Himalayan Balsam Wales

What about the bees?!

One of the most frequent questions we hear is “What about the bees?”.

To see a statement on Himalayan Balsam by the British Beekeepers Association click here

Himalayan Balsam is a good nectar source, and because it flowers late, it is widely loved by beekeepers. However, it is such a good source of nectar that often bees will visit Himalayan Balsam in preference to native plants. This means that native plants get a double hit by not being pollinated well, and also by being out-competed by the Balsam. This can lead to thick stands of Himalayan Balsam, with lower overall biodiversity, which die down in winter and leave areas prone to erosion.

There are lots of other native or non-invasive species that are also good pollen sources, and we strongly recommend you consider these over Himalayan Balsam. Wild flowers such as white clover and thistles are good nectar sources, as is majoram. Late flowering plants include buddleja (butterfly tree), heathers and angelicas. Have a look at the Royal Horticultural Society’s list of bee friendly plants:

or do a general Google search – there are many good sources of information on the Internet.

Some bee keepers say that honey from bees that have had access almost exclusively to Himalayan Balsam is not as tasty as that where the bees have had access to a greater variety of flowers.

Don’t forget it is illegal to plant or otherwise allow Himalayan Balsam to grow in the wild (see section on legislation). If it is growing in your garden, you must control it to ensure it doesn’t spread. It was introduced to one garden in 1839, and is now a major problem across the UK; don’t underestimate its ability to spread rapidly and uncontrollably!