Bees & Poppies

A poppy is a flowering plant in the subfamily Papaveroideae of the family Papaveraceae.  Bees love poppies as they provide lots of pollen.  This is especially true of the Opium Poppy, Papaver somniferum. 

Why bees love poppies

Bees love poppies, despite the fact that they lack inflorescences (meaning they don’t produce sugary sweet nectar), because poppies are a fantastic source of pollen. 

Bees and poppies go together! Poppies provide a rich source of pollen for bees.

Look inside a poppy flower, and you’ll see many hairy anthers full of pollen – sometimes the pollen may fall onto, and stain the insides of the delicate petals.

Bumblebee foraging on Opium Poppy - Papaver somniferum

Out and about, I took some photographs of bumblebees foraging on Papaver somniferum – Opium Poppy.

The poppies are growing wild among sand dunes, and are a beautiful sight on the sandy slope. 

The poppies are growing wild among sand dunes, and are a beautiful sight on the sandy slope.

Although this poppy species can be found growing wild in the UK, and can also be cultivated from seed and grown in gardens, some countries have restrictions in place to prevent cultivation, whilst others will allow the cultivation of the opium poppy for ornamental use in the garden.

However, there is a wide variety of poppies available, and they are very easy to grow from seed – I have had several varieties at various stages, growing in our garden.  Currently we have the oriental poppy - Papaver orientale in our gardena pale pink, blousy variety, also enjoyed by bees, but we have also grown the California poppy - Eschscholzia californica, and Common Garden poppy - Papaver rhoeas.

Bees like poppies

Just look at all those pollen-laden anthers inside the Papaver somniferum!

However, I believe that opium poppies are the best for bees (just look inside the flower!), such that I have already made a decision that this species will make its way into my bee garden for next year!

Bumblebees absolutely love poppies, but I have also witnessed honey bees and various solitary bees visiting these flowers (I just don’t have my own photographs just yet).

Growing poppies for bees

Although the image above shows poppies growing on sandy, coastal dunes in full sun, my oriental poppies  grow perfectly well in rich loam soil, and I have grown California poppies and Common Poppy in the same soil previously, always in full sun.  Therefore, I’ll be happy to try out the Opium Poppy in the same soil!

My method for sowing poppy seeds was very simple: seeds were sown quite thinly over the area (a sunny site) where they were intended to flower, then covered with soil, then watered.  That was about it!