Which Lime Trees Are Toxic For Bees?


Whilst some lime trees are toxic for bees, others provide a very useful nectar source.  Reputedly some lime trees (tilia) are poisonous for some bee species and less toxic for others. If you find dead bees beneath a lime tree, suffice to say, it’s likely you have a poisonous variety. 

An exception to this could be a case I personally heard about.  Dead bumblebees had been found beneath a lime tree with parts of the abdomen missing.  It transpired that Great tits had taken advantage of bumblebees feeding on a lime tree, and had eaten the parts of the bumblebee they apparently find most appetizing!  

Some lime trees  (also known as Linden trees) are favoured by beekeepers, and Linden honey is  especially popular in Romania, for example, but Linden does not produce propolis.  Bees may also harvest the honeydew produced by aphids  on the leaves.  


Which Lime Trees Are Safe For Bees?

Generally, it is thought that non-toxic limes are:  


  • Tilia cordata or small-leaved Lime (sometimes referred to as the Small-leaved Linden or Little-leaf Linden).  This species is native to Britain, Europe, Skandinavia, and the Caucasus.  
  • Tilia platyphyllos or  large-leaved lime  (but also known as the large-leaved linden).  It is native to Britain and other parts of Europe.   This species is pictured below (courtesy of Wikipedia).
     

Which Lime Trees Are Toxic For Bees?

These lime trees are regarded as poisonous for bees, and so should be kept out of the bee garden:


 

  • Tilia 'Petiolaris' or weeping silver lime (native to the Balkans)

This is what RHS say about weeping silver lime:
http://apps.kew.org/trees/?page_id=131

 

“silver lime is a statuesque import from eastern Europe. Bees pollinate the flowers in summer but often die in the process as the nectar is toxic to them. ……......

They are pollinated by bees but as the nectar is toxic to them, you can sometimes find silver lime trees with piles of dozy or even dead bees beneath it. Indeed, tea made from the flowers of Tilia tomentosa can act as a sedative so the tree clearly has some strong narcotic properties”.


  • Tilia euchlora or Caucasian lime – thought to be a narcotic (i.e. induces a state of sleep of drowsiness – this would increase the vulnerability of bees).
  • Tilia tomentosa (silver lime in the UK and silver linden in the US) – especially toxic for bumblebees, but apparently not so toxic for honeybees.  Unfortunately, I would avoid growing this species in the bee garden – bumblebees will still visit this tree, and if we plant it for honeybees, bumblebees are still likely to visit and be poisoned
  • Tilia dasystila are considered toxic to bees, as are Tilia orbicularis.
  • Tilia oliveri (Chinese Lime) is being sold as a pretty garden tree, nevertheless,  it is toxic for bees.

 

Lime trees are said to have a short flowering season.  My advice would be, that if you are considering buying lime trees to include in a bee garden, perhaps consider different species of trees instead – take a look at these trees, shrubs and hedgerows for bees

On the other hand, if you are keen to include the lime in your garden, consider Tilia platyphyllos or tilia cordata, since it is generally considered that both of these species of lime trees are safe for foraging bees.



 

More information:



Lists of plants for bees

Did you know, most insect species are harmless of beneficial?

Inspiring children to love bees and nature


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