Plants that Repel Bees & Wasps

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There may be some areas where you want to use plants that repel bees. There are several reasons for using plants and flowers that don’t attract stinging insects. Perhaps, someone in your family is allergic to stings. In this guide, I share will you some flowering plants that either repel some bees or are less attractive to them.

Geraniums planted near walkway to repel bees .

Even a bee friendly garden may have spaces near walkways etc-where a couple of bee repellent plants would fit in nicely. You can have both – those that invite bees and and those that say – no food here – move on please!

Top Garden Plants that Repel Bees

While choosing the plants for your outdoor spaces, keep in mind that the bee-repellent properties of plants may change over time. Some will attract bees only when they are in full bloom – others are never inviting to bees.

For those spots in the garden where you really want to see something green, try some of these that are not so attractive to our flying insect friends. Here are a few ideas:

  • basil
  • citronella
  • geraniums
  • marigolds
  • roses (most)
  • wormwood
Basil herb with green leaves that repel insects and flowers in bloom.

Basil

Basil is a popular plant in most herb gardens. When in bloom, the herbs attract honey bees. However, when not in bloom – many insects do not seem to care for the fragrance of basil. A natural pest repellent you can make use of it in your recipes too.

Citronella plant with lobes leaves and pink flower in bloom.

Citronella

Citronella is known for being a plant that repels mosquitos. However, the unique fragrance of this plant can also repel wasps and bees.

Do not let get to the bloom stage – prune to prevent flowers. You can also use the essential oil from this plant to make some DIY citronella candles.

Red geraniums in bloom and in pot near doorway.

Geraniums

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 foraging bees.

If you choose red geraniums, that is even better because bees see flowers differently – red is seen as black. This dark color is not inviting to a bee.

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.

Marigolds

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 also discourage stinging insects from hanging around due to their pungent odor. Marigolds are a human favorite. But, they have very little pleasing fragrance and little pollen. 

The bolder oranges and deep reds might be the best color combinations to use if you want to be less inviting to foragers.

Dark orange marigolds repels  some bees - marigolds in a garden.

However, just having some marigolds around does not necessarily discourage hungry honey bees from visiting your garden. This is a good thing if you hope for bee pollination of your vegetables.

However, I have not found them to be especially attractive to my bees-even when I had 25 beehives in my apiary.

Roses

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.

Roses planted in mass in locations near homes.

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 as bees are very sensitive to smell. A fragrant aroma is very enticing to a bee’s antenna (nose).

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 very unattractive to bees.

Native to Europe, this plant is actually a herb that is used for various folk remedies. 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 in many locations as it has naturalized across the landscape. Reaching heights of up to 3 ft, the silvery-green leaves are very attractive.

Due to the unique color and leaf structure, 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.

Plants that Repel Wasps

Can you find plants that repel wasps but not bees? Honestly, you won’t find many plants that repel wasps. This is because meat eating wasps are actually helpful to plants. They eat the bugs and pests that harm the plants leaves.

Visiting flowers in only one characteristic that wasps and bees share. You many certainly see wasps in your garden as they hunt for bugs. And, they visit do flowers and sometimes drink sweet nectar-even though it is not their main diet.

By choosing plants that repel bees and other insects (wasp food) you should have less wasps in the garden as well. 

Try Mint for Wasp Repellant

I have heard that wasps do not like the scent of mint – including the plant known as pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium). But, keep in mind that this plant is toxic to pets so it is not suitable for every yard.

Also, mints can go crazy so take care when deciding where to add them. Containers are strongly recommended.

And, when some types of mint are in bloom you will probably have visiting honey bees who love to work the flowers. Be sure that this temporary influx of bees will not be a problem.

This is something to keep in mind when you are practicing companion planting with bee balm or similar flowers.

In my book, Choosing the Best Flowers for Your Honeybee Garden, I talk about the importance of considering the bloom habit of each flower. If you don’t want bees, avoid those plants most loved by bees.

Non Blooming Plant Options

If your goal is to have more plants that repel bees around, you do have a few choices. The first choice is to consider plants that don’t bloom. 

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

And this does not mean that your garden is “blah”. With various shapes, leaf texture and color, non-blooming plants can be very beautiful.

Interestingly, there are some plants that may be toxic bees. If you have a lot of pollinators in your area, try to avoid these when possible.

Potted marigolds on porch image.

Don’t Plant Flowers that Bees Love

Whether it’s a fear of getting stung, an allergy concern, or simply wanting a bee-free zone, the concept of using plants that repel bees has gained popularity.

This may sound like obvious advice but refrain from using flowers bees love near the areas of the garden that you wish to keep bees away.

Honey bees are attracted to bright colors and sweet-smelling flowers. They visit them to collect nectar that bees use 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. That sounds rather unnatural doesn’t it?

Bee-repellent plants emit fragrances that can overpower the floral attractants usually found in the surrounding environment, making it harder for bees to detect and locate potential food sources.

FAQs

What plant keeps bees away?

Three of the best bee repellent plants are: citronella, geraniums and marigold. Eucalyptus may also be useful in discouraging visiting bees.

Do marigolds keep bees and wasps away?

Due to the unpleasant fragrance, marigolds are unattractive to bees and wasps and will not encourage them to visit the area.

Which potted plants are good to repel bees?

Citronella is a good choice for a potted plant to repel bees. But, it can get quite large. Another good option is pennyroyal or geraniums.

Final Thoughts

Clearly, some flowering plants readily attract bees, while other plants tend to repel bees. If you desire a garden with fewer buzzing insects – don’t choose the plants they love. Busy bees won’t waste their time in a garden with no food. If a family member has an intense bee fear (or apiphobia), it is especially important to carefully consider any outside planting.