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What about miner bees?

Piedmont azalea

Are the azaleas blooming? Then it's miner bee time of year!

We saw a colony of miner bees humming with activity on the banks on Morgan Creek in Chapel Hill last weekend. In the NC piedmont, they emerge for only about 8 weeks each year, using around April and May.

Despite the thousands of bees in this colony, miner bees are actually solitary.

The set up their own nests, but clustered together. Think of miner bees as living in an apartment complex, rather than the group home of honeybees.

Miner bees tend to build nests in bare or sandy soil, and sometimes you see them under decks or porches, or among foundation plants. They may appear as if they are going into your house, but actually duck into their burrows.

Miner bees are smaller than honeybees, and darker, with less yellow than honeybees. We tried to catch a few of these bees zigging and zagging into their burrowed nests. They move super fast, so are hard to catch on camera.

If you have miner bees in your yard, count yourself lucky! They are good pollinators, but do not store honey. They also don't sting, but might bite if you bother one too much. And they are only active for a short period of time each spring, so just give them a bit of time to do their thing. They won't stick around for long.

Hint: To tell the difference between a honeybee and a miner bee: catch one in your fist, without squeezing it to death, but so it can't escape. If you don't get stung, it's probably a miner bee.

Miner bees entering burrow
Miner bee colony along Morgan Creek
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