The Not-So-Secret Gardens of Bee-Phobics

Like many people, I have a love/hate relationship with bees. I love that they are around to pollinate lovely plants and flowers, and I worry when I read stories of bee colony collapse and the mysterious disappearance of some bees. On the other hand, I hate being stung by a bee, or going about in fear of that happening.

On that point, I am lucky. I am not allergic to bees so, for me a sting is, at most, a painful inconvenience. For those who are allergic, however, or for small children, avoiding bee stings can be a matter of life and death. Fortunately, though plants and flowers are often the problem, they can also be part of the solution.

Bees Have Likes and Dislikes, Too

It may not be possible to create an entirely bee-free garden, but there are steps you can take to get as close as possible. Some steps revolve around removing debris and other things that might attract bees and other stinging insects, like rotted wood and piles of leaves. Judicious plant and flower selection helps, too. Bees do not love all flowers, so one trick is to mostly plant ones bees are known to avoid.

What are some things to keep in mind when waving away bees from your garden?

  • Color
  • – Bees, so the story goes, are not attracted to the color red. This belief may come as a surprise to those with gardens full of red roses… and bees. Still, many swear by the bee-repellent factor of not only flowers in the color red (the darker, the better,) but blue and yellow, as well. The failure of some red-colored flower species, including roses, to repel may have something to do with…

  • Fragrance
  • – A flower’s fragrance may be what is most enticing to bees. They seem to love sweet, lush fragrances, the same fragrances that many gardeners with to permeate their gardens. Creating a bee-free garden doesn’t mean you have to only plant foul-smelling or scent-free flowers, though. You simply have to identify the ones that smell good to you–but not to bees.

  • Pollination History
  • – Some plants and flowers are not pollinated by bees at all and, thus, are perfect for planting in gardens that repel bees. (Mind, some plants, like ginger, are pollinated by slugs instead, so you may be trading “ouch” for “ick.”)

Landscape designers, gardeners and horticulturists are ever expanding their knowledge of plant interactions, and plant and animal/insect interactions, so there is no definitive list of bee-repellent plants. However, here are a few known species to start with:

Japanese anemonies
Some types of honeysuckle and other trumpet vines
Penstamon varieties

If bees are a serious issue for your family, consulting a knowledgeable landscape architect on plant selection may be the best solution. Not all plants thrive in all environments so, in addition to all the other factors, we include region and soil-type in our recommendations.

What’s your favorite bee or garden insect-repelling solution?