Bees love oregano and marjoram (Oreganums), this group of fragrant herbs are irresistible for bees.
At a visit to a beautiful historic garden recently, it was interesting to observe which flowers the bees and butterflies were mostly foraging upon.
Of course, whether or not a plant is being visited by pollinators has much to do with the stage of the flower (whether it is in the phase of offering maximum reward in terns of nectar and pollen) – and this in turn can be affected by other variables such as the time of day, location of the sun, and the plant’s health.
It also depends on the types of bees and other pollinator species abundant locally, and the other flower types in the vicinity.
That said, to see so many bees, butterflies and other pollinators around one plant species when so much else is on offer, really is positive confirmation of its attractiveness, at least for part of its flowering phase.
There are plenty of varieties attractive to bees. My favourites are Oreganum vulgare (wild marjoram - above) – wild marjoram, and Oreganum Rosenkuppel.
A further species known to be especially popular with bees is Origanum syriacum, (common name, 'Lebanese Oregano' or 'bible hyssop'), although I have no experience of this particular plant.
One study in Jordan involving 16 small shrubs observed as many as 21 different species of bee visiting Origanum syriacum flowers1 over a period of 42 consecutive days.
Other insect visitors, mostly hymenopterans, were also recorded.
Bees from 4 different families were observed (Apidae, Megachilidae, Andrenidae and Halictidae. Of those that could be identified by the authors of the study, come of the visiting bee species recorded were:
There are two main reasons.
Therefore, bees will be more visible around these plants because it not only offers plenty of reward in the form of nectar, but also because bee populations are at their peak when oregano is at its most attractive to bees.
Plant oregano in a sunny spot. One of the great things about oregano is that it is fairly tolerant of poor quality, dry soils. It can tolerate a certain amount of drought.
You can sow oregano from seed, take cuttings or potentially divide plants in autumn to increase the size of your patch. I like to offer at least 2 patches of popular bee-friendly plants at different locations in the garden, if I can.
Cut back old flower stems in autumn.
Remember, as a double bonus, you can still clip a few of the fragrant leaves to add to your cooking – (this ‘pizza herb’ not only offers flavor, it has anti-oxidant properties too2. Better still, dry the leaves and store them for use later.
Pick the leaves before the flower buds open.
1. Abd Al-Majeed Al-Ghzawi, Shahera Zaitoun, Nawaf Freihat & Ahmad Alqudah (2009) Effect of pollination on seed set of Origanum syriacum under semiarid Mediterranean conditions, Acta Agriculturae Scandinavica, Section B — Soil & Plant Science, 59:3, 273-278, DOI: 10.1080/09064710802093862
2. H. Khanum, K. Ramalakshmi, P. Srinivas and B. Borse, "Synergistic Antioxidant Action of Oregano, Ajowan and Borage Extracts," Food and Nutrition Sciences, Vol. 2 No. 5, 2011, pp. 387-392. doi: 10.4236/fns.2011.25054.
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