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  1. #1
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    Any entomologists out there

    I have a question for you. I was on a ride on a local trail in Ramona when I came upon a large swarm of what looked like bees but they were coming out of hundreds of small mud tubs completely covering the trail. Being mildly allergic to bee stings I opted to turn around and not press my luck by riding through them. Any Idea what they are and do they sting? I have never seen bees in mud tubs before wasps yes but these did not look like wasps. Any input would be appreciated. Thanks. Sorry I did not have a camera with me so no pics.

  2. #2
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    Ground bees

    Quote Originally Posted by mtbmojo
    I have a question for you. I was on a ride on a local trail in Ramona when I came upon a large swarm of what looked like bees but they were coming out of hundreds of small mud tubs completely covering the trail. Being mildly allergic to bee stings I opted to turn around and not press my luck by riding through them. Any Idea what they are and do they sting? I have never seen bees in mud tubs before wasps yes but these did not look like wasps. Any input would be appreciated. Thanks. Sorry I did not have a camera with me so no pics.
    There are tons of them in the Cheeseboro area this year. They are laying their eggs in the tubes (sometimes it's just a hole in the ground, not a tube). I'm sure they CAN sting, but we ride through them all the time and have never had a problem. They are nothing like regular honey bees, who can get aggressive when they think something is threatening their hive. These bees are social in that they nest in a group, but don't have the same type of colony structure as honey bees, so they never get aggressive trying to defend it. It can be a bit disconcerting when you realize you are riding through a swarm of bees, but they never seem to cause a problem.

  3. #3
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    I've always known these as Burrowing Bees and have been told they are harmless.

    I encounter them frequently while out working the trails this time of year and have walked right through large fields of their ground holes while running gas trimmers along the trail edges. It's kind of strange to be up to your waist with hundreds of bees, but I have never been stung.

    We encountered a large colony of them up in Fremont a couple of weeks ago on a Docent Ride and six of us were standing on top of a very large colony watching them go in and out of their holes.

    From what I've been told by those who know more than I on the subject......apparently they do not act as a communal hive like other bees so they are supposed to be fairly harmless.

    If someone is allergic I would always exercise caution.....but from my anecdotal experience.....I've been stung by other bees and yellow jackets more than dozen times last year, but have never been hit by these ground bees.....so I never give them a second thought except to watch them do their thing. It's pretty interesting to watch them work.

    Hope this helps.

    Thanks!

  4. #4
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    some pictures

    Here are a couple of pictures I took, one from a distance of the whole "colony", and one close up of a bee.
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    Wow so someone else has seen these things! I did the bell canyon loop last weekend and went through a handful of swarms. I thought they were huge flies, but after the second swarm I ventured to suggest to my buddy that they might be bees. Yet, they were coming out of the ground so I thought that they could not be bees. These things were bouncing off my face and body like crazy! And I HATE bees! But no aggression. THey didnt sting us or fly after us. Interesting...

  6. #6
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    Wild. I've been living in SoCal my entire life and I've never seen these things. Cool thread.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by agoura_biker
    Here are a couple of pictures I took, one from a distance of the whole "colony", and one close up of a bee.
    Man, great photos. Now if I ever see the things I'll know what they are. Thanks.

  8. #8
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    in my experience Carolina Hornets are the most aggressive! I had a large sting me multiple times in the left hand by a small creek. It kept landing on my left hand... I would knock it off... and then it would fly around and then go right back after my left hand!!! I think I counte 4 or 5 stings and my hand was hating life... swollen for a couple of days!

    very cool post... I had heard about these before on some nature programs but never actually from anyone who saw them in person!
    "Listen, strange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government!..." -- Dennis the Peasant

  9. #9
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    Excellent pictures. I recently encountered these creatures at Mission Trails in one of the side canyons. I had not ever seen them before.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Princess of Pain
    Excellent pictures. I recently encountered these creatures at Mission Trails in one of the side canyons. I had not ever seen them before.
    Thanks! I got a Pentax Optio W30 digital camera recently because I wanted a waterproof digital camera, and one nice side benefit is it takes really great macro photos! A good toy for a biologist who like to take close-ups of various critters!

    These are native bees - not like the honey bee, which is introduced to this area - and so it's really good to have them around. I never saw them much until a few years ago - maybe it was the record rainfall we had a couple of years back that helped their populations. But they are more common this year than I've ever seen before.

    BTW, sometimes you don't see all the tubes on the surface (I see that more this year than ever before, too), instead there are just holes in the ground. But you will notice the buzzing all around!

  11. #11
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    Very cool! I too just recently rode through a swarm at cheseboro and wasn't sure what they were.
    Love, Impy

  12. #12
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    I thought that bees were mysteriously disappearing?

  13. #13
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    Uncle's a beekeeper - I grew up messing around bees a lot ... but those were european honeybees, not these 'digger' or 'native' bees. I'm pretty sure the females can sting just like honeybees but I've heard the sting is much milder and that they won't sting unless maybe they're trapped in clothing or physically handled. Cool pix of those nests!

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by bigmike00
    I thought that bees were mysteriously disappearing?
    Which species?
    "The best you've ridden is the best you know" - Paul Thede, Race Tech

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    Me mum is a bugologist, I'll have to ask her.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by bigmike00
    I thought that bees were mysteriously disappearing?
    The problem you've been hearing about is with honey bee colonies. It's called Colony Collapse Disorder. It's a serious problem because honey bees provide a "free" service pollinating lots of crops. But these are different bees - they are non-native and live in colonies, and have a completely different social structure. BTW, nobody really understands what is causing CCD.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Juliius
    Uncle's a beekeeper - I grew up messing around bees a lot ... but those were european honeybees, not these 'digger' or 'native' bees. I'm pretty sure the females can sting just like honeybees but I've heard the sting is much milder and that they won't sting unless maybe they're trapped in clothing or physically handled. Cool pix of those nests!
    That's right, the females can sting (but not the males) - it's just that it seems like they never do. Unlike the honeybees, they don't have a colony to protect. As others have pointed out, I've ridden through clouds of these bees a number of times, even had them bounce off of me, without being stung. (Of course, I avoid them whenever possible - no sense pushing my luck!) I hadn't thought about them stinging if they are trapped in clothing, but that totally makes sense.

  18. #18
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    More about bees than you ever wanted to know...

    On my ride on Wednesday, I saw some more ground-nesting bees - but this is a species I'd never seen before, about half the size of the other ones. I went back and got some pictures today.

    First are the holes - these don't have the tubes I sometimes see with the other species, just plain holes in the ground. They are about 1/4" or less in diameter.


    Next, a mating pair. On the female's legs, you can see the pollen she has packed on - it's orange. They are about 1/2" long.


    After mating, the female goes into a hole. She will remove the pollen, form it into a ball, and lay one egg on the pollen ball. I'm not sure exactly how this works for this species, but basically the egg will hatch at some point and the larva will feed on the pollen.


    The funny thing is the male doesn't give up! Maybe he doesn't want to take a chance that another male will mate with the female. At any rate, he stays on until the female "scrapes" him off as she goes into the hole.


    Finally, here's a head-on view of a female and male.
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  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by agoura_biker
    On my ride on Wednesday, I saw some more ground-nesting bees - but this is a species I'd never seen before, about half the size of the other ones. I went back and got some pictures today.

    First are the holes - these don't have the tubes I sometimes see with the other species, just plain holes in the ground. They are about 1/4" or less in diameter.


    Next, a mating pair. On the female's legs, you can see the pollen she has packed on - it's orange. They are about 1/2" long.


    After mating, the female goes into a hole. She will remove the pollen, form it into a ball, and lay one egg on the pollen ball. I'm not sure exactly how this works for this species, but basically the egg will hatch at some point and the larva will feed on the pollen.


    The funny thing is the male doesn't give up! Maybe he doesn't want to take a chance that another male will mate with the female. At any rate, he stays on until the female "scrapes" him off as she goes into the hole.


    Finally, here's a head-on view of a female and male.

    very cool pics....I was always cautious when I see these things....saw them the first time 2 years ago
    the trick is ENJOYING YOUR LIFE EACH DAY, don't waste them away wishing for better days

  20. #20
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    I scream like a girl when I see a bee. Sad but true.

  21. #21
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    Wow, this is like Discovery Channel on the Internet at 5AM. Cool pics.
    Don't forget to unswerve!

  22. #22
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    I have seen them as well on a recent West Valley loop. At the intersection where you can take singletrack back to victory or cheseboro.

    I kept my distance from them. I second the Discovery channel photos, very cool.

  23. #23
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    I just saw these yesterday for the first time on Sheep Corral trail in Cheeseboro. I thought, wow that sure is a lot of crap on the ground that those flies are buzzing around. Then I realized it was a whole mess of bees over a big muddy looking patch. Definitely was freaky riding through them, but they didn't seem to pay any attention to me.

    This wasn't nearly as freaky as the two rattlesnakes I saw within five minutes of each other. Each was just sprawled accross the middle of the trail sunning themselves.

    My first ground bee sighting, and my first rattle snake sighting. All in the same day.
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  24. #24
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    Yeah, they are more common than I've ever seen in Cheeseboro. But if you think there are a lot near Sheep Corral, you should see them up at China Flat. There's one intersection of singletrack up there that has more than I've ever seen, it seems like thousands of them! Even though I've posted here that you don't have to worry about getting stung by them, I had second thoughts as I rolled carefully through the swarms - but all was good.

    Very cool about the rattlesnake sighting, too. Definitely don't want to roll too close to those guys!

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