There are many types of bees that build their nests in underground hives, but some are more prone to this behaviour than others. Bees that make their homes underground live either as solitary bees or in colonies. They either build their nests in the abandoned burrows of rodents or dig their own holes.
Ground bees -- also called digger bees -- are mostly solitary bees that dig burrows in dry soil or bare turf. Their burrows are often shallow, only about 6 inches deep, and leave mounds of disturbed soil on the surface. Though solitary, these bees also sometimes form loose communities with many nesting in one location. Both males and females live one bee to each hole. Female ground bees raise their young in these burrows and keep it stocked with honey and nectar. Ground bees are not normally aggressive, serving primarily as pollinators and working to control pests. However, the best way to control their population is to keep the soil in which they live moist, as they prefer dry areas.
Wasps live in both colonies and as solitary insects. Wasps are very aggressive and will not hesitate to defend their colony. In a colony, wasps build their nests out of a paper-like substance they make from chewing wood. Their nests may be underground in the abandoned nests of burrowing animals or hidden under rocks or structures built by humans. They may also live as loners outside of the colony. Solitary wasps sometimes live much like ground bees, burrowing a few inches below the surface and lining their nests with insects.
Yellow jackets are one of the most common bees to find burrowing in your front yard, though they are also found in paper-live hives. Whether nesting above or beyond ground, they are aggressive and live in colonies. Unlike other types of bees, yellow jackets do not feed exclusively on live insects and will scavenge dead insects and garbage. Yellow jacket workers create hard, papery combs, and the queen lays one egg in each comb underground. The workers are usually the only bees seen by observers flying in and out of the nest and will not hesitate to sacrifice themselves in mass to defend the hive. Professional extermination services should be used if it becomes necessary to eliminate a colony of yellow jackets.
Other Solitary Burrowing Bees
Contrary to popular thought, most bee species do not live in colonies. Examples of these types of bees include leafcutter bees, acute-tongued burrowing bees and sweat bees. However, the presence and population of any solitary bee is determined by region and climate. Solitary burrowing bees build their nests in unoccupied rodent dens, hollowed out rotting trees or by digging into loose soil. Burrowing bees raise their young within their nests, stocking them with nectar and honey.