Gardening

Laidback Gardener TIp of the Day

If You’re Afraid of Bees

octobre 26I regularly receive questions from gardeners who are afraid of bees and want to know which plants will not attract bees to their gardens.

In answering, I first feel I have to put my teaching hat on and explain that bees are not aggressive and will not attack you if you do not disturb them. Wasps and hornets, however, are aggressive and will attack without much provocation, but not bees. But then, wasps and hornets are not particularly drawn to flowers.

Remember that unlike wasps that can sting several times in their lives and therefore don’t have to be reticent about stinging, if a bee stings you, it dies. It therefore has no reason to sting if it is not in mortal danger, or if you’re not threatening its nest. You can even, and I do it when I visit a garden with children, rub the back of a bee with your finger while it is pollinating a flower and it will not even react. Personally, in more than 40 years of gardening, I’ve worked side by side with bees almost daily during the summer months and yet have been stung only twice… both times when I was barefoot and stepped on the bee. In those cases, I don’t blame the bee, I blame myself.

Obviously, this logical explanation is of no use if you suffer from apiphobia (the irrational fear of bees). If so, you don’t want bees in your environment, period. If this is the case, avoid growing any plant with showy or fragrant flowers. In other words, eliminate 95% of all ornamental plants from your plant list. Bees won’t visit grasses, even those with fairly attractive flowers, nor will they frequent other wind-pollinated plants. This group (wind-pollinated plants) includes many weeds, such as ragweed, plantain, goosefoot and pigweed, but also most large deciduous trees, such as oak, walnut, birch, maple, etc. and the vast majority of conifers.

Note that if you suffer from both apiphobia and also seasonal allergic rhinitis (hay fever), you have a serious problem, because your allergy is caused by wind-pollinated plants. So, logically, when you exclude the flowering plants from your environment and replace them by wind-pollinated ones, you increase the amount of pollen in the air and suffer more from hay fever.

A person who is both allergic and apiphobic could however grow ferns, mosses and other so-called primitive plants, as they produce no flowers at all and thus neither attract bees or nor produce pollen. Also, as long as your lawn is mowed frequently enough to prevent the plants that comprise it from flowering, it will also be safe for allergic apiphobics.

Personally, though, if I was suffering seriously from apiphobia, I would rather have my fear treated than exclude all flowering plants from my environment! A world without flowers: how sad!

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

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