Everyone knows that honeybees are attracted to the flowers in your garden. And flowers enhance the enjoyment of your garden with their beauty, bright colors, and pleasing scent. Flowers can even complement a landscape that adds value to your home. But those who have a sensitivity to bees may want to enjoy outdoor time in their lawn or on their patio without worrying about bees and wasps. Today we'll explore ways to manage your lawn and garden to reduce the presence of unwanted stinging insects, so that you can make the most of your time outdoors and reduce annoyances.
Table of Contents
- Plants that Attract Bees
- Plants that Attract Wasps
- 8 Plants that Repel Bees and Wasps
- Managing Your Garden to Deter Bees and Wasps
- Natural Ways to Deter and Kill Wasps
Plants that Attract Bees
Bees are attracted to flowers, but they are more attracted to some flowers than others. If you are planning a landscape to deter bees and wasps, here are things to keep in mind:
Avoid blue, purple, and yellow flowers: Blue, purple, and yellow flowers are the most appealing to bees
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Remember that non-flowering plants can flower: Mint, oregano, thyme, and lavender are very appealing to bees. Fruit trees, tupelo trees, and tulip and magnolia trees can all produce blooms that are very attractive to bees. Be mindful that your landscape may include plants and trees that attract bees, even if you aren't planting flowers
Choose double flowers: Flowers with lots of overlapping petals, like roses, ranunculus, carnations, and impatiens are less attractive to bees, because it is more difficult for them to access the pollen inside. They prefer simple flowers with just one ring of petals
Watch your weeds: Clover, thistle, and dandelions produce flowers that bees particularly enjoy. If you want to deter bees, remember to keep an eye on weeds
Early bloomers: Early blooming plants like crocus, hyacinth, and snowdrops attract bees because there is a shortage of competing food sources early in the year
Plants that Attract Wasps
While wasps are more opportunistic foragers than bees, many wasps are attracted to flower nectar, so many of the same principles apply. Like bees, wasps also prefer flowers that are cool in color, including blues, purples, and whites. They also aren't attracted to double-flowered plants. And, like bees, wasps are diurnal, and won't be attracted to evening-blooming flowers like jasmine or evening primrose.
As you can see, it's possible to have a beautiful garden full of flowers that don't unduly attract bees and wasps, by focusing on warm red colors, complex petals, flowers that don't bloom particularly early or late in the year, and flowers that bloom in the evening. Using these landscaping principles, you could focus on creating a garden that attracts butterflies and hummingbirds with warm colors and red flowers, or a moonlight garden with white blooms that open in the evening. It's possible to both have a beautiful garden and to avoid attracting excessive bees or wasps.
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But it's often not enough to just not attract bees and wasps; you may want to also grow plants that deter them, and keep them away.
8 Plants that Repel Bees and Wasps
Marigolds don't deter honeybees, but a lot of anecdotal evidence exists that marigolds repel wasps. Marigolds are effective at deterring some other pest insects as well, and perhaps the reduction in pest insects is what helps to reduce the wasps. Marigolds are hardy, inexpensive, and excellent companion plants for vegetables and herbs, particularly tomato plants.
Eucalyptus flowers attract honeybees, but the scent and the oils are a mild deterrent to wasps. As a bonus, eucalyptus deters mosquitos as well. In cold climates, eucalyptus will survive but not bloom, so it may be a great solution for reducing insect annoyances in some climates without attracting bees.
Wormwood is an all-purpose insect-repelling plant, and deters a number of annoying insects. However, it is also toxic to people and pets, and inhibits the growth of many species of nearby plants. While wormwood is an effective plant for repelling unwanted bees and wasps, it should be incorporated into a landscape with some caution.
4 Citronella and lemongrass
Citronella is an essential oil derived from the lemongrass plant, and is known to repel mosquitoes. Living lemongrass plants will deter wasps, making it an effective plant to deter two different unwanted garden pests.
5 Carnivorous plants
If you live in the right climate, consider growing carnivorous plants in your garden. Pitcher plants are particularly effective at killing wasps, but can be difficult to grow in some climates.
And remember that there are many plants, shrubs, and trees that have spectacular foliage and visual interest, but do not flower at all, and therefore will not interest bees. Consider non-flowering plants like:
6 Evergreen shrubs
Not only are many evergreen shrubs beautiful and non-flowering, but the piney scent can act to deter some unwanted insects.
Ferns can be a spectacular addition to a garden, and some species are even edible. And, since they reproduce with spores, they do not require insect pollinators, and therefore don't attract them.
Like ferns, mosses do not require pollinating in order to propagate, so they do not attract insects. They can also be a lush and beautiful ground cover.
If these plants have aphids, they will still attract wasps, but pay attention to the many varieties of beautiful and interesting non-flowering plants to add to your landscape, for plants that deter bees.
Managing Your Garden to Deter Bees and Wasps
In addition to avoiding plants that attract bees and wasps, and cultivating other plants that deter bees and wasps, there are a number of landscaping practices and strategies that can help to keep your garden pest-free:
* Plan your landscape
To avoid bees and wasps, it's best to not plant flowers near the house, eschewing window boxes, for example. But you might also go the extra mile and begin rethinking your entire landscape with a plan.
For example, you might plant bee attracting plants at the outskirts of your lawn and garden, well away from a house, pool, deck, or patio, with the strategy of attracting bees and wasps to a designated area away from human activity. It is even better if you combine this “attractive area” with your herb or vegetable garden, so that you can get the benefit of pollination while still preventing bees near the home.
Then you could plant repelling plants near the house, deck, or pool, perhaps even as a perimeter barrier, to further drive them away from human living spaces.
Remember that, for plants that repel bees and wasps, it is generally the essential oil within the plant that is the deterring factor. Maximize the potency of the natural oils by planting these plants in full sun, and avoid overwatering them, to get the most effectiveness out of deterrent plants.
Depending on the size of your lawn or garden, you may be able to plan the location and sun exposure of plants to naturally prevent bees and wasps near the areas where you live and play, and best harness the power of nature to create a beautiful, pest-free garden.
* Control weeds
As mentioned above, even when weeds don't produce flowers that are attractive to people, they may be attractive to bees and wasps. Take steps to promote healthy vigorous plants that you desire, and reduce or eliminate unwanted plants in your landscape.
* Control plant pests
Aphids in particular are a pest that are not only harmful to your plants, but are extremely attractive to wasps, ants, and other garden nuisances. In fact, the presence of large numbers of wasps is often directly the result of a large number of aphids.
Natural ways to control aphids: if you have adopted the strategy of luring bees away from your home to a designed corner of the garden, you can adopt the same strategy for aphids. Including zinnias, dahlias, and asters will attract aphids (and therefore wasps) away from undesired parts of the landscape
Aphid predators: While wasps and ants love aphids and will protect them, there are other species that will specifically prey upon them. Attracting, or even purchasing, beneficial insects like ladybugs will naturally reduce your aphid population. Consider also attracting birds that feast on aphids, like wrens, chickadees, and titmice. Well-placed birdhouses and bird feeders can bring these helpers to your garden and help control the insect population.
* Reduce standing water
Controlling your landscape to remove standing water is not only helpful in controlling wasps, but it prevents mosquitoes as well. Wasps like to sip water, and will seek it out. Managing your landscape for well-drained soil without deep, long-lasting puddles and avoiding stagnant ponds or pools will help control the insect population. Be diligent with pool or pond maintenance.
Avoid overwatering plants and remove empty cups and glasses quickly after dining outdoors. Be mindful of places where water can accumulate. For example, if you keep empty pots, buckets, wheelbarrows, or other gardening supplies outdoors, store them on their side or upside down to keep them from filling with rain water. Be wary of water that may accumulate in children's play areas or equipment, like a tire swing. Keep household gutters clean and working properly.
Being mindful of water use, flow, and storage on your property is a great way to help control bees and wasps.
* Remove food and food residue
Of course we know that sweet, sticky foods not only attract bees and wasps, but ants and other pests as well. When eating and drinking outside, make sure to promptly remove empty cups and dishes, and also to wipe and sweep clean crumbs and spills.
Clear old and fallen fruit from fruit trees. Fruit and berries are another source of sweet, sticky foods in the garden, so remember to promptly pick or harvest fruits and berries, and remove fallen apples, cherries, blackberries, or any other fruits that may have fallen to the ground. Wasps love fallen fruits, particularly if they are allowed to soften and decay.
Natural Ways to Deter and Kill Wasps
There are even more ways to naturally prevent wasps in your garden without using chemical pesticides. Here are some of them:
Fake wasp nest. Wasps are very territorial and will defend their nests. For that reason, purchasing a fake wasp nest and hanging it outside, on the eaves of a house, for example, will deter new wasps from the area
Wasp traps. While wasp traps can be unsightly and unpleasant to clean, they are an effective way of killing wasps that encroach onto your garden living area. There are a variety of DIY or commercial wasp traps that don't rely on pesticides or chemicals and can be used to kill wasps
Remember that wasps are also pollinators, although not as effective as bees. But we rely on a range of pollinating insects to keep our plants healthy, and they are crucial in our food supply. It is best to not kill them if it can be avoided, and not to indiscriminately use products that kill them and their habitat. With education and planning, a garden can be planned and landscaped in a way that allows people and insects to coexist.
As you can see, with some knowledge and strategy, you can have a beautiful, thriving garden that is attractive to birds and butterflies, while still deterring unwanted biting, stinging, and annoying insects. It's wonderful that the same plants and behaviors that deter wasps and bees also work on pests like aphids, ants, and mosquitoes, so your landscape can protect you multiple ways. Even better, you can achieve all this naturally, without the use of widespread chemicals or pesticides that may harm beneficial insects and the environment.