The Q&A Archives: Nesting Bees

Question: While digging in my future perennial border at my new home, I found that, much to my surprize, baby bumblebees or yellow jackets have nested in my soil or the soil and leaf mixture I put onto the ground last fall. How do I get rid of them? How do I find out how big the nest is? Do I have to kill them in order to use the land for my garden?

Answer: It's not unusual for ground-nesting yellow jackets to take over an area, especially if the ground is reasonably dry and there is (or has been) some vegetation to provide protection from the elements. Discovering how large the nest is would be impossible without digging it up, which might have some dire consequences! Even though wasps and yellow jackets are considered beneficial insects, misplaced nests can make gardening a real horror. If you want to use the area for gardening, you'll probably have to destroy the nest. The easiest, and least toxic way of getting rid of ground-nesting wasps and yellow jackets is to find the entrance hole and place a clear glass bowl over the opening. Do this in the evening after the sun has set so that all member of the nest are at home. In the morning, as they try to leave, they will be trapped by the glass. The insects will not dig an exit hole. In a few days (or even a week) the group will run out of food and water and will perish. Remove the bowl when you no longer see activity.

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