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Leave them bee: The mining bees are out and about, but they’re harmless to humans

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Leave them bee: The mining bees are out and about, but they’re harmless to humans

Mining bees are buzzing, but they aren't a threat to humans. Photo provided by Peter Helfrich

By Lucas Hill, contributor 

Decatur, GA — Mining bees have begun to emerge in and around Decatur and other nearby parts of Georgia, prompting many to believe that spring has arrived early.

Unlike most bee species, mining bees do not live in hives. Instead, they make their homes in the ground, burrowing beneath the dirt in mounds of soil that can easily be mistaken for ant hills. Mining bees are native to Georgia and are usually active for a few weeks at the beginning of every spring.

Similar to carpenter bees, mining bees are harmless to humans. The males tend to fly low to the ground, searching for their female mates and spreading pollen along the way. Mining bees are non-aggressive and do not sting, and there is no need to take measures against them to oust them from personal yards or any public spots.

“As solitary bees, mining bees are shy and non-defensive of their nest sites,” said Peter Helfrich, chairperson of Bee City USA: Decatur. “Bees feed on pollen and nectar and are covered in hair to aid in pollen collection. As wasps, yellowjackets are predators and feed on other insects, and thus lack obvious hair for pollen collection…Yellowjackets give a lot of other bees and wasps an undeserved bad reputation. Most bees will never bother you.”

Many mining bee dens have recently been sighted outside of Decatur High School. Bee City USA: Decatur reached out to the school’s principal and administrative staff as well as the city manager, to ensure that the bees will be left unharmed.

“I was gratified that the high school’s acting principal included the information I supplied as part of his weekly email update to parents…I’m thankful the school administration helped to spread the word about the mining bees,” Helfrich said.

The appearance of the bees in late February comes hand-in-hand with the warmer temperatures that have crept in recently, as well as with the traces of pollen that have already begun to appear. According to Helfrich, the bees have all seemed to appear at the same time, resulting in an unusually large number of them flying out and about Decatur. Aggregates of mining bee dens such as the one outside Decatur High School are a common sighting in Georgia this March.

Bee City USA: Decatur features a list of tips for maintaining a bee-friendly yard on their website: 

— Avoid pesticides and sprays

— Leave patches of bare earth

— Leave fallen logs and hollow stems for nesting habitats

— Plant native, perennial plants to provide blooms across all seasons

— Provide a water source for the bees to drink from

The mining bees will only remain active in Georgia for the next few weeks and then, they will go dormant once more, until next year’s spring when they reemerge for the 2024 pollinating season.

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