This is a very large family of bees, with over 1,200 species in North America. Most are small to medium sized and most nest in burrows in the soil, the female digging a vertical tunnel with small chambers off to the side of it. There often will be many females actively digging in one area, and the sight of hundreds of little bees swirling around over the surface may frighten homeowners. However, while the females may be “capable” of inflicting a very minor sting, these are solitary bees and the threat of stinging is extremely low. It often will be the stingless males that are seen flying around so rapidly over the soil. The females gather nectar and pollen as a food supply in each cell where an individual larva will develop. These bees are extremely important pollinators, often of agricultural crops.
These beneficial bees should never be killed. Even when present in residential yards or child play areas the likelihood of stinging is exceptionally low, and the benefits of the bees outweigh any threat. Where a customer considers the presence of the working adult bees intolerable the soil can be covered during the period they are active. Pesticide applications are not warranted or particularly effective.