June 2008
The Herb Farm

Herbs for Bees

by H. T. Farmer

As I walked through my front garden the other day, I noticed three or four different types of bees just working away at the flowers on my herb plants. I was so fascinated, as I usually am, with the way the little bees seemed to operate in a methodical series of motions, efficiently collecting the fruits of their harvest - pollen.

I went inside the shed and brought out my fishing chair, unfolded it and began an hour-long study of bees and what they like to do.

After watching them for a little while, I decided to make some notes about the flowers the bees liked the most. So, I got out my notepad and pencil, then started to make some random observations. I also took a picture or two, one of which I will share with you.

Some of you may have cool-weather greens leftover from the winter and early spring that are bolting in your garden. I will usually allow the entire planting area of greens to bolt and go to seed. While I harvest some of the seeds to use later in the year, I just let the rest drop and regenerate. This allows me some greens (though faster to bolt in the warmer weather) throughout the season and gives the bees a few extra flowers to enjoy.

Right now in the garden, there are several Apiaceae varieties including dill, coriander (cilantro before it bolts), anise, chervil and lovage.

In the aster family or family Asteraceae, there are, of course, asters. Also, there are the lettuces which all bolt and flower quickly in June. I like to keep lettuces coming along all summer for the butterfly caterpillars to feed on, too.

Brassicas make good bee-attractant. These include mustard, pakchoi, celery, rape, cabbage, kale, kohlrabi and broccoli.

Other herbs to keep the bees busy this time of year are of the family Lamiaceae which include salvias. When planting salvia or sage for the bees, keep this in mind: bees prefer flowers with a bloom that’s easy to get their pollen collector into. Avoid red, tubular shaped blooms. (We’ll talk about those herbs for hummingbirds in another article.)

The bees seem to be mostly attracted to the meadow sage, Mexican sage, bog sage, Victory blue and other blue to white salvias.

Other lamium varieties that attract bees are Monarda (bee balm) and spearmint. Bees actually like all mints. I just used spearmint as a common reference.

Bees can be quite entertaining and are extremely beneficial to all plants. Plant some bee-loving herbs in your garden today!

Thanks for reading!

As always; check with an expert, such as your doctor, before using this or any other herbal remedy. If you have any questions about these or any other herb, e-mail me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..