Author Topic: Questions about lemon Balm and bees  (Read 262 times)

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Offline Mukluk

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Questions about lemon Balm and bees
« on: September 23, 2017, 11:23:19 AM »
I have always been told that lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) attracts bees, I have grown this most of my life and rarely see any bees on them when in flower.  Bees seem to prefer pumpkins and basil and clover and dandelion and basically everything else to lemon balm if they have free choice. 

I have always heard that ancient bee keepers used to rub hand fulls of lemon balm on their hives to keep the bees there.  Recently I met someone who is doing that today.  She claimed that lemon balm has similar chemicals to queen bee pheromones.  I can find no evidence of this other than people simply making that claim.  I have heard of people trying to catch swarms and using lemon balm oil, anecdotally many of these people don't have any greater success than if they don't use it.

I have done some reading and have not been able to find a single experiment confirming or disproving any of these claims.  Can someone please help me find something that has been published and peer reviewed either proving or denying these claims because I would like to know for sure?  Anecdotes are nice but meaningless, actual experiments are far better.  Someone has to be better at using google scholar than I am!

Offline Grub

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Re: Questions about lemon Balm and bees
« Reply #1 on: September 24, 2017, 07:39:24 AM »
Are you confusing this with bee balm? My lemon balm attracts bees when it flowers but that's only for a relatively short period of time every year.
Cool region, Canberra. Courtyard and balcony gardener.
http://actgarden.blogspot.com/

Offline Mukluk

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Re: Questions about lemon Balm and bees
« Reply #2 on: September 24, 2017, 10:43:08 AM »
No I wish I was confusing this, it is definitely lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) that people refer to. 

The name 'Melissa' is the Greek word for 'bee'.  People used to carry on about how the flower is the same shape and size of bee mouth parts.  It is often mentioned in permaculture and organic magazines as attracting bees.  Old time apiarists used to grow it near hives and rub hand fulls of it on the hives so the bees could find their way home.  I had a bee catcher the other day see my lemon balm and tell me that she uses it when catching swarms.  But I can find no evidence for this being true or otherwise.  To me this sounds like one of those old garden myths that won't die.

Offline Grub

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Re: Questions about lemon Balm and bees
« Reply #3 on: September 24, 2017, 11:13:20 AM »
A huge clump of it would definitely attract bees when it was in flower. But I don't see them going for it any more zealously than other mint family flowers like thyme and marjoram, only based on my limited small scale experience, of course.

It could be that the pollen produces particularly good honey moreso than it is the flowers that attract bees.
Cool region, Canberra. Courtyard and balcony gardener.
http://actgarden.blogspot.com/

Offline pinefamily

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  • Mid North SA; warm temperate climate
Re: Questions about lemon Balm and bees
« Reply #4 on: September 24, 2017, 12:56:14 PM »
Or a case of pure coincidence, so therefore it must work. Right?

BTW I always thought Melissa was ancient Greek for honeybee, but I'm happy to be wrong.

Offline Raymondo

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  • Northern Tablelands, N.S.W.
Re: Questions about lemon Balm and bees
« Reply #5 on: October 11, 2017, 08:59:14 AM »
Plenty of ‘old wives tales’ out there. Some seem to have some basis in fact, others not. We have plent of lemon balm growing, and a beehive belonging to a local beekeeper. I can’t say I’ve noticed the bees preferring the lemon balm over anything else.
Ray, gardening on an old flood plain with clay loam from 30 to 60 cm deep over clay.