Nectar-producing Herbs for Commercial Beekeepers
Answered by: Inge Poot
Question from: Brian Fredericksen
Posted on: April 17, 2003

I live in central Minnesota, USA Zone 4 and keep bees for a living.

The following herbs are extremely good nectar sources for bees

anise

catnip

anise hyssop

painted sage

fullers teasel

mignonette

motherwort

I have a 2 acre plot of high well drained soil sunny location (formerly soy bean field) which I would like to plant in a possible combination of the above herbs. considering my growing season zone 4 what would you recommend as far as a mix of herbs that I can sow in the next 4 weeks? I realize that fall sowing is advisiable for some plants and we have other plots where we are doing that. My interest is the ability to do a spring sowing for bee forage

If you could give me a recommend mix per acre or a seeding rate per acre for each plant that also would be helpful. Or a web resource where I can find that information.

If you want the bees to harvest from the plants this year, you should only plant the annuals: anise, painted sage and mignonette. The biennial Fuller’s teasel and the perennials, catnip, anise hyssop and motherwort won’t flower the first year from direct seeded seed.

Seeding rates are:

Anise 10 to 17 kg/ha or about 10 to 15 lbs/acre

Catnip 12 kg/ha or about 12 lb/acre

Anise Hyssop 2.5 kg/ha or about 2.5 lb/acre

Painted Sage 3 kg/ha or about 3 lb/acre

Fuller’s Teasel 1kg/ha or about 1 lb /acre

Mignonette 7 to 10 kg/ha or about 7 to 10 lb/acre

Motherwort 1kg/ha or about 1 lb/acre

A key issue in deciding between perennials and annuals is weed control. The perennials such as anise hyssop and catnip are excellent bee plants but weed control is an issue because they can be choked out by local weeds. Typically, when perennial herbs are planted, say, for producing dried herbs, we are recommending row planting of plugs rather than broadcast sowing because of the weed issue. Because row planting of plugs and weed control can be prohibitive if you are only growing the herbs for nectar, you may wish to stay with annuals and short lived perennials such as red clover. These can be broadcast sown and plowed under to keep the weeds at bay.

Some of the herbs in your list are probably not ideal for your zone because they may not reach maturity in time to offer much nectar for bees in the short summer season you have. Anise may be a problem; you should try a test area first before committing a large area to it. For other choices of herbal bee plants, we recommend that you have a look at the Richters InfoSheet on bee plants that can be found in the "Richters InfoCentre" section of our website (http://www.richters.com). It is in the "InfoSheets" area of that section.

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