Solitary Bees of Springtime

by Andrea Laine, EMGV

Say ‘bee’ and many of us think bumble or honey. But at this time of year we are apt to see ground-nesting bees out and about our landscapes, visiting the same early spring flowering plants that a honey bee might pollinate.

Ground-nesting bees are native solitary bees that nest individually in polyester-lined tunnels or burrows at least six inches deep in warm, dry ground. Reflective of this behavior, they are also called mining bees or digging bees. They are more likely to nest in areas with exposed soil and sparse vegetation, not dense turf or mulched beds.

There are many species of bees that nest in the ground and they range in size and color. Pictured here is an adult mining bee. Photo by M. Bertone. 


TBilleisen ground bee damage
Evidence of ground nests can resemble tiny ant hills. Photo by T. Billeisen.

A hospitable patch of ground is likely to house a number of solitary tunnels, thus giving the impression at times of a small swarm of low-flying bees. But these bees are not aggressive as they are not defending a hive (as honeybees and bumblebees would be). And, as is the case with all bees, males cannot sting.

For two to four weeks in mid to late spring, females collect pollen and nectar to bring back to the nest. With it they form a ball in the side of the tunnel. They lay a single egg on the ball and when it hatches, the larva feeds on the pollen and continues to develop until the following spring when it emerges from the ground as an adult bee and goes forth to build a new nest.

Solitary bees are beneficial insects: They pollinate plants and their burrowing behavior is hardly noticeable and does no damage. On the contrary, it helps aerate the soil.


Sources & Further Reading

Matthew Bertone, Plants, Pests and Pathogens, Feb 26, 2019



Learn With Us, week of March 24

Gardening for Newcomers
Sunday, March 24, 3:00 – 4:00 p.m.
4505 S Alston Ave, Durham, NC 27713, USA

Beat the Winter Blues at the Spring Plant Sale

After this chilly, wet winter, who’s ready for spring planting?

The weather finally seems to be looking up, just in time for the Duke Gardens Plant Sale, March 30, 8 am to noon. Durham Master Gardeners have spent the gloomy winter months planting seeds and digging and tending plants to sell at our booth at the sale—in many cases trying to relieve seasonal affective disorder by basking in the fluorescent glow of grow lights!

Our booth this year promises hundreds—literally more than a thousand—unique new and old-fashioned perennials, shrubs, houseplants, and native plants as well as specialty and heirloom vegetables, including tomatoes, hot and sweet peppers, eggplant, lettuces, and herbs.

The Plant Sale is our biggest fundraiser of the year, and funds raised support Cooperative Extension community garden programs and educational events throughout Durham County.

Here are just a few of the unique items we’re offering this year:

  • adorable dish gardens, featuring Hens and Chicks and Jade plants
  • Aleppo pepper seedlings—a popular gourmet spicy pepper from Syria—make your own seasoning mix by drying the peppers and mixing with olive oil and salt
  • Purple Zi Su Perilla or Shisho—an Asian herb that tastes of basil and mint, used to season vinegar and pink rice
  • An amazing assortment of hard-to-find Asian mustards and other Asian vegetables
  • Asclepias tuberosa—orange butterfly weed—a favorite of monarch butterflies
  • Giant Cambodian Green eggplant—a beautiful and exotic green and white Asian import
  • Lime and Japanese citrus trees
  • Baby Paw Paw trees
  • Many varieties of Hellebores
  • Night Blooming Cereus (a succulent with exotic fragrant blooms)—imagine it scenting your porch on a cool summer evening!
  • Many varieties of colorful and unusual Coleus
  • The ever popular Zinnia seedlings
  • And much, much more!

We hope to see you at the plant sale on March 30. If you are a member of Duke Gardens, you can get a head start at the member pre-sale on March 29, 4 to 6 pm.

The Potting Party was a Happening!

Durham Master Gardeners enjoyed a rare sunny day in February for the Spring Potting Party. Volunteers delivered plants from their gardens, and Master Gardeners divided, potted, and labeled the plants. Other volunteers took plants home to babysit until the Plant Sale.

NC Agriculture Awareness Day: March 20

Come celebrate North Carolina’s biggest industry, and help educate NC Legislators and lawmakers of the importance of NC Agriculture and how we can grow stronger together.

Meet elected officials, see ag-related exhibits and celebrate the tremendous contributions agriculture provides to North Carolina and the world.

For more information click here.

The event will occur on March 20th at the Bicentennial Mall and Legislative Complex in downtown Raleigh. Participants will meet at the NC State Fairgrounds and will take a free bus to the event.

To register, click here.



Learn With Us, week of March 16

Mar. 16, 2019 – SPRING VEGETABLES – For Garden’s Sake Nursery – 10-11 am 
For Garden’s Sake Nursery – 9197 NC-751, Durham
SPRING VEGETABLES offers up-to-date information about choosing a garden site, soil testing and amendments, planting guides to include area specific varieties and general care and feeding of a successful vegetable garden. Topics covered will include local frost dates, the benefits of containers or raised beds, critter control, encouraging pollinators, disease management and others. Whether you are new to gardening, new to Durham gardening, or re-starting a garden – this is the information you can use to succeed.

Free/Registration required
To register, email or call 919-484-9759

Mar. 17 th – First Season Gardening by Charles Murphy
3:00 to 4:00 pm
South Regional Library, 4505 S. Alston Avenue, Durham, North Carolina 27713
We have three distinct gardening seasons in our area, with the first beginning in late Feb.-early Mar. This is the time to plant garden peas, radishes, leafy greens and the like, so they will be harvestable by the time for second season plantings (the summer vegetable season).

Classes are free. Registration is required. Register online at the Durham County Library website Click on “Events” to find the full calendar of events. Go to the date of the class and sign up. You can also call the Information Desk at South Regional Library to register: 919-560-7410.

New Plant Picks – Durham Garden Forum
Tuesday, March 19⋅7:00 – 8:30pm
Duke Gardens
420 Anderson St, Durham, NC 27708, USA
Jason is walking horticulture encyclopedia and plant enthusiast. He always seems to have the latest info on new introductions and plants we should use more frequently. Join us to hear about new selections for your garden!
Presented by: Jason Holmes, curator of the Doris Duke Center Gardens, Duke Gardens

Lecture Fee: Forum Members Free with $25.00 Annual Membership
$10.00 fee per class for Non-Members, payable to Durham Garden Forum
No pre-registration necessary. Free parking after 5:00 pm