When picture bees you probably think of thousands of buzzing insects living in a hive way up in a tree. But what if we told you most bees are living right in your yard under your bare feet?

It's a fact that there are more "underground bees" in New York State than any other type of bee. According to the New York State Horticultural Society, 54% of all bees in our area are classified as digger bees. These species don't live in hives, but instead are solitary insects that make their homes in the ground.

I found this out the hard way while mowing my lawn this week. As I was walking through the back part of our property I felt a sharp pain on the back of my leg. I thought a rock flew out of the mower or something until I noticed a bee flying around my legs. Suddenly my other leg was in pain as well. After a moment I finally realized that I was being attacked.

Ground-nesting bees begin their nesting season by building their home in the soil. These underground nests are where the bee builds its honeycomb, supplying it with pollen and nectar gathered from nearby flowers. Because these solitary bees don't live in a large hive, they build their nests close to flowering plants so they can be collected and easily brought back to the nest.

These underground nests can range from a few feet underground to just a few inches. Because of this, nests can be easily disturbed by homeowners while doing yard work or playing in the grass. Ground-nesting bees can be particularly territorial and will protect their nests quite violently if provoked.

The good news is that unlike upending an entire hive with thousands of bees, you're most likely only going to get attacked by one bee, but that attack can be quite vicious. Contrary to a common myth, not all bees lose their stingers. Most can sting multiple times and continue to survive. Only honeybees will lose their stinger after using it to fend off a threat.

So the next time you decide to run around barefoot in your yard be careful, there may be a bee just inches below your toes looking to protect their young.

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