The Herbs and the Bees

So, how can we help our friends, the bees, in our gardens this summer? There are actually many herbs that we can grow that are bee-friendly! Bees like a large variety of blooming plants as well as a large quantity as they travel together in groups.

  “Scout” bees look for a large patch of the same type of plants. The bees look for the right scent and shape of flowers to pollinate. Planting several groups of “like” flowers means the bees can successfully fly from one group to the next gathering nectar and pollen. 

   Flower shapes and colors attract different species of bees. Bees like the following colors: violet, white and blue, and yellow orange. Bees are not fond of red flowers or flowers in the red range, which is surprising. 

  Bees will look for flowers from February to October in South Mississippi. Planting a garden that is consistently blooming will help the bees. Even though pollen flow decreases during the hottest months of the year, try to plant foliage that will provide food for our fuzzy friends. Perennials are a great choice as they can be pruned or dead-headed to survive our summers. 

  Herbs are also an excellent choice for bees, and of course, humans.

 Basil thrives in the hot months of summer. Basil will thrive in a large group sending up white or pink spikes for honey bees. Basil is fragrant and, as an annual, will spread as the plant self-seeds. Basil is perfect for southern summers. This herb can be used in sauces and soups and even cocktails giving them a nice, peppery flavor. 

  Rosemary produces flowers that are white to purple in color. It’s wonderful to note that the honey the bees produce will taste like the rosemary leaves. This is a great herb for our bees as it blooms in early spring through late fall in the south. As for humans, adding this herb early in the cooking process enhances the flavor of chicken, lamb, fish, and many other foods.  

  Oregano and marjoram (like oregano but sweeter and milder) are loved by several varieties of bees. These herbs produce a wide range of pink flowers. You can dry or freeze the leaves and cook with them later. These bloom in early summer and will flower for months if cut back properly. Oregano is associated with pizza and pasta sauces when cooking.

  Thyme is also a great herb that begins blooming in late spring and does well in the Mississippi summer climate. It produces tiny white or pink flowers, and makes a great filler plant for your garden. There are several varieties that are dense and fast growing. Interestingly enough, thyme can be used to add flavor to stews, lentils, cheeses, and even tea!

  Helping our bee friends while growing flavorful herbs is quite amazing. How relaxing to sit on a patio in the summer with sweet iced-tea watching the bees around the garden. Hope you have a great summer! Happy Gardening!

 

What Can You Do To Help?

Make sure the bees have some form of running water (like a fountain) readily available as they especially need the water during the hot summer months. 

Non-toxic pesticides for bees should be used. 

Do not clean up your garden until spring as bees might nest in hollow-stemmed plants and dead growth such as sticks or logs.

 

Gaye Winter, Ph.D., teaches English at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and is a member of Biloxi Garden Club.
Reach her at gaye.winter@mgccc.edu.

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