Bees are some of the most important pollinators in nature. These industrious insects work tirelessly to harvest nectar and pollen and crank out honey in order to feed the next generation of bees, repeating the cycle year in and year out.
But unlike honey bees which typically nest above ground and in out-of-the-way places, ground bees, of which there are thousands and thousands of species, usually live in the ground as the name suggests.
Sometimes they live right under the surface, other times they dig deep, but in all cases, they’ll leave unsightly holes in your yard, hurt your grass, and light you up when you inadvertently come too close to their holes.
Much of the time, the best way to deal with ground bees is just to kill them before things get out of hand. I’ve got some pretty good methods of extermination to share with you today, and I’ll tell you about them below…
Solitary vs. Communal Bees: Know the Difference
Before we go any further, there are some important distinctions concerning our ground bees that you need to know about before you get after them! Messing this part up could leave you covered with painful welts.
Understand that not all species of ground bees are communal. “Communal” meaning they build a hive together and work together for the good of the colony. In fact, most ground bees are solitary even if they happen to build near other bees.
Common solitary ground bees in North America include the Alkali bee, Mining bee and Digger bee. Bumblebees are common, large, fuzzy ground bees that live in large colonies.
If you know you’re dealing with a solitary bee, you might only have to worry about a few bees being in the area that will affect your intervention.
On the other hand, you’ve got to take special preparations if you’re dealing with communal bees because if you mess with one you mess with all of them: a beehive can contain many hundreds or thousands of individual bees.
Bees which will, I warn you, come boiling out when you get too close and start messing with the entrance to the hive. Observe carefully before you get in over your head!
Caution: Yellow Jackets Are Not Bees!
One last thing: what many people call ground bees are actually yellow jackets. This is because the common yellow jacket tends to nest in the ground and under surface obstacles like paver stones or cracks in your driveway.
Yes, you can use the same methods for tackling yellow jackets that you can for true bees, but know that yellow jackets are far more aggressive, typically more numerous and are much, much quicker to go into a murderous frenzy. Try to positively ID them if you can before you proceed!
For a Few Solitary Bees, a Bug Zapper Can Work
If you’re just dealing with a handful of ground bees in your yard, and you don’t want to get into the spreading of any harmful chemicals or potentially risky DIY solutions, just get a bug zapper and set it out there reasonably close to the entrance of their nest.
Bees, including all ground bees, like most insects will happily fly into a bug zapper, drawn by the glow of the machine. This, of course, means a sudden and spectacular death that you can hear, and given just a short period of time this can easily depopulate any ground bees from the lawn.
But, of course, it will kill all other insects too including helpful ones, so you don’t want to leave this thing running any longer than you have to.
Try All-Natural Bee Repellents
Believe it or not, it is possible to get rid of the bees without killing them in some cases. I know, we’re talking about extermination in this article, but I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention it because it can prove just as effective as anything else I’m going to tell you.
For starters, cinnamon powder has proved surprisingly effective at irritating bees and getting them to evacuate. Taking common cinnamon powder from your pantry and sprinkling it generously directly into the entrance of the bees nest might prove sufficient in relocating it.
However, this strategy is only truly effective on solitary bees, not communal ones, and I wouldn’t risk aggravating a hive in any case unless I was going lethal.
But so long as you only have a handful of bees to deal with, this is a completely safe and ultimately harmless method. Note that everything I’m going to tell you after this point will certainly kill the little buggers.
Strong Vinegar Solutions Can Kill Bees
Believe it or not, you might not eat anything stronger than vinegar to kill off ground bees. Vinegar is intensely acidic and this can directly harm these and also kill them slowly over time by breaking down the waxy coating on their exoskeleton which keeps them safe and hydrated.
If you want to try this method, simply grab the strongest vinegar you have out of your pantry and mix it in a one-to-one ratio with water before loading it into a handheld spray bottle.
Spray the bee hole directly and soak it down thoroughly, and if you see the bee, spray it directly too.
Note that this does not kill instantly, although it kills with high efficacy and the bees should be toast in just a little while.
Like some other methods on this list, it has the advantage of not being overtly toxic to people and other animals, and there is no risk of harming other insects that don’t come into direct contact with it.
Water and Dish Soap Can Also Work
Here’s another pest control method for ground bees you can whip up quickly and easily in your own kitchen right this moment. A solution of water and dish soap turns out to be a surprisingly effective if slow-acting insecticide.
That’s because the grease-cutting power of most dish soaps will make short work of that aforementioned waxy coating, called the cuticle, that coats the exoskeleton of all insects, including ground bees.
Deprived of this waxy coating, their exoskeleton will start to suffer damage and also the innards of the insect will start to lose moisture, desiccating them. Before too long, the poor bee will dehydrate and die.
Use this the same as you would at the vinegar solution, soaking the entrance to the bees nest and also hitting the bee directly if you can. Warning: this will not kill instantly, so if you try to use this on a nest of communal bees it probably isn’t going to work out too well.
Dry Ice Can Suffocate Whole Colonies
An interesting and elegant solution when it comes time to kill a nest of ground bees, dry ice works on the principle of suffocation. Yes, bees really do breathe the same air that we do and deprived of air they will suffocate and die. That’s why this method is so effective, but you’ll need to do a little bit of advance work to make use of it.
For starters, you need to make sure that there is no alternate entrance to the hive. They’re usually isn’t, but pay attention and look closely to see if you notice bees entering or exiting from anywhere else.
Assuming they aren’t, act quickly to block up the area immediately around the entrance with plastic wrap or a folded towel before setting a block of dry ice on top, directly over the opening.
As the dry ice evaporates and turns back into carbon dioxide gas, it will sink all the way down into the hive and completely permeate the atmosphere; that is because carbon dioxide is heavier than air and sinks.
In just a little while, this will suffocate every single bee inside. Once the block is gone, you shouldn’t notice any activity.
Try Insecticide Dust at the Entrance
Sometimes you just don’t want to mess around with improvising solutions.
Assuming you don’t mind working with potentially harmful chemicals, and ones that will kill other insects indiscriminately, you can use purpose-designed insecticide dust to start reducing the numbers of a hive and eventually eliminate it.
It also works wonderfully on individual, solitary bees…
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You can get these powdered insecticides yourself from hardware stores, from pest control suppliers, and online. Demon WP is a great product that I have used many times with success on bees and wasps. Make sure you read the instructions for yourself and apply as directed.
Keep in mind that many of these products don’t kill instantly like sprays do, so you should be prepared to set it and then withdraw to a safe distance.
Another insidious, slow-acting, and highly effective insecticide, and this time an all all-natural one, diatomaceous earth is another powder that will kill ground bees, but it kills more slowly than the insecticide dust we just discussed.
Long story short, diatomaceous earth (or DE as it is commonly abbreviated) is basically the ground-up shells of ancient crustaceans called diatoms. This stuff is incredibly hard and will easily lacerate the exoskeleton and softer tissues of all insects, causing them to desiccate as before.
You probably already know what to do now: sprinkle a copious amount all over, in and around the hole, and then give it time. It also works well against hives by slowly depopulating them. It will kill other insects too, but it’s essentially harmless to people and pets.
Use a Shop-Vac to Suck Them Out
If you’re dealing with a hive that has only one known way in and out, one of the cleverest methods for getting rid of the bees is to use a Shop-Vac to suck them out.
There’s a little bit of technique to this, but it is a method that has been used by certain exterminators time and time again with success.
All you need to do is get close to the hole, turn on the vac, and then hold the nozzle just off to the side of the entrance, perpendicular to it.
When the bees fly out to investigate (and attack whoever is nearby) they will get sucked into the powerful airstream and knocked to pieces as they pass through the vacuum. No chemicals, no poisons, no problem.
Here’s a video showing how they removed some bees from an old house they were looking to renovate:
The only issue with this is that you must be nearby for it to work unless you’re going to rig something up to keep the vacuum nozzle in place.
I highly recommend you have an effective bee suit if you’re going to attempt this method, otherwise you should expect to pay the price.
And keep in mind that some bees will necessarily be out of the hive foraging and they won’t be happy when they return from their trip to find you crouching over the entrance to their home…
Borax Can Kill Bees Over Time
Borax, nothing more than boric acid, is another effective insect killer and it can be sprinkled just like the other powder products we’ve talked about previously…
Spread it around and directly in the entrance to the nest, whether it is a solitary bee or a communal hive, and then leave it alone.
It will take quite a while to get to all the bees, degrade them, and eventually kill them but it’s a great way to do so with low environmental impact and low overall risk. Apply at night and you can just walk away.
Also, you can mix up a solution of borax and water to use it in liquid form and it will have the same results. If you’re going to go this route, I highly recommend you soak the entrance to the nest at night when you can expect all of the bees to be inside.
Boiling Water is Instant Death
Probably the most hardcore method on this list, and the one that’s potentially the most dangerous for you, is to hit the nest with a large quantity of boiling water.
For starters, ground bees hate water and will flee from any area that gets soaked. Note that all species only build in dry ground. But the more important and immediate issue for them is that the extreme temperature of boiling water will kill them instantaneously.
The obvious challenge with this method is the logistics: are you going to boil the water inside and then bring it out? Are you going to boil it outside on a grill or electric burner? What will you carry it in?
Also, keep in mind you’re handling a large quantity of boiling water so any mishap, any splash, could see you severely burned. Well, burned and then probably stung to add insult to injury. Or stung and then burned ‘cause you flinched. You see where I am going…
Wasp and Bee Foam is a Near-Instant Killer
Sometimes just need to go back to basics, and the basics of killing ground bees is to use a foaming bee or wasp killer like a normal person.
These foaming sprays, typically formulated with pyrethrin, are almost instantly effective at preventing bees from flying and then paralyzing them in a matter of seconds. Death follows very shortly thereafter…
One good shot of this is all you’ll need to take out a solitary bee, and a few strategic applications can start soaking into a nest while blocking the entrance, preventing bees from getting in or out. Returning bees that bump into the toxic foam will be paralyzed in kind.
Really the only downside to this method is the expense of the product is the fact that it’s a multi-purpose, wide-spectrum pesticide that has some decidedly negative health effects on mammals. But used cautiously, hardly anything works better or quicker.
Tom has lived and worked on farms and homesteads from the Carolinas to Kentucky and beyond. He is passionate about helping people prepare for tough times by embracing lifestyles of self-sufficiency.