Moving a ground bee nest

Someone in my neighborhood says they have a “sweat bee” ground nest near their walkway that they want moved. I’d happily relocate them to my yard to avoid killing them if I had any idea of how to go about doing so.

There are some websites that say to lure them away with fruit little by little. I think the neighbor would be willing to do this - she doesn’t mind the bees - just doesn’t want them next to the path. But I can’t imagine a whole nest of bees moving to where the fruit is. I am guessing the fruit luring method is just to attract individual bees away?

My other thought is that we probably only have another month or so before we get a frost. Should I advise her to just wait it out? I was under the impression that they create new nests every year and will probably move on. We had a little nest of a tiny unknown bee ( this was pre-iNat for me) and I thought they would be a mainstay under my stoop, but it was just a one-year thing.

So if it really comes down to moving them by force, does anyone know how I would go about doing so with the fewest casualties?


Where do you live?
Is the nest a single hole in the ground, or is it aggregation of individual nests (small holes)? If the latter, then your neighbour has an aggregation of solitary bees (or social sweat bee nests but their life cycle is often very similar). Individual nesting females fly for a certain time in the season and they die but an aggregation as a whole is perennial - new generations of bees nest in the same place they developed. Moving a whole aggregation is hard to do. If you dig the nests (with the surrounding earth) you can possibly destroy a part of them. Adult bees emerge and quickly begin nesting themselves, and emergence even in one species can take many days, so it would be hard to catch them all and move when they start nesting the next season. And they can very well come back to their natal place if it’s not far away. Why does you neighbour not want them in their path? Maybe they would agree to leave them there if they know that in most cases solitary species (and social sweat bees as well) do not attack in defense of nests (only if they are caught etc)
If there is a single nest with many individuals coming out, it is possible that it’s some social species which can be more or less aggressive around their nest (wasps or bumblebees or whatever you have in your area - although wasps and bumblebees are generally hard to mistake with swet bees so I think it’s less probable). They too would be hard to move but in temperate areas of Europe the colony dies off till autumn and only young queens overwinter. In that case maybe it would be ok for neighbours to, as you say, wait it out.


I am in Pennsylvania (Northeast US). I haven’t seen the bees or the nest yet… I think she is waiting to hear from some company. I’ll try to take a look and see but it’s possible she won’t even get back to me. That seems to happen often.
It sounded like a single nest - but you know how often us inexperienced people can misread a situation!


In Pennsylvania, sweat bees are 5-10 mm long, solitary nesters, and generally can’t or don’t sting. I host dozens of Halictidae in my garden and have yet to find a nest hole. My sense is that your neighbor is seeing something else, maybe sand wasps or longhorn bees. No matter what they are, I suggest to cover the ground in early spring after they emerge to discourage them from digging there again.

1 Like

This comment is similar to my thoughts, although I don’t have experience moving bee nests yet. That essentially it may be very hard to even correctly remove the bees/nest successfully, especially for these kinds of bees. I have heard of more success with people moving honeybees though (where they also transfer the queen as a crucial part).

Simply put, it can’t be done.Rake over the area to obscure the nest a time or two and the bee(s) will usually move on.

1 Like

Hey, its a fellow Pennsylvanian, like me! I am also a family beekeeper, so I know a tad about this subject.

We have got some native ground bees here in SE PA, where I live, and they dont ever sting or bother us at all. Like others said in this forum, try to cover all the holes, and they will move on. Relocating the hive would likely be impossible without killing it. However, even then, sometimes I have noticed that groundbees can live underground for years at a time, forming a huge colony nest, that gets separated into many nests over time. They help with pollination, but tough to know what to do.

If you can, just tell your friend to leave the bees there. I would not fret much about them.


Thanks! She’s not really a friend but sounds like she might be open to suggestion. She did follow up with me and said she was going to try putting lemon peels around the holes as a deterrent ( not sure where that advice came from and if it is true or not). She says she keeps other nests intact that are not close to the path so it sounds like she’s set on not having them near or in the pathway. I’ll pass on the information about obscuring the holes. I’m glad she doesn’t just spray with pesticide, though, because I know all too many people who would just kill everything and call it a day.

Oh - she did say it was many holes and she didn’t think it could be moved. So at least that clarifies that point.

Thanks all for your feedback!


well at least it’s the harmless kind of pseudoscience? put lemon peels on the bee nests and onions in th corners of your rooms, just get vaccinated >>

1 Like

I’m not sure whether covering holes will be possible without harming the bees - usually, emerging from nests is not synchronized, and at the same time some individuals can still be in their nests, and others begin nesting already. Of course, it’s better to kill part of the aggregation this way than to spray it with pesticides, but still better to convince the person to let them be. Unfortunately, some bees like bare ground so path can be especially loved by them to nest.


This topic was automatically closed 60 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.