Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Question: I live in Maryland, and am wondering what kinds of flowers are there that don't attract bees?

This is a great question! I had to research this one a bit! Overall, its hard to think of flowers NOT having bees all over them, since bees are the major pollinators out there. I know that it can sometimes be a challenge and a pain to have a beautiful garden full of flowers while keeping it from becoming a bee social spot. But, bees are not the only pollinators out there! In the list of plant pollinators, bats, birds, wind, gnats, humans, and flies are responsible for a lot of pollination as well. When it comes to picking an anti-apiary flowering plant, there are a few factors to consider.

This happens to me every time I go out in the garden!

The first thing that you would want to look at is the colors of the flowers. Color plays an important role for when bees are searching for nectar hotspots. Blue, violet, purple, white, yellow are popular colors that bees have been found to flock to. Reds, oranges, and pinks are well-known for attracting birds and butterflies. But that being said, color alone is not the determining factor for what drives bees wild over flowers.

The shape of the flower plays a very big role in what flowers are bee-friendly. It may not seem like much when looking at a flower, but to a bee the shape of a flower can affect whether it can even get to feast on any of the nectar. For instance, a tiny flower like a daisy is going to be easy for a bee to suck nectar from, since it's proboscis (it's straw-like mouth) does not have to go far to reach it's destination. But if the flower were a long tube-like flower such as sunset hyssop (agastache rupestris), it is going to be much more difficult for a bee's short proboscis to reach the nectar. This also applies similarly with single-blooming flowers versus double-blooming flowers: the cluster of petals in a double bloom make it harder for the bee to get access to the nectar.

A bee's proboscis (the orange colored "straw")

Easy for a bee to get nectar from

A much longer proboscis on a butterfly

This flower was made for a hummingbird's long bill or a butterfly's long proboscis!

Scent of a flower plays a large role in attracting bees, as one would imagine. The more fragrant the flower, the more attractive it is to bees usually. So, avoid things like honeysuckle, jasmine, and so on. Local wildflowers or native flowering plants attract more bees in general than more exotic plants. Lastly, bees are more attracted to plants in the sun than in shaded areas.

So to summarize, all of the factors I mentioned should be things to consider when making floral choices. Of course, it would be untrainable to find a plant that fits all of those requirements at once, but out of all of the bee deterring features, the top things that I would recommend looking for first would be low scent flowers and long tubelike blooms.

Some plants that come to mind quickly would be hyssop, salvia (some of the longer blooms), moonflowers (it blooms more at night, though it blooms in the shade as well), peonies, day lilies, irises.

Great question!

- Posted from my iPad


  1. Good post. There are flowers that don't attract bees and dangerous for bees. For example, bees avoid phyrethrum. I notice that in my garden bees are not that fond of aquilegia (columbine).

  2. Great post on bees. Very informative. I for one would prefer not to have many around the garden.

    OT: something is wrong with your link at blotanical. your post can't be picked.

  3. Malay, thanks for the input! I knew there were definitely more plants for that lost, just couldn't think of them all!

    Bom, thank you. I will definitely send them an email to try and get that fixed. Thanks for letting me know!