Yesterday a reader, Harold Owen, commented on my post “Five Favorite Plants for the Bee Garden” by saying that anise is an excellent bee attractant. He is absolutely right. I want to thank him for mentioning it because anise is a great bee plant.
I have never grown anise in the garden. But of all the essential oils I have experimented with, anise is the all-time winner for attracting bees. Whenever I have bees that won’t drink their sugar syrup, I place one or two drops of anise oil in the feed. The next morning the feeder is empty. It never fails.
It seems that sometimes in the late fall when it starts getting cold at night, the bees are not motivated to collect their syrup. So I always keep a little bottle of anise oil on hand as a feeding stimulant. They go crazy over it—more than any other scent I know of.
The hands-down favorite
I first learned about this on someone’s blog a number of years ago. At the time I was experimenting with various oils as feeding stimulants, including tea tree, rosemary, thyme, lemon, wintergreen—whatever I could find, but anise was the hands-down favorite (or maybe the feet-down favorite) of all the colonies I tried it on.
Anise is an annual herb native to southern Europe and the Mediterranean region. It bears loads of white flowers that attract bees and the seeds are the source of the anise oil. Select a sunny location and plant the seeds in well-drained soil as soon as the ground starts to warm in spring. Because anise has a taproot, it does not transplant well, so plant the seeds in their final location. Water regularly, but sparingly. Plants grow to about two feet high.
Note: Anise (Pimpinella anisum) is sometimes confused with anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) which is an excellent bee plant in its own right. Anise hyssop is neither a true anise nor a true hyssop, but is one of the many species of Agastache. Both Agastache and the true hyssops are in the mint (Lamiaceae) family whereas anise is in the carrot (Apiaceae) family. I have never tried star anise (Illicium verum), so I don’t know if it has the same effect as Pimpinella.
Honey Bee Suite