I was asked what can be done to move mining bees, that are nesting in the ground. It was the first time I had been asked this question – my general advice is to leave them alone (after all, they are pretty harmless), but what if this is not practical?
Here is a genuine query I received. I responded, giving a couple of options, upon which the lady made her decision about what to do, and provided a little more information. I think she made the right decision.
Thank you to Sophie for allowing me to publish this in order to help visitors with similar queries.
Thank you for your email, and for caring about the bees, by wanting to save them! :)
The truth is, I have no experience of relocating ground-nesting solitary bees,
and yours is the first case where some-one has specifically asked me!
That said, I am sure there will be others who have the same question.
Anyway, although I have never relocated mining bees, if I were in your position, and unable to leave them in situ, these are my thoughts and I would do the following:
- Can you see the entrances of the burrows into the nests? As long as the bees have access to all of their tunnels, they will probably be okay, if what you are going to do is simply lay the weed membrane over the top of the ground. If you are planning to cover the entrances of the tunnels, or dig before adding the membrane, this will disturb the bees.
- If you have to dig and relocate the bees, act now - to give the bees chance to recover and if necessary, to resettle elsewhere.
- Mining bees may dig burrows fairly deep, and if they are left in place, the bees may try to repair damage to the tunnels. This is the main problem, I think. I would be tempted to try to relocate lumps of ground, otherwise they may waste their efforts by attempting to remain in their current nest. Identify a suitable alternative spot in the garden where you can relocate lumps of ground containing bee nest. If possible, perhaps you can replicate as close as possible, the conditions they are currently in? Try to remove ground containing the nest, by using a decent spade to slice downward. Keep a wheel barrow on hand to transport the lumps of ground from one area to the other. As I said, the nest may be rather deep, and you probably will not be able to move all of it, but to leave them where they are, may mean they simply try to repair the nest.
- An alternative is to gently fork the area over, and keep doing this over several days - the idea is disturbance. This may or may not be a better option than the one above, and it will need a bit of time and observation. Gently fork over the ground to disturb the bees. The next day, repeat, then repeat again the following day, and keep going outside to check the area to see whether there are any bees around. The idea is that you disturb the nest so often, that they get the message and move on, but I'm not sure how long this will take. If they still remain active, try moving soil.
It's a tricky situation, and others may have other ideas as to the best course of action. I'd really appreciate your feedback as to how it goes - and any pics if you have. It would be great to pass on the learnings to other readers.
Sophie then replied:
Sophie, in view of the situation you describe, I think that's the best
By 'other patch of soil' - do you mean the part where the bees are nesting? Some bees really do need a fairly plain bit, or bare bit of soil to nest in, so it would be best to leave as is.
If you are needing help with bees, please see this link for what to do in a variety of different scenarios.
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