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Do honeybees ever nest in raised garden beds?

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mishmish

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This is a question for the beekeepers: I had built a hugelkultur raised garden bed: lots of logs at the bottom of the raised beds walled with cement blocks and covered with compost/soil/cardboard/etc. Long story short, last summer I removed the blocks and now am digging the soil away, to enrich other parts of the garden. I noticed some bees coming and going through a hole in the lower side of one of the remaining beds. I've been working within a few yards of their hive but they have left me alone and zipped right past me as I was trying to observe them. I have read that ground dwelling bees are usually solitary but this has a lot of traffic through the one hole.

They seem unusually pacific to be yellow jackets, but my DH thinks that's what they are because their nest is in the ground. I made a yellow jacket trap according to instructions on the internet: a pan of soapy water with a board laying across the top an inch or two above the level of the water. Smear cat food on the underside of the board. The idea is that yellow jackets wil be attracted to the strong meat smell, load up on the goodies and then as they take off they drop down and hit the water and drown. I made two of these improvised traps and left them out for a few hours near the hive opening. There was zero interest on the part of the bees - I caught two flies and some animal must have discovered it and knocked the boards off and licked up all the cat food as soon as the sun went down! I'm going to try it again tomorrow and may answer my own question if the traps fill up.

So, my question us, do honeybees ever make their hive in a place like I described? It's not really underground, but it's definitely a dense pile of dirt and roots covering a lot of logs in varying states of decay. I would love to have honeybees in my garden, I welcome miners and carpenters and mason and all the other native bees. But not wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets!

I'll try to get a picture tomorrow.
 

mishmish

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No pictures...but I put the yellow jacket trap out early in the day and all it attracted were flies and ants. So I still don't kow what they are but I'm leaning away from yellow jackets. There's something outside my yard that they are attracted to because they don't hang around. I have bumblebees (actually just one bumblebee) on my jewelweed, other than that I'm not seeing a lot of pollinator action.
 

Obsidian

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Try putting out something sweet, yellow jackets may be after more sweet things this time of year.
Can't you get close enough to see what they are?
 

mishmish

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Try putting out something sweet, yellow jackets may be after more sweet things this time of year.
Can't you get close enough to see what they are?
I'll try again tomorrow: I've got some over ripe banana and I'll try with that as bait. My eyes aren't as sharp as they used to be, even with glasses. They are definitely in the yellow and black stripey family but I can't tell (from a safe distance) if they are fuzzy or smooth.
 

Obsidian

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Bright yellow? Honey bees are more of a honey or light brown with dark brown markings.
 

DeeAnna

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I'm skeptical that you have a colony of honey bees living in decaying wood or soil. Not to say impossible, but it would be really unusual. They don't excavate cavities; they only use cavities that already exist -- hollow trees, attics, uninsulated wall cavities, etc. -- and the cavity needs to be relatively large compared with the cavities needed by wasps.

Older worker bees can be fairly smooth and almost shiny. It's the younger ones that are more fuzzy. And Obsidian is right -- honey bees usually look caramel to brownish -- even brownish-black in the eldest bees. The striping is muted if seen from a bit of a distance.
 

mishmish

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I am afraid you are right, they are not honey bees. So now I'm reading up on how to use a shop vac with some water and soap inside to suck up the yellow jackets as they fly in and out of the entrance. I don't want to use poison in my raised garden bed!
 

mishmish

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I will check that out, thanks. An unexpected benefit of the covid-19 lockdown and not being able to do markets, is that I have a lot more time to work in the garden. If I had dismantled this raised bed when I had intended to last year, the bees wouldn't have gotten a foothold in it.
 

TashaBird

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This is a question for the beekeepers: I had built a hugelkultur raised garden bed: lots of logs at the bottom of the raised beds walled with cement blocks and covered with compost/soil/cardboard/etc. Long story short, last summer I removed the blocks and now am digging the soil away, to enrich other parts of the garden. I noticed some bees coming and going through a hole in the lower side of one of the remaining beds. I've been working within a few yards of their hive but they have left me alone and zipped right past me as I was trying to observe them. I have read that ground dwelling bees are usually solitary but this has a lot of traffic through the one hole.

They seem unusually pacific to be yellow jackets, but my DH thinks that's what they are because their nest is in the ground. I made a yellow jacket trap according to instructions on the internet: a pan of soapy water with a board laying across the top an inch or two above the level of the water. Smear cat food on the underside of the board. The idea is that yellow jackets wil be attracted to the strong meat smell, load up on the goodies and then as they take off they drop down and hit the water and drown. I made two of these improvised traps and left them out for a few hours near the hive opening. There was zero interest on the part of the bees - I caught two flies and some animal must have discovered it and knocked the boards off and licked up all the cat food as soon as the sun went down! I'm going to try it again tomorrow and may answer my own question if the traps fill up.

So, my question us, do honeybees ever make their hive in a place like I described? It's not really underground, but it's definitely a dense pile of dirt and roots covering a lot of logs in varying states of decay. I would love to have honeybees in my garden, I welcome miners and carpenters and mason and all the other native bees. But not wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets!

I'll try to get a picture tomorrow.
Sounds like maybe wood bees?
 
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This is a question for the beekeepers: I had built a hugelkultur raised garden bed: lots of logs at the bottom of the raised beds walled with cement blocks and covered with compost/soil/cardboard/etc. Long story short, last summer I removed the blocks and now am digging the soil away, to enrich other parts of the garden. I noticed some bees coming and going through a hole in the lower side of one of the remaining beds. I've been working within a few yards of their hive but they have left me alone and zipped right past me as I was trying to observe them. I have read that ground dwelling bees are usually solitary but this has a lot of traffic through the one hole.

They seem unusually pacific to be yellow jackets, but my DH thinks that's what they are because their nest is in the ground. I made a yellow jacket trap according to instructions on the internet: a pan of soapy water with a board laying across the top an inch or two above the level of the water. Smear cat food on the underside of the board. The idea is that yellow jackets wil be attracted to the strong meat smell, load up on the goodies and then as they take off they drop down and hit the water and drown. I made two of these improvised traps and left them out for a few hours near the hive opening. There was zero interest on the part of the bees - I caught two flies and some animal must have discovered it and knocked the boards off and licked up all the cat food as soon as the sun went down! I'm going to try it again tomorrow and may answer my own question if the traps fill up.

So, my question us, do honeybees ever make their hive in a place like I described? It's not really underground, but it's definitely a dense pile of dirt and roots covering a lot of logs in varying states of decay. I would love to have honeybees in my garden, I welcome miners and carpenters and mason and all the other native bees. But not wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets!

I'll try to get a picture tomorrow.
If you are sure these are bees, they are probably carpenter bees. It would be very unusual for yellowjackets not to sting you if you are working close to them. Carpenter bees can be eliminated by using a desiccant in a little bellows. You should be able to find their perfect little hole that they drilled. If yellowjackets or ground wasps, you need some sort of insecticide or maybe boiling water.
 
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I am afraid you are right, they are not honey bees. So now I'm reading up on how to use a shop vac with some water and soap inside to suck up the yellow jackets as they fly in and out of the entrance. I don't want to use poison in my raised garden bed!
If these are wasps, you are probably going to get stung badly. I was weeding a flower bed and stumbled upon a ground wasp nest and was stung twice on my foot (three weeks before my first marathon). My foot was swollen so bad I could not wear shoes for several days.
 

DeeAnna

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We sometimes get ground-nesting bumblebee or wasp colonies in or around our horse/hay barn. If I'm forgetful enough to leave a tarp on the ground in the barn during summer, these insects love to build nests inside the tarp or between the tarp and the ground. Or they find some other cavity under a fallen board, under some hay bales, or whatever to set up housekeeping.

I try to have a "live and let live" attitude about all the wild critters that share our little farm, but ground bees and wasps simply aren't welcome around the barn or near the house. They're aggressive enough that a person, dog, or horse will be attacked and stung just by walking innocently by their colony. For example, a ground wasp colony got established last summer in the ground about 10-15 feet from the horse waterer and harassed the horses enough that my ponies were scared to drink.

These insects can and will sting multiple times, unlike a honey bee. It's nearly impossible to safely eradicate these nests without wearing my beekeeping suit, so I suit up with rubber gloves (not my normal beekeeping gloves for the safety of my bees), pull out the tarp or remove the board or otherwise destroy the nest cavity, and then use insecticidal spray. They are welcome to nest in the woods or out in the pastures, but not near the barn or house!
 

Obsidian

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When I was a kid, my cousin and I walked over a underground yellow jacket nest in the woods. He got stung more then I did since he just stood their and cried while I ran for the house.

Gramma threw us in the shower to get all the wasps off, I remember seeing dozens of stings on my cousins back. I think I managed to get away with just a few.
I've hated the things since and developed allergies when I was older.
 

decisions

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They wouldn't be honey bees - they prefer to be several feet off of the ground. I hope you are safely able to get rid of them!
 

cedarstar

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I had yellow jackets in my flower bed and found out the hard way by getting stung twice in a row, once on the ankle and on my finger through my gloves. I researched what to do. First I totally saturated the flower bed. The water brought them to the top and I knew where the nest was. Then I took some old rancid, shredded, what I was useless lard soap and covered the whole area and watered more. I have seen one of those evil stingers since and was able to safely finish weeding and plant my flowers. :p
 

mishmish

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Did the soap harm the soil? Were you able to grow things there afterwards? That's my concern: I want to be able to use the soil.
 

cedarstar

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Did the soap harm the soil? Were you able to grow things there afterwards? That's my concern: I want to be able to use the soil.
The soap doesn't harm the soil. My flowers are doing great. I grow flowers to use dry and infuse in oil so I needed to find a more natural product to remove those stinging beasts. Lol. I did quite a bit of searching online before choosing the soap. It was a good use for soap I was going to toss. They also say spreading soap in the garden/flower bed will keep a lot of critters away
 

mishmish

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So I've been watching YouTube videos of getting rid of yellow jackets with soap and water...I wish these little buggers had built their nest in the ground so gravity would carry the soap to where it needs to go...it's in the exposed side of a raised bed, just above ground level, but sideways. The videos recommend doing it at night when the bees are quiet, and possibly putting a screen over the opening so they can't get out. I don't think that pouring water onto the bed is going to do much because the raised bed is about 2' high. It will have to go into the hole...maybe I could insert a hose into the hole at night and then run and turn the water on, maybe after pouring a bottle of dish detergent down the hose. Meanwhile, they are living their best life. Do they use the same nest year after year? Will they just go away? Ever?
 
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