bee forage

A honey bee forage plant: lovage

Honey bees on lovage flowers

This one surprised me. I’ve grown lovage for many years, but I usually cut it back before it flowers. This year I let it go. Yesterday I was amazed to count over forty honey bees on one plant. I had no idea they liked it so well.

Lovage, Levisticum officinale, is in the same family (Apiaceae) as celery, carrot, anise, parsnip, dill, and caraway. It is highly aromatic with hollow stems and greenish-yellow flowers. The flowers of many plants in this family are known as good companion plants because the nectar attracts such insects as parasitic wasps and flies as well as lady bugs. When not drinking nectar, these predatory insects feed on crop-damaging insects, making them valuable biological control agents.

I couldn’t find any references to lovage as bee forage, but in Honey Plants of North America (1926) John H. Lovell says that celery grown for seed along the Sacramento River yields a surplus honey crop. He mentions the flowers “yield nectar freely.” From what I observed yesterday, it seems the flowers of lovage do so as well.

In fact, the lovage managed to attract all those honey bees in spite of the fact that blackberries are in full and plentiful bloom where I live. I am impressed.

Honey Bee Suite

Lovage grows to eight feet tall


  • Lovage stems were traditionally used as a straw from which to drink bloody mary cocktails. Since lovage has fallen out of favor, modern drunkards stir their bloody marys with celery. We have to wonder, does it rarely go to flower at your house because it ends up in a bloody mary?

    This reminds me I wanted to put in some lovage this year (for the sake of bloody marys).

    Are you going to do a honey bee forage post on borage? That is the hot bee forage item in my community garden right now. I have a 20×20 plot with a lot of borage growing between my tomatoes. I saw over 50 bees (honey and bumble) on it today. It’s more attractive than any of the other flowers my co-gardeners are growing.

  • I’ve been growing the same carrots for years, and I overwinter them, to go to seed. Anything that will cross with carrots, I can’t grow anywhere near my carrots. My wife brought a potted Queens Anne’s Lace home, a few years back. I couldn’t plant it anywhere near my garden, since it is in the carrot family, it would obliterate my carrot seed. It mysteriously disappeared. I would love to grow borage, but these carrots are really good!

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