest with a hammer to make sure no more bees were in there, and none came out. Two days later, I opened up the shop vac and it was full of former bees. Very coolÂand no poisons near the garden. Thanks very much for the advice; Gary Herrmann."
Thank YOU for the report, Gar!]
Sensational First Aid for ANY Sting!
Get a jar of AdolphÂs meat tenderizer and keep it nearby whenever youÂre outdoors. That way, if you DO get stung by one of these aggressive wasps, you can cure it instantly! Just wet the area, shake some of the AdolphÂs (or any papain/papaya-based meat tenderizer) onto the sting, cover it with a damp napkin or cloth and the same enzymes that break down tough cuts of meat will denature the protein-based venom. ItÂll be like you were never stung!
Of course, if youÂre allergic to Âbee stingsÂ, donÂt go anywhere without your emergency injector this time of year.
You Bet Your Garden  ©2004 Mike McGrath

    Bookmark   October 16, 2007 at 11:04AM
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martin2525 What is going on with your bee problem? Glenda

    Bookmark   October 19, 2007 at 12:56PM
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Hi Glenda,

Still knee deep in bees! I called a pest control company this week and they wouldn't take on the job because the nest is too close to the pond. They suggested that if I use a pesticide dead bees may fall into the pond and harm the fish. Our weather has been hanging around 80 degrees and they are still extremely active. The exterminator suggested I wait a week or two till our first frost which they say will kill off, or at least slow down, many of the little buggers and at that point I should be able to treat them with a minimum of poison.

In the meantime, I used a VERY long pole to slide netting on the frame I use to keep the leaves and debris out of the pond and I'll wait till it's colder to shut everything else down.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2007 at 10:22AM
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You really do have a problem and I feel for you. I know you people further north than I am don't usually like cold weather, I'm hoping you'll get enough to get rid of the bees real soon. Glenda

    Bookmark   October 21, 2007 at 5:23PM
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chickadeedeedee(z 6-7 ish Ohio)

A CO2 fire extinguisher will instantly freeze your yellow jackets. It is non toxic. Got out at night as others have suggested and put the end in the entrance hole and give 'em a blast then cover the entry way and you're done. The CO2 will get in all the nooks and crannies.

I don't think it would harm your liner if the tunnels go underneath. ***To make sure, try a test*** on a piece of liner to make sure it doesn't get so cold that it becomes brittle and cracks. Eeeeeeekkkk!

The CO2 fire extinguisher works well for wasp nests on our home.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2007 at 5:43PM
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sleeplessinftwayne(z4-5 IND)

ROTFLMAO!! Mike McGrath has always come up with sometimes unique solutions that not only would work, they will keep you laughing to the end. Hopefully the end of the bees, etc. rather than you. While I could not recommend most of these solutions as a Master Gardener (we have to be able to site a source) I suspect if you are aware of the hazards and take proper precautions they will do the job. The solution I gave is safe and effective but won't give you that adrenaline rush as you run for cover.
As for the cicada killers, they can inspire fear in anyone who sees them. The first time I saw one, I couldn't believe it was harmless to humans. Those suckers are huge! Don't step on the ones on the ground. Those are the females and they do have stingers and they might nail you by accident.
Covering the entrance is not always effective because there is more than one way in and out of the hive. Sometimes it is a fair distance away from the main entrance and well hidden. This late in the season the hive has already begun preparation for the winter and even if all the other bees are killed by the frost or the ice or CO2, the queen is well protected and will survive to restart the hive in the spring. That is why a contact poison like Sevin is necessary to get to her. It is not instantly deadly as the CO2 so the bees that come in contact with it carry it to the interior of the hive.
Most of those are good solutions for the remainder of this season but the hive will be back next year. One of the reasons I know they will be back is that I shared a greenhouse with a hive of White Faced Hornets for twenty years (without a single sting) and I had ample opportunity to observe them each year. The ground bee's hive is often very large. I know that because a family of raccoons dug one up next to my patio. There was a huge hole in a flower bed and we could see it was very deep in the ground. We later discovered it filled a good part of an abandoned groudhog tunnel. Chunks of honey comb were scattered all over the yard as evidence of the feast. The scattered comb filled two 5 gallon buckets and there was more in the ground. The raccoons fur kept them safe but it was a week before I could walk in the yard without getting buzzed.
Zchick, thank you for finding Mike for me. I have been needing some of his humour and didn't even know it. Sandy

    Bookmark   October 22, 2007 at 12:02AM
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I, too, have a nest of ground dwelling yellowjackets. Well, they are tarp dwelling, really. We left a folded tarp under the deck and part way through the summer noticed that they fly into a fold, so I assume the nest is inside the folded tarp.

Anyway, my idea is to sew a bee-sting proof outfit that totally covers me and just go in there and carry the tarp out into the woods. However, no-one has been able to tell me what the best material would be. I wondered if Tyvek is bee-sting proof. Does anyone know? Any better suggestions?


    Bookmark   October 22, 2007 at 9:16AM
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maryo_nh(z5 SouthernNH)

Beekeepers have outfits that keep them sting-free. You might google that. If I remember well from our beekeeping days, start with very loose fitting clothes, sealed at the ankles and wrists. Then you wear boots. I would probably put my snow pants on with the boots under them. That only leaves your hands and your head. Leather gloves or oven mitts should work, with the wrist cuffs over them; and a wide brimmed hat with gauze over it, or, if there are people in your family that like to go fishing when the mosquitos are out, they might have something like it for you to borrow. Interesting titbit of info - if they don't see your face, supposedly they don't get as mad? Sandy, is this true?

We have a small umbrella-dwelling wasp family... it's not their real home, I think they just spend cold nights in the umbrella folds. Every time I open the umbrella, I pull the rope reeeeeeeeeeeeal slow... No stings yet, obviously these are not aggressive either. They look sort of like yellow jackets, but not as chubby and the yellow lines are very narrow.

Sandy, I'm very impressed you never got stung by the white-faced wasps. I find them more agressive that yellow jackets. We had a nest of white-faced one year behind the shutters above the outside faucet, and it was a very delicate situation. Then DH got chased and stung one day, and, well, that was their last happy day, I'm sorry to admit. Right now, we just discovered when the leaves started to fall of the trees, a beautiful paper wasp nest on a branch right over the path to the compost heap. Probably the source of the only sting this year - it's a coward species, I know this because I got stung in the back when I was leaving! Heehee. We're waiting for a few good frosts, then we take it into the garage to dry completely. One of our DD's is a teacher and she loves to have things like that.

:) Mary

    Bookmark   October 22, 2007 at 10:02AM
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sleeplessinftwayne(z4-5 IND)

Hey there, MaryO. I don't think I ever heard of the angry at the face thing but I have heard they can detect carbon dioxide which would be from your breath. Maybe they are attracted by that. They were able to recognise me even when there were other people around. They would land on me and rest awhile or taste the salt in my sweat but they would fly away from anyone else. I admit it took awhile to adjust my reaction to them but eventually I could have several on my arm at one time. Who knows. Maybe they were training me.
I found the hornets to be facinating and surprisingly intellegent. The greenhouse had a temperature controlled vent and they would be waiting for it to open in the morning and they would make a "bee-line" to it when evening temperatures dropped below that. If the vent did not open soon enough they would come looking for me and circle my head until I responded and opened the vent manually. They kept the greenhouse and plants pest free for me. I kept a shallow dish of water for them and on hot days they needed a continuous drip. Often there were dozens covering the dish. I never figured out how they knew where my fingers were going to grasp a plant but many times they flew away just before my hand closed where they had been. I DO NOT RECCOMMEND THIS TO ANYONE. STINGS CAN MAKE YOU SICK. IT WAS A LONG TIME BEFORE I WAS COMFORTABLE ENOUGH TO ALLOW THEM CONTACT WITH MY SKIN AND I WAS ALWAYS AWARE OF WHERE THEY WERE. Sandy

    Bookmark   October 24, 2007 at 1:09AM
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