Plants that repel bees: our top 10
We often hear about bee-friendly plants, but which plants keep bees away? The following plants are not among the favourites of bees.
Bees are incredibly valuable for our environment: they are among the most important pollinators for many different plant species. Sadly, the number of bees is decreasing for a variety of reasons, including the growing number of monocultures and the use of toxic insecticides. In order to counteract this development, more and more hobby gardeners are deciding to give some assistance to the bees in their garden. But did you know that not all plants are bee-friendly or that there are plants that can even harm bees? Here, you will find a list of bee-repellent plants that will not be a good addition to your bee-friendly garden.
That all plants are automatically bee-friendly is a widespread misconception. In fact, there are numerous plants bees hate for many different reasons. Some plants for example produce neither pollen nor nectar, while others have double flowers which limit the bees’ food supply. We have compiled a list of ten plants that deter bees.
Chrysanthemums (Chrysanthemum) add bright accents of colour to gardens in autumn. The beautiful flowers that bloom in a variety of colours, such as bright white, warm orange or intense violet, are a sight for sore eyes. However, not all chrysanthemum species are bee-friendly. Chrysanthemum x morifolium (also known as florist’s daisy) is often double-flowered and, therefore, belongs to the bee-repellent flowers. In contrast, chrysanthemums with regular flowers, for example Chrysanthemum indicum, are suitable for bees. Due to their blooming period from October until November, these plants are an important source of food for bees in autumn.
9. Garden roses
A garden without roses (Rosa) is unimaginable for many gardeners. However, bees do not appreciate these majestic flowers. Most types of roses are double-flowered cultivars and provide little or no food for the insects. Fortunately, there are also varieties of roses that are both beautiful and bee-friendly. Single-flowered roses are well suited for bees. Varieties that are especially popular with bees are, for example, apple roses (Rosa villosa), sweetbriar roses (Rosa rubiginosa) and field roses (Rosa arvensis). They are romantic ornaments for every garden and impress with their abundance of flowers.
Tulips (Tulipa) are an absolute must-have for a lot of gardeners in spring, especially the stunning colourful varieties. For beneficial insects, however, tulips are a mixed blessing. On the one hand, wild tulip varieties such as the woodland tulip (Tulipa sylvestris) are popular with many insects. Garden tulips (Tulipa gesneriana), on the other hand, belong to the bee-repellent flowers.
7. Double-flowered dahlias
Whether they cultivated in the garden or on the balcony – dahlias (Dahlia) are classic decorative flowers. With their great variety of spectacular colourful flowers and shapes, they have reached somewhat of a cult status. However, it is these opulent flowers that keep bees away: the stamens that are responsible for pollen production are often stunted and the numerous petals make it difficult for the bees to get to the nectar. Therefore, bees cannot find any food there. If you don’t want dahlias missing from your garden, you should choose a single-flowered variety. Orchid dahlias or bishop dahlias, for example, are among the favourites of bees and other pollinators.
The garden pansy (Viola tricolor var. hortensis) is a popular plant for the balcony, in flower beds or as a decoration for graves. The plant has an enormous range of colour: you can find pansy varieties in almost all the colours of the rainbow and with various different patterns on their petals. The brightly hued flowers are not popular with bees, however. Due to the overbreeding, the plant’s nectaries (or honey glands) are often stunned, which leaves the bees without food. Fortunately, the horned pansy (Viola cornuta), a close relative of the garden pansy, is a great alternative to the bee-repellent pansy.
As a favourite for pots, geranium (Pelargonium) is seen on many terraces or balconies in the summer. Its intense colours and beautiful double flowers are certainly a decorative addition to every balcony. But even though many people love geraniums, insects steer clear of the flowers. The geranium’s double flowers restrict the pollen production and prevent the bees from getting to the nectar. For that reason, the plant does not serve any purpose for bees. If you are looking for an alternative: bellflowers (Campanula) and lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) are some bee-friendly plants for your balcony. They not only look beautiful, but also provide plenty of food for bees.
4. Northern white-cedar
Northern white-cedar (Thuja occidentalis) with its smooth, slightly shiny needles, is a very popular hedge plant, which is often used as an evergreen privacy screen in gardens. It is especially well-known for its winter hardiness and low-maintenance. Unfortunately, like all conifers, it belongs to the plants that repel bees. The reason for that is, that northern white-cedar relies on wind-pollination and, therefore, does not need to attract bees to its flowers with nectar or pollen. Not all hedges are bee-repellent, though. Privet (Ligustrum), snowberry (Symphoricarpos) and deutzia (Deutzia), for example, are some of the other bee-friendly options.
3. Forest trees
Unfortunately, not only conifers are bee-repellent plants: various forest trees are not suitable for the insects either. Trees like oaks (Quercus), birches (Betula) and beeches (Fagus) rely on wind-pollination and are therefore of no value for bees. Only during an infestation with aphids, which deposit honeydew on the plants, can bees be found in those trees. European aspens (Populus tremula) and alders (Alnus) are not very bee-friendly either. They do produce a small amount of pollen but, sadly for bees, no nectar. To make your garden more attractive to bees and other pollinating insects, you should go for fruit trees, which not only provide a lot of food for bees, but also for you. Broad-leaved trees, such as the fittingly named bee-bee tree (Tetradium daniellii), sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa) or various willow varieties (Salix) are perfect candidates for a bee-friendly garden.
Because of their numerous blue-violet flowers, lilacs (Syringa vulgaris) are probably among the most beautiful ornamental garden shrubs. In addition to the magnificent flowers, the plant has a delightfully sweet scent, which wafts through the entire garden. Despite the large number of flowers, lilacs are not particularly popular with bees. Many of the overbred lilac varieties only produce little nectar and are therefore not suited as a food source for pollinators. The insects also avoid wild lilac varieties, as they contain poisonous substances which, among other things, make their nectar taste extremely bitter. But don’t worry, black elder (Sambucus nigra), which is also sometimes referred to as a lilac, is a lot more bee-friendly than the common lilac.
When forsythias (Forsythia x intermedia) show their numerous golden flowers in March, they transform the garden into a plant paradise. Not only its beautiful flowers, but also its winter hardiness and compact growth make it a favourite among gardeners. Such a sea of blossoms surely has to be a paradise for bees, right? Unfortunately, although the forsythia flowers are very pretty, they are dry and do not produce any pollen. The plant is therefore worthless for bees because it does not provide any food for them. An alternative with equally pretty yellow flowers that double as a great source of food for bees, is the Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas). For anyone who can’t do without forsythias: ‘Beatrix Farrand’ is one of the few forsythia varieties that produce pollen.
In addition to these plants that repel bees, there are of course numerous species that are bee-friendly. We have compiled a list of our top 10 bee-friendly plants as well as 15 bushes for bees for you.