Flowering Herbs For Bees: Planting Herbs That Attract Bees


By: Amy Grant

Without bees, there would likely be none of us. Bees are valuable pollinators and without them the cycle of nature would come to a screeching halt. Lately you may have heard of a decline in the honeybee population due to colony collapse disorder. So what can you do for the bees since they work so hard for you? How about creating a bee friendly herb garden?

Best Plants for Bees

Bees need flowers but not just any flowers. Bees are attracted to some blooms more than others. They tend to be attracted to plants that flower in full sun conditions. When planting a garden to entice these tiny pollinators, the best plants for bees are those that prefer full sun and that, obviously, bloom.

Honeybees, for some reason, are also attracted to tiny flowers of which many herbs have in abundance. Many flowering herbs fall into these categories for attracting bees. So what are some herbs that attract bees?

Herbs for Honeybees

Most herbs are adaptable to a wide range of soil and growing conditions and, for the most part, pretty easy to grow. They do not, however, do well in poorly drained soil and most of them prefer full sun, at least six to eight hours a day, as do most bees. When creating a bee friendly herb garden, select sun-loving flowering herbs for bees as well as other pollinators.

Luckily, there are quite a few herbs that attract bees to choose from. As with any herb garden that is designed for attracting bees, you should include a variety. To keep them from getting too much shade, separate tall growing plants, like bee balm, from the low growing spreaders such as thyme. Perennials will give you more bang for your buck since they will return every year, but you can also include some annuals like sweet basil or cilantro.

There are a number of herbs recommended for honeybee gardens. Some of the more common include:

  • Basil
  • Bee balm
  • Borage
  • Catnip
  • Chamomile
  • Coriander/cilantro
  • Fennel
  • Lavender
  • Mint
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Thyme

The following herbs also make excellent choices for an herb garden for honeybees:

  • Anise hyssop
  • Arnica
  • Angelica
  • Calendula
  • Feverfew
  • Motherwort
  • Nasturtium
  • Solomon’s seal
  • Lemon balm
  • Germander
  • Savory
  • Betony
  • Black cohosh
  • European meadowsweet
  • Greek mullein
  • Echinacea (coneflower)

To benefit honeybees, plant in groups with a variety of herb species so the bees don’t have to fly so far and use precious energy. Also, I would think by now that everyone knows this, but don’t use any pesticides in your honeybee garden. It’s a bit counter-productive to entice the bees into the garden and then kill them off, don’t you think?

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Read more about General Herb Care


Garden Of Herbs: We Select Plants (Part 1)

Many readers today are interested in the question of how to make a garden of herbs. The relevance of the topic is clear: on the one hand, the fashion for a natural garden, on the other-the desire to create a home first-aid kit from medicinal plants. But at the same time, I really want a useful composition not just to exude aromas, but also to be decorative. How to achieve this?


10 herbs that will attract bees into your garden this summer

Ideal Home August 11, 2017 12:17 pm

The best aromatic, ornamental and flavoursome herbs that will also draw bees and other friendly insects into your garden

Bees (honey bees, bumble bees, solitary bees and other bees) are vital for the pollination of one third of our basic food staples. These insects have been pollinating plants for millions of years, roughy as long as there have been flowers on the planet, giving us bountiful fruit, herbs and vegetable harvests.

However, honey bee colonies are declining and bumble bee populations reducing. While we may not be able to change the global situation on our own, each of us can try to make our gardens havens for bees by growing plants with simple and uncomplicated flowers, such as echinacea (above), from which the nectar can be more easily extracted, instead of choosing sophisticated, hybridised blooms.

Herbs are among the most useful plants for attracting bees to our gardens. They grow well alongside other garden species, or in specially designed areas, and some are suitable for containers. Low-growing herbs, such as cotton lavender (the yellow, button-like flowers above) and thyme, can even be used to make fragrant green paths.

Key herbs that bees love

Anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum): use the leaves for teas and flavouring.

Bergamot or bee balm (Monarda citriodora or Monarda fistulosa): try the leaves in teas.

Borage (Borago officinalis, above): use its blue flowers in salads and its leaves, which taste of cucumber, in summer drinks.

Chicory (Cichoria intybus): its slightly bitter leaves will make a good addition to a winter salad.

Chives (Allium schoenoprasum): you need to let the chives flower to attract bees. The onion-flavoured leaves and flowers taste good in omelettes, with new potatoes and in salads. They grow well in containers.

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare, above): the seeds can be used to flavour, and the leaves with fish.

Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium): a medicinal herb believed (though not proven) to reduce fever and treat headaches, arthritis and digestive ailments.

Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis): used as a cough suppressant and by beekeepers to produce aromatic honey.

Lavender (Lavandula spp): the flowers can be used in baking and to flavour sugar. Use dried to fill sachets to fragrance drawers. Grows well in containers.

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis): the leaves are used to make Melissa tea, which promotes sleep. They are also used as lemon flavourings for stuffings, and to perfume baths.

Marjoram (Origanum vulgare, above) and Sweet Marjoram (Origanum marjorana): popular for flavouring cooked dishes.

Mint (Mentha spp, above): the leaves can be used in teas and tisanes, in summer drinks and cocktails, as a flavouring in mint sauce and with new potatoes. If left to flower, the plant is a bee magnet and is useful in shady areas and in moist soil. Grow it in containers to keep it in check as it spreads to form large clumps.

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis): the foliage is used in tea, to flavour meat and as skewers on barbecue. Flowers early in spring so useful early in the season for bees. Grows well in containers.

Sage (Salvia officinalis): the leaves can be used in teas and tisanes, and in stuffings for poultry and meat. If left to flower, the blooms are useful for bees. Grow in full sun and well-drained soil good for containers.

Summer savory (Satureja hortensis) and winter savory (Satureja montana): the former is known as the bean herb as it goes so well with broad beans grow it alongside broad beans and it may deter aphids. The leaves of both are good in soups and stuffings. Winter savory needs full sun and well-drained soil, and grows well in containers.


#2 – Use Trees and Shrubs to Help Provide Pollen and Nectar Throughout the Season

Trees and shrubs can provide a flush of pollen and nectar early in the season before other plants have a chance to emerge. They should be a part of almost every yard. Grass lawns offer no shelter and no food to pollinators. In contrast, trees and shrubs offer both food and shelter, creating a microclimate and safe haven of relatively undisturbed habitat.

You want to have a mix of flowering plants to provide food throughout the year. The University of Maine Cooperative Extension offers some suggestions for bee friendly plants:

Early-­season Bee Nectar Plants

  • Trees: maples, apples, shadbush, willows, cherries, plums, native honeysuckles
  • Perennials: blueberries, bugloss, lungwort, pigsqueak, crocus, viola

Mid-season Bee Nectar Plants

  • Shrubs: spirea, rose, summersweet, rosebay rhododendron
  • Perennials: milkweed, purple coneflower, blazingstar, mint, oregano, bee balm
  • Annuals: single-­flowered marigold, borage, tickseed, blanketflower

Late season Bee Nectar Plants

  • Perennials: aster, bottle gentian, phlox, yellow and purple coneflowers, goldenrod
  • Annuals: cosmos, snapdragon

Herb Planting for Bees

Herbs provide a valuable source of food for bees and other pollinating insects. Since bees have lost much of their natural habitat, growing a few herbs is a really easy way to enjoy fresh flavors and help our bees.

You may or may not have space for a large kitchen herb garden, but most people can squeeze in a few herbs at least somewhere, even if they only have a yard, balcony, hanging basket or doorstep for pots. You could create a container herb garden, or a window herb garden.

Of course, herbs not only help pollinators, they have many uses for humans too: cooking, medicinal uses, fragrance, not to mention their beauty and versatility in the garden. Also, a pot of herbs makes a lovely gift and can be prepared easily at home. Home-made gifts such as these are increasingly appreciated – and not only by gardeners. This is a great way to help bees and give an environmentally friendly gift to a neighbor.

There is a great variety of wild and cultivated herbs out there and many herbs are among the best plants for bees. Here is a list of herbs and how they can benefit bees:

Angelica
Pretty herb loved by a variety of bees and hover flies.

Betony
Another great butterfly plant.

Borage
Borage refills with nectar every 2 minutes … this is exceptionally fast. No wonder all kinds of bees love it!

Catnip (Nepeta)
Good for the bees, but cats like it too!

Chives
Chives are easy to grow from seed. They start out with just a few stems, but soon fill out.

Comfrey
Another excellent flower for bees – refills with nectar approximately every 45 minutes. Bumblebees and solitary bees feed on it, as well as honey bees.

Fennel
Also popular with seed-eating birds and hover flies, as well as bees.

Hyssop
Attracts bees and butterflies.

Lavender
Choose different varieties for a prolonged season. You can propagate more plants from cuttings, but ensure you take quite a few as they may not all ‘take’.

Lemon Balm
In the past, beekeepers would rub a handful of lemon balm inside the hive after hiving a new swarm, in order to help the swarm settle and to encourage them not to leave the hive.

Marjoram
Another fragrant, excellent culinary herb loved by bees and other pollinators.

Myrtle
Gorgeous shrub loved by bees and other insects.

Mints (Mentha)
Bees love the flowers and some beekeepers apply mint oil diluted with water to their beehives to deter the wax moth.

Rosemary
Excellent early food source for bees. It is reputedly helpful in repelling ‘pest’ invertebrates, despite the fact that bees enjoy foraging on it.

Sage
The sage family of plants are wonderful for bees and other pollinators.

Thyme
Thyme can also be used to create a small patch of lawn the fragrance and look are beautiful. Butterflies like thyme too.

Wild Bergamot
Often referred to as ‘bee balm’. Long tongued bees especially, enjoy this pretty herb.

Woundworts
Quite pretty flowers loved by bees, in appearance, slightly resembling the nettle. The fragrance is not very pleasant, but the bees do love it!

Winter Park Honey has a limited supply of honey from the sage blossoms of the northwest in stock now. This thick light honey has an exquisite sweetness and just a hint of sage.

Note–If you are purchasing ready grown herb plants rather than growing from seed, please try to purchase from an organic supplier to ensure they have not been cultivated with the use of an insecticide that is toxic for bees – particularly a neonicotinoid.


Annual Flowers & Herbs for a Pollinator Garden:

In addition to growing vegetables, I also grow annual flowers and herbs that attract bees, butterflies, and birds. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Nasturtiums: This annual also has a double function. First, the bees love the blooms. You can grow a variety of colors in your garden. I grow a red, yellow, and orange variety. The flowers are edible and are quite peppery. I harvest the leaves and flowers and sell them as a pepper substitute or potpourri since the flowers hold their color.
  • Dill: Again, this plant has two functions: the herb and it attracts bees and butterflies. In fact, it is the host plant for the black swallowtail butterfly. See HERE for a picture of the caterpillar. (You may see this caterpillar on your parsley and fennel.) The caterpillar will eat some of your dill, so don’t worry. I harvest the blooms and the seeds for cooking.
  • Sweet Asylum: I grow this plant among my broccoli and cabbage plants to help with pest control of the dreaded cabbage moth. Bees and many insects love this small plant. They bloom the entire season.
  • Cosmos: There are many varieties of cosmos—pink, red, and orange to name a few. Most cosmos grow to about 4 feet and bloom all season. The spice swallowtail butterfly, birds and bees love this plant.
  • Pineapple sage: The leaves taste like pineapple, and it forms red flowers in late summer. The hummingbirds love this plant. (Note you can cook with this sage as well.) Once it dries, it no longer smells like pineapple.
  • Zinnias: I adore zinnias. Zinnias have light purple flowers, but you can purchase seeds with different colors. They grow about 2 feet high and bloom the entire summer. They make fabulous cut flowers. Honey bees and butterflies love Even sparrows and goldfinches adore them. Note, when buying zinnia seeds, make sure they are heirlooms. Hybrid zinnias don’t make as much nectar as heirlooms. See HERE for the best cultivars to grow.
  • Buckwheat: I grow buckwheat for the seed, but you can grow it as a flower. It is a fantastic crop cover and will add nutrients to your soil. In July, it produces white flowers. The bees just can’t get enough of the flowers’ nectar. Buckwheat will come back the next year if you let it drop its seed. It grows to about 2 and half feet tall with a thin stem.

With any perennial or flower, check to make sure you are not allergic to the plants. Individual plants listed above are in the same family as ragweed. I heed the same warning about ingesting or using the flowers and leaves as tea. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding as well as have, any health concerns consult your physician, before consuming any of the above plants.


Lavender

Image by For commercial use, some photos need attention. from Pixabay

Bees and butterflies are attracted to lavender because of its fragrant scent. Lavender, is a common attractant to many insects and animals, including bees. Another possibility is that lavender is effective at mimicking the pheromones that a female bee uses to travel from one flower to another in her pollinating process.

A pheromone is a chemical signal that allows the bee to locate the ovule of an ideal mating partner. This is one of the reasons why I have always preferred lavender for my butterfly and bee hives! Your yard is a great way to not only give yourself and bees a treat, but also a wonderful aroma that will spread across the neighborhood!


Watch the video: Plants And Trees That Bees Love


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