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Plants that Repel Bees and Are Easy to Grow

It may be hard for fellow bee-lovers to hear that some folks want to keep bees away. However, there are some good reasons for wanting flowers that don’t attract insects.  Plants that repel bees are often desired by new gardeners. Perhaps, someone in your family is allergic to stings.  Or you may have young children that are very afraid of insects.  Even a bee friendly garden may have spaces near walkways etc-where a couple of bee repellent plants would fit in nicely.

Flowers that do Not Attract Bees

Geraniums planted near walkway to repel bees image.

There are not a large number of plants that deter bees and wasps because of the beneficial relationship between these two life forms developed over millions of years.  Some plants depend on insect visitors for seed production.

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However, plants can ward off insects through the use of scents or smells.  Insects are very sensitive to odors and have a clear preference for some flowers over others.

Don’t Plant Flowers that Bees Love

This may sound like obvious advice but refrain from using bee plants or flowers that attract bees near the areas of the garden that you wish to be free of insects.

Bees are attracted to bright colors and sweet-smelling flowers.  They are working to collect the plant nectar to make honey and to gather pollen to feed their young. It is a bit unreasonable to plant flowers they love and expect them to stay away. 

Take the time to read a Flower Gardeners Bible or similar guide and know the characteristics of a plant before you buy it.

If the particular plants that you love are also favorites of pollinating insects, perhaps you could have a bee friendly section of the yard off to one side away from humans.

Potted marigolds on porch image.

Are There Plants that Repel Wasps But Not Bees?

Wasps and bees share some common characteristics – but they are very different. Wasps visit flowers and sometimes drink sweet nectar-even though it is not their main diet. 

Honestly, you won’t find many plants that repel wasps.  Because meat eating wasps are actually helpful to plants.

Wasps eat other bugs that harm the plants so it would be counterproductive for the plant to want to keep wasps away

I have heard that wasps do not like the scent of mint plants. But mint can go wild, so take care when deciding where to add it to the garden.  Containers are strongly recommended.

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Also, when some types of mint are in bloom you will probably have visiting honey bees who love to work the flowers.

In my book, Choosing the Best Flowers for Your Honeybee Garden, I talk about the importance of considering the bloom habit of each type of plant. If you don’t want bees, avoid these.

Natural Pest Control

If your goal is to have fewer insect attracting flowers around, you do have a few choices.  This first choice is to consider plants that don’t bloom. 

If there is no flower that provides food, hungry bees will spend their time elsewhere. Many shrubs and trees provide shade and border without a nectar rich bloom.

For those spots in the garden where you really want to see color, try to choose plants that are not so attractive to our flying insect friends. Here are a few ideas:

  • geraniums
  • wormwood
  • marigolds
  • most roses

Geraniums are Not a Favorite

Geraniums are not very attractive to bees. They have a strong scent that is off-putting to many insects.  They also contain almost no pollen that would entice foragers.

If you choose red geraniums, that is even better because bees see red as black.  This dark color is not inviting to a foraging worker.

Red geraniums in a large pot not attractive to bees image.

Geraniums are a tender annual in most locations but they can be grown very well in pots. Include them in your bee friendly landscape if you are particularly fond of the flower or foliage. They are a good choice for seating areas or walkways.

Wormwood Repels Insects

Wormwood (Artemisia) is one of the few plants that noticeably repel most insects.  The strong odor is not offensive to humans but is not favored at all by bees.

This plant is actually a herb that is used for various folk remedies. It is native to Europe but grows well in many other parts of the world. Though many flowering herbs are attractive to bees, this one is not a favorite.

Wormwood plant with silver green leaves  image.

This herbaceous perennial can be found growing wild as it has naturalized widly across the landscape. Reaching heights of up to 3 ft, the silvery-green leaves are very attractive.

Wormwood can be grown as an ornamental. Because it is pollinated by the wind, it has nothing to offer hungry insects.

It is a pretty plant but you may need to stake it if not supported by other foliage. Mine tend to sprawl and fall down in later Summer.

Do Marigolds Attract Bees?

Marigolds are often used as a companion plant in the garden because of their capacity to deter some insects that damage our vegetables.

They can discourage some stinging insects from hanging around due to their pungent odor. Marigolds have very little pleasing fragrance and little pollen. 

Dark orange marigold in field can repel some bees and insects image.

Just having some marigolds does not necessarily discourage hungry honey bees from visiting your garden area though. However, I have not found them to be especially attractive to my bees.

During the time of year when Marigolds are blooming, the bees often have other nectar sources that they prefer. The bolder oranges and deep reds might be the best color combinations to use if you want to be less inviting to foragers.

Roses are Not Very Attractive to Bees

Roses are a popular landscape plant that come in many different varieties.  You can find roses in every color, shape and bush size. You can even find roses that have been developed for large beautiful blooms and less thorns.

Red rose bushes not as attractive to bees and wasps image.

Roses are not very attractive to honey bees. To increase your chances of seeing fewer of them around your rose bushes, choose red or other dark colors.

Also, avoid roses that are highly scented. Insects are so sensitive to smell. A fragrant aroma is very enticing to a working bee.

Keep Bees Away From Favorite Flowers Naturally

If you have a few special plants that you feel you just can’t live without and want to keep bees away, there are a few things you can try.

Please don’t kill them, they are only hungry and looking for food. Try sprinkling some of these items near the plants you wish to remain bee free and it may discourage the insects.

For those situations when you really want to keep bees and wasps away due to someone’s fear, try to choose flowers that are not overly attractive to insects.

Avoid bright colors like blue, yellow and violet because these are bee favorites. And utilize some of the plants that may help repel some bee traffic in your yard.

In reverse, there are also some plants that may be poisonous or harmful to bees. If you have a lot of pollinators in your area, try to avoid these when possible. Our hard working pollinators will appreciate it very much.

If you find an unwanted honey bee colony near your home, seek out a professional for help in getting rid of the bees.

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