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Native to the Mediterranean, rosemary is a hardy evergreen shrub with short, needle-like leaves and wonderfully fragrant flowers. You may be wondering if this culinary herb can be used to attract pollinators to your garden. For instance, do bees like rosemary?
Yes, bees are attracted to rosemary. So if you’re trying to make your garden more bee-friendly this plant can help. But how you grow your rosemary can make all the difference when it comes to attracting the bees.
Why do bees like rosemary?
Some people think that bees are attracted to any and every flower, but that’s just not the case. These little guys can be pretty darn picky! So it’s not enough that you have a lot of different flowers in your garden. You must choose flowers that bees are attracted to. But why are some flowers popular with bees while others aren’t?
Bees prioritize pollinating flowers that have two things: lots of pollen and lots of nectar. Pollen is a critical source of protein for bees, giving them the nutrition they need to stay healthy. Nectar is used to provide quick energy, and, of course, bees also use it to produce honey.
But that’s still not the end of the story. Bees need pollen and nectar, that’s true. But they need that pollen and nectar to be accessible. The harder it is to get, the less rewarding it is for the bees. So they consistently choose flowers that are easy to feed on — like sunflowers, daisies, zinnias, and certain species of hydrangea.
Rosemary blooms throughout the year, starting in early spring and sometimes going all the way through December. It produces dozens of pink, white, or blue flowers that have soft, pliable petals that are easy for bees to move around as they search for pollen. That’s a major check in the pros column.
Another reason why bees are attracted to rosemary is that its flowers are shallow. Bees don’t have to dig down deep to reach the nectar. Overall, it takes very little effort for bees to pollinate and feed on rosemary flowers. So, from the bees’ perspective, these flowers are extremely user-friendly.
Why aren’t bees attracted to your rosemary?
While bees absolutely love rosemary flowers, they’re not too crazy about the plant itself. Funnily enough, rosemary essential oil can be used to repel bees. They just can’t stand the smell! So if your local bees aren’t attracted to the rosemary in your garden, it could be because it isn’t blooming.
Certain factors can prevent rosemary plants from blooming. Not getting enough sunlight in the early spring is a major reason why rosemary plants don’t bud out. Pruning your rosemary too early in the spring can also prevents flowers from forming. And using fertilizers that are too high in nitrogen can hinder the plant as well.
But, if your rosemary is blooming, and the bees are still turning their noses up at it, then it’s time to investigate further. It’s possible that you have your rosemary planted near another plant that bees don’t like. Citronella, marigolds, geranium, and basil are among bees’ least favorite plants. If your rosemary is situated near any of these plants, bees will steer clear of it.
Are predators preventing bees from visiting your rosemary?
If you notice that you don’t have any bees in your yard, you could have a broader issue — predators. Bees have many predators, and if bees notice that these predators are also visiting your backyard, that could be why they’re staying away.
Shrikes, mockingbirds, and woodpeckers eat bees, as do wasps and hornets. If you have these birds and insects hanging around, the local bees won’t feel welcome. And if you want to make your backyard space as bee-friendly as possible, you may need to take steps to repel these bee-eaters.
Picking up food scraps and closing off composite heaps can help keep birds away. Not only do birds like to nose through old food, but this stuff also attracts bugs that birds like to eat. Taking up birdseed, or relegating bird feeders to the opposite side of your yard, can help make your bees feel more at ease. Setting up a fake predatory bird statue can help repel bee-loving birds as well. Bird scare tape also comes in handy, as it reflects light and makes noises that scare birds off.
To keep wasps and hornets away, encourage them to set up shop elsewhere. Try spraying their nests with a hose (while standing a safe distance away, of course). This will help them get the message that they aren’t welcome, and pretty soon, they’ll head off to greener pastures. Making an effort to keep bee predators away is a great way to attract bees to your backyard.
How can you encourage bees to pollinate rosemary?
If you’re trying to get your local bees interested in your rosemary plants, there are a few things that you can do to encourage them. You can start by whipping up some homemade hummingbird nectar. Simply set this out in a shallow dish in your garden. Being in close proximity to the rosemary plants will help encourage bees to check them out.
Planting other flowers that bees like near your rosemary can boost bee interest also. Bees are foraging insects. They like to have a bunch of different flowers to buzz around, so be sure to offer them a variety of flowers to inspect.
Lavender and mint are two more herbs that bees like. Garlic chives and chamomile are good options as well. But, if you think your herb garden is big enough already, you have plenty of other flowering plants to choose from.
Cornflowers, snowdrops, butterfly bushes, and clematis are a few ornamental flowers that bees love. And these flowers aren’t just popular with the bees. Butterflies and hummingbirds love them, too! So, when you plant these beauties in your garden, you’ll be appealing to a whole host of pollinators.
If you want native bees to pollinate your herb garden, growing rosemary can do the trick. Just be sure to grow this fragrant herb with a variety of other flowers bees love, in order to boost the bees’ interest in your wild yard.