Follow our progress running the nursery, watching wild bees, keeping honey bees and creating our own bee-haven in south Oxfordshire

Calamint - an overlooked herb with great potential for bees

In our quest to find plants that are really good for bees I am always on the look-out for plants that are worth adding to our research. In 2014 I discovered calamint in Cambridge's botanic gardens.

It was early September and the single very mature and woody plant they had was buzzing so frenetically that it very soon caught my eye. In Cambridge it appeared to mainly be attracting honey bees but we have since introduced the lesser calamint (calamintha nepeta) at rosybee and I find it attracts both honey bees and bumblebees, mainly common carders.

Its a member of the mint family and leaves give a scent and flavour that to my palette is a cross between mint and oregano. Apparently it makes quite good tea - which I must try- and is a common seasoning in middle-eastern foods. It spreads slowly but, unlike mint, is not invasive.

In last years research results this plant went straight into 12th place in our rankings with an average of 3.6 bees per square meter and 10 weeks of flowering; not bad for a first year and I expect it to do even better once the plants are more established.

by rosi