If you are trying to attract more butterflies into your garden, you should be aware that many flowers that butterflies love, also attract bees. For example, plants like the Shasta Daisy or Black-Eyed Susan are great nectar plants for butterflies, but will also draw more bees into your garden. In this post I have listed some great flowers that attract butterflies but not bees.
Flowers that Attract Butterflies but not Bees
There are certain plants and flowers that butterflies love, but bees do not. This is due to the colour, smell and shape of the flower head. The colour of the flower is particularly important if you are looking to avoid bees since bees cannot see the same spectrum of colours that butterflies can.
Bees have different colour vision to humans. Their eyes are more sensitive to blue, purple and ultraviolet light. This is why bees are more drawn to blue and purple flowers.
What Colours are Bees attracted to?
Bees have excellent colour vision, but they are more sensitive to green, blue and ultra-violet light. They cannot see red or pink very well. Usually, if they are drawn to pink and red flowers, it is due to their scent alone.
Due to the narrow range of colours that bees can see, they tend to prefer purple, blue and yellow flowers, especially violets, lavender, foxglove, and sunflowers.
What Colours can Butterflies See?
Butterflies can see a wider range of colours including UV, violet, blue, green, and red wavelengths. They like a variety of bright colors including red, yellow, orange, pink and purple flowers.
There are certain red flowers that butterflies love, but bees are not drawn to. This is because bees cannot see red well, and some flowers don’t have a scent that draws bees.
Red Flowers that Attract Butterflies but not Bees
Red lilies are sugary plants, full of nectar that attract both butterflies and hummingbirds with their bright colours. Red Lilys are one of the best plants at attracting monarch butterflies.
Bees cannot see red and are not attracted to Red Lilies. Western honey bees prefer Yellow Lilies such as Lemon Day Lilies or Yellow Fawn Lilies.
A Red Petunia is another flower that attracts both butterflies and hummingbirds, but not bees. All Petunias provide little or no nourishment for bees, but contain nectar that butterflies and hummingbirds like to drink.
Petunias can be grown in hanging baskets, pots, or in a garden bed. If you want to avoid bees in your garden choose either red or pink Petunias, as I’ve see them checking out other colours.
Geraniums have a scent that repels bees, mosquitoes and wasps. It’s best to plant red Geraniums instead of purple or blue Geraniums since bees may be attracted to the blue and purple colours.
Butterflies are drawn to the colour of red Geranium, and like to drink the nectar from the flower. Unlike bees, butterflies are not put off by Geranium’s scent.
Rose flowers are not practical for bees to walk on. Also, if you choose red roses, they are unable to see red so are likely to avoid the flower altogether regardless of its scent.
Butterflies on the other hand love to visit roses, as they like the open blooms and strong scent. Try to plant your roses where they will get direct sunlight, since both roses and butterflies like being in the full sun.
The best roses to attract butterflies but not bees include dog roses, sweet briars, Scottish roses, rosa rugosas, and rosa virginiana.
Poppies are another flower that bees don’t like to land on, but butterflies are attracted to. Butterflies love poppy nectar and are also drawn to the bright red colour and large flowers.
Planting lots of red poppies in your garden is a great way to draw butterfly populations whilst avoiding insect pests.
Bees hate the smell of Chrysanthemum flowers, and are likely to avoid them. Butterflies however like the shape of of the Chrysanthemum flower, and are drawn to their nectar.
Chrysanthemum flowers bloom in September and October, so can provide food for butterflies late in the season, or for monarch butterflies that haven’t yet migrated. The monarch butterfly is the only butterfly known to migrate like birds.
If you want to encourage butterflies to come to your garden all year round, Chrysanthemums are an excellent choice since they produce vibrant blooms in the late summer and autumn when other flowers have died off.
Red salvias are known for attracting both butterflies and hummingbirds. They have tubular shaped flowers which are fine for hummingbirds with their long beaks, but difficult for bees to extract nectar from.
There are many different types of salvia. The best one for attracting butterflies but not bees is the red Salvia Coccinea, also known as the Blood Sage, Scarlet Sage or Pineapple Sage.
Other Flowers that Attract Butterflies but not Bees
Flower Shape and Scent
As well as thinking about the colour of the flower, bees are also not attracted to flowers that are not practical for them, as well as certain scents.
Bees like to be able to stand on the flower head whilst drinking nectar, and won’t be drawn to flowers that they can’t walk on, regardless of the scent or colour.
The following flowers are either impractical for bees, or give off a scent that deters them.
Butterflies love the colorful flowers that grow on cucumber plants, but due to the acid in cucumbers both wasps and bees stay away from them. Cucumber peels alone can help to attract butterflies and deter bees.
Creating a small herb garden is a good idea if you want to attract butterflies but not bees.
Even though bees are drawn to purple flowers, they don’t like the smell of basil, and will avoid it. Butterflies on the other hand love basil flowers, which are also popular with hummingbirds.
Basil likes 6-8 hours of full sun every day. Since butterflies enjoy being in the warmth, they are drawn to basil that’s growing in sunny spots.
If you are building a small butterfly garden, mint is a good herb to include. Butterflies are drawn to the scent of both peppermint and spearmint plants.
Any member of the mint family would be a good addition to your butterfly garden. Bees and wasps on the other hand do not like the scent of mint.
Mint draws a wide variety of butterflies including the Monarch Butterfly, Red Admiral, Gray Hairstreak Butterfly and West Coast Lady.
Butterflies love eucalyptus leaves, but bees and wasps hate the smell of eucalyptus and will avoid eucalyptus trees completely.
Monarch butterflies in particular love roosting in eucalyptus trees. They have small leaves that the butterflies can wrap their feet round, and they also provide a source of food and shelter for them in the winter months.
Eucalyptus trees are native to Australia, but were introduced to California in the 1850s. There are now thousands of acres of eucalyptus all over the United States including California, Texas, Florida.
In the UK, the two most common species of eucalyptus are the cider gum (Eucalyptus gunnii) and the Tasmanian blue gum. They can be found in Essex and Cornwall.
Do Marigolds Attract Butterflies?
Both butterflies and bees are attracted to marigolds. I have seen other sources online which state that marigolds will attract butterflies but not bees. This is not accurate.
Marigolds give off a scent that wasps and other insects don’t like, however bees, and particularly nectar-seeking honeybees are not put off by the smell.
If you want to plant marigolds in your garden to draw butterflies, but would rather avoid bees, try planting only red marigolds. Bees are less likely to visit a red flower than a yellow flower.
Which Flowers Attract Both Butterflies and Bees?
If you want to attract more butterflies, but avoid attracting too many bees, there are certain plants that you should avoid. The following flowers will not only draw butterflies to your garden, but also a myriad of other insects including bumblebees, and honeybees.
- Blazing Star Flowers – native to North America
- Joe-pye weed – this also attracts cuckoo bees, and leafcutter bees.
- Butterfly bushes – also known as buddleia
- Bee Balm – also known as Monarda
- Chives and Onions – these are both flowering plants which attract bees
- Lavender – good source of nectar for both butterflies and bees
FAQs About Flowers that Attract Butterflies but not Bees
Do geraniums keep bees away?
Geraniums are not attractive to bees for two reasons. Firstly they find it difficult to see the red colour of the flowers, and secondly its hard for bees to extract nectar from the flower. Bumble bees have the longest tongues of all bees, but even they struggle to drink from a geranium flower.
Why do bees not like petunias?
Petunias provide little or no nourishment for bees, and the blooms and petals are not wide enough to provide a good landing area for them.
Do marigolds keep bees away?
Marigolds won’t keep bees away. Wasps and Yellow Jackets will avoid marigolds due to their scent, but honeybees are drawn to the colour and nectar of the marigold flower.
Do lavender plants attract butterflies?
Yes lavender plants attract butterflies, but they will also attract bees. Bees see blue color and ultra-violet light very clearly, so they are drawn to purple flowers and blue flowers.
What flower do bees like the most?
Bees love Bee Balm, White wild indigo, Purple coneflower, Black-eyed susan and Joe-Pye weed.
Factors to Consider About Attracting Butterflies
According to the Butterfly Conservation three quarters of UK butterflies have shown a 10-year decrease in population levels. Providing the ideal food and shelter in your garden for butterflies can help to increase their numbers.
There are eight things to consider when trying to attract butterflies into your garden.
1. Provide Food Butterflies Like
Butterflies like nectar rich flowers, and like plants with long, tubular flowers. Try to grow a variety of plants that flower throughout the year, to provide a continuous source of food for butterflies.
Make sure that you care for your plants properly and water them because the amount of nectar in the flower is reduced if the plant is dehydrated.
2. Provide a Warm Spot for Butterflies to Rest
Since adult butterflies are cold-blooded, they like to be in the sun as much as possible to warm their bodies. It’s best therefore to choose plants that like sunny spots, and plant them in areas of the garden that get warm from the sun’s rays.
3. Provide Enough Space for the Butterflies to Fly
Butterflies need enough room to fly around their favourite flowers. Try to plant your flower bed near to an open area of grass where they will have plenty of space to fly.
4. Provide Food for Butterfly Caterpillars
Butterfly caterpillars like to eat weeds, nettles, thistles, and mixed grasses. Try to ensure one part of your garden contains these kinds of plants that the butterfly larvae can feed on.
Each butterfly has different host plants that their caterpillars prefer to eat. For example the Monarch Butterfly prefers to lay its eggs on Milkweed, but the Red Admiral prefers Shasta Daisies. The table below shows different species of butterflies with which host plant they prefer.
|Host Plant||Butterfly Caterpillar|
Milkweed Tussock Moth
Dogbane Tiger Moth
|Black-Eyed Susan||Silvery Checkerspot
|False Nettle||Eastern Comma
|Shasta Daisy||Mourning Cloak
5. Avoid Using Pesticides
Pesticides can harm butterflies, so try to avoid using them near your flowers. It’s best to grow your own plants and keep them in a part of the garden where you won’t use pesticide.
6. Create Shelter for Butterflies
When it rains butterflies like to hide in sheltered parts of the garden. This could be under a hedgerow, or under large shrubs or leaves. Ensure you have somewhere in your garden where butterflies can shelter during the winter and autumn months. You could even make a butterfly house.
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This Post Was About Flowers that Attract Butterflies but not Bees
Thank you for reading my post about flowers that attract butterflies but not bees. I hope the information has helped you to find the best flowers for your garden. If you live in the UK, there are ten different butterfly species that could visit your garden in the summer months. If you attract some beautiful butterflies into your garden, please leave me a comment below and let me know.
Friday 5th of August 2022
Hi Olivia I loved reading about butterflies and bees on your Wandle website. It was so interesting and informative and will certainly be helpful to me in choosing what type of flowers and herbs I will plant in future. Your river quotes were thought provoking, beautiful and amusing. Rivers are certainly the life blood of our planet and need our love and respect. Look forward to reading everything you write. It certainly inspired me to take the river walk.