We all know that the likes of lavender, salvia and honeysuckle will attract bees to your garden. But what about the earlier flowering plants such as heather. Does heather attract bees too or will they simply ignore it?
Yes, heather does attract bees to your garden. Most varieties of heather are attractive to bees providing a good supply of nectar.
The huge benefit of heather is that there are varieties for all times of the year meaning you can provide nectar to bees during the colder months too before most other flowers have bloomed.
The big issue with providing food for pollinators is doing so when there are fewer blooms out. If you want to plant up a pollinator-friendly garden then you need to consider the off-season and how you can provide nectar during these periods.
This is where heather can play a vital role in extending the period in which your garden provides food to bees.
Which Heather is Best for Bees?
Most varieties of heather will work well at attracting bees. Instead, what you need to consider is when you want your heather plants to provide for bees.
Different heathers will flower at different times of the year. Chances are, you already have a garden full of blooms in the middle of summer. Instead, you should consider heather plants that will flower later (or earlier) in the season.
Our pick of late-flowering heathers that can tolerate most conditions include:
- Erica Carnea
- Erica x Darleyensis
- Erica Erigena
- Erica Vagans
It’s always a good idea to understand your growing conditions. Are you looking to plant heather in acidic soil in the shade? Do you have full sun clay soil? This will always impact which heathers will grow and which will struggle.
If you’re not sure which heathers to pick then a good, local nursey will be able to advise you on which is the best for your particular circumstances – remember to mention you want a heather that’s good for pollinators too!
As we often advise here at Wildlife Welcome, it’s also a good idea to walk around your local garden centre and see which heather is covered in bees.
Which Bees Does Heather Attract?
Heather will attract most bees however it is most popular amongst honey bees and bumblebees. Fortunately, the nectar is so easy to obtain that most bees will be able to forage nectar from heather.
If you plant a heather bush in your garden and sit and watch it for 30 minutes or so, you’ll be fascinated with the number of different bees it draws in. From the long-tongued bee through to the much-loved bumblebees – they’ll all find their way to heather in the garden.
Why Do Bees Love Heather?
There are a number of reasons why bees love heather so much. The obvious main reason is that it is a great source of nectar. From afar, you might look at heather and think each spike of flowers is one flower but this is not the case.
Each spike is actually made up of lots of little flowers and those little flowers each provide bees with nectar. This means that one heather plant could be made up of literally thousands of nectar-providing flowers.
But the benefits aren’t just about the nectar heather can provide. They’re actually proven to be medicinal to bees! Heather is reported to contain an active ingredient which fights against a common bee parasite. This chemical is called callunene and it is highly concentrated in heather nectar.
Want to Attract Bees to Your Garden?
We’ve Put Together a Complete Guide to Attracting Bees to Your Garden Including Our Top 14 Plants You NEED to Have in Your Garden:
Does Heather Attract Other Pollinators?
The benefits continue to roll when it comes to heather as they don’t just attract bees. Heather will also draw in solitary wasps, butterflies, moths and hoverflies – all beneficial pollinators to your garden.
As the nectar is so easy to access for a range of pollinators, it draws so many of them. The other reason why other pollinators love it so much is that it provides nectar during a period of the year when many other flowers are not in bloom. Of course, this will differ for different varieties of heather.
You now know that bees love heather, but if you still have questions, then check these FAQs out:
Yes! Heather is loaded with nectar which is why bees love them. Although either looks like individual spikes of flowers, you’ll actually find that each of those spikes is made up of individual flowers which are each loaded with nectar.
Heather needs free-draining soil and should be planted in as much sun as possible. Although it can be grown in shade, you’ll find the colours are muted when grown out of the sun which will be less appealing to bees.