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

Monarda - improved plant and still good for bees

There are several species of Monarda, all originally native to north America, and all have an exotic look with long tubular petals that tend to stick upwards resembling a crown.

Monarda, also known as 'beebalm' is one of the plants that is regularly recommended for bees and has been on our stock list since we started business. We stock M. didyma because it is also a reliable garden plant but it does tend to get mildew on its lower leaves which detracts from its appearance towards the end of summer. This year we thought we would try the new didyma cultivar 'Jacob Cline' which is meant to be more mildew resistant and I am very pleased to report that, in our very heavy, unwatered clay, this is proving to be true.

In fact, its a stunning plant with much larger deep red dramatic flower heads that each seem to last for about 4 weeks. It stands at about 120cm and is really eye-catching in our research bed. Normally Monarda, with its long tube flowers, is attractive to the longest tongued pollinators; the garden bumblebee and some butterflies so I was quite concerned that I was not seeing any of these coming to the 'Jacob Cline' flowers. Then I took a closer look are saw honeybees bottoms just poking out of the flowers. It appears that the larger flowers of this cultivar are big enough for the smaller bees to crawl up inside....its just that I couldnt see them. The downside is that the larger bumblebees dont fit.

This shows that a few millimeters difference means that even within the same species the plants will attract different pollinators, These observations make take me the rest of my life!

Today I counted 11 honey bees per square meter on our new patch of M. 'Jacob Cline' and - now I know how to find them - I anticipate it will give a good performance in this years research.


by rosi