Honeybees and Herbs in the Garden

So many people are interested in plantings to attract honeybees.  In reality, honeybees go where honeybees want to go.  But, there are some plants that are more attractive to bees than other plants.  In the year and month that we’ve been keeping honeybees, we’re starting to see what they really like and really don’t care about!

First, if there’s a really heavy nectar flow somewhere else in the area (cherry laurel, lugustrum, willow, etc.), the bees won’t care much at all about your pretty flowers.  Sure, they’ll stop there to check things out and make you feel kind of good but don’t put your money on it.  That said, plant those flowers!  When the nectar flow starts to dry up in other areas, your honeybees will need a nice place to come!  I’m writing this from a beekeeper’s point of view but the same is true for folks out there who would just like to have a “bee-friendly” garden.

One of the best flowers you can plant (that is sure to attract the honeybees) is borage.  I planted about 12 borage plants this year and the honeybees swarm these plants.  Supposedly, borage makes an excellent honey as well, so we’re looking forward to that in the harvest!  Borage is an early spring crop so get it in the ground by February.  My borage is already starting to expire but I’m hoping to have a fall crop of it as well.  Did I mention that it tastes delicious as well?  Flowers and leaves can be added to salads and cool drinks (borage has cooling properties).  It is also reseeding itself!

borage

borage

Lately, I have been seeing honeybees on my dill plants.

Dill

One day, we saw honeybees flying all about a beautiful plant in Doc and Mrs. Sylvia’s front yard.  It looked familiar, but I wasn’t sure of its ID.  Turns out, it’s a gorgeous variety of vitex.

vitex

Marjoram is another much loved plant by the honeybees.  Let some of it go to flower and you’re sure to find a honeybee or two buzzing around it!

Marjoram

 

Bee Balm (of course).  Ours isn’t blooming yet but will be soon!

bee balm

African Blue Basil: I don’t know much about this basil but once I realized how much all of the pollinators in the yard loved it, I make sure to let it grow and flower every year!  BONUS: it’s resistant to downy mildew.

African Blue Basil

These next two plants aren’t limited to honeybees.  You also want solitary bees to make your garden their home.  The solitary bees are more reliable pollinators (in my opinion) in that they are more faithful to your garden!  We have bumble bees, carpenter bees, leaf cutter bees AND real life little green bees in our garden.  They’re all solitary (and native) and do a fabulous job of visiting just about every flower they find!

Both solitary bees and honeybees find the oak leaf hydrangea irresistible.  It has a wonderfully sweet fragrance AND is loaded with pollen!

oak leaf hydrangea

A new plant to our garden, this lovely Rudbeckia (not sure of the variety.  She’s about five feet high and blooming away!  I’ve not seen any honeybees on her but the solitary bees love it!

rudbeckia

Of course, never neglect to provide plenty of water for your honeybees.

honeybee in the bird bath

 

Be sure to click on the photos to see larger and better detail.

Do you have any tried and true nectar/pollen plants in your yard?  Let us know!

 

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13 comments

  1. My bees are crazy for marjoram and rosemary. They haven’t gone for everything I planted though. Perhaps there is so much about now in the UK they would rather dine out than eat at home!

    1. Same here. Our rosemary blooms during the cooler months so the native bees are more likely to go for it than the honeybees. The marjoram is blooming right now and they seem to love it!

  2. Thanks for the tip about borage, I’ll have to give it a try. I’ve read that honey bees usually go to something that has a lot of flowers in bloom. Since they are communicators, they need a mass blooming to go tell their sisters about. The plants that come to mind that I’ve seen them on are Cherokee plum, blackberry, swamp dogwood, and titi. And drat, today I noticed them on my neighbor’s popcorn tree.

    1. We have two large cherry laurel trees on either side of our lot. The bees went crazy on those trees this spring! The borage and the basil are good for after the mass blooms are slowing down, I think. I’m also noticing that the borage freely reseeds. I could have a large stand of it soon–I hope!

  3. I have not been blogging lately, and look at what I almost missed, bees and herbs! What a lovely post. Our local bees like the bee balm of course, but the mint plants simply vibrate full of honey bees. I hope if there is a honey farmer near by he does not mind. Mint honey?

    Our herb bed is still just baby plants, but already providing lovely moments of joy. Tell me you have lemon balm. You MUST have lemon balm!

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