Why Our Bees Love Meadow Flowers

July 07, 2020

Why Our Bees Love Meadow Flowers

Our new Replenishing Facial Oil is already a customer favourite. It's made from a careful blend of skin-nourishing oils from UK native plants, all of whom are key food sources for our bees. These plants produce lipid-rich oils which are fantastic for the skin and are now grown as main crops all over the UK. 

 

Borage/Starflower (Borago officinalis)

My personal favourite bee-friendly plant, Borage has beautiful bright blue flowers producing relatively large volumes of nectar throughout the day. This hardy annual is self-seeding and can stay in bloom from May onwards throughout the whole of the summer refreshing its nectar stores in each flower every two hours on a warm day. This guarantees the constant attention of a wide variety of bees and butterflies to its easily accessible flowers. It produces a very light, delicately flavoured honey that is highly prized by connoisseurs.

 Borage is the perfect bee flower and produces great tasting honey

Borage is the perfect plant for attracting pollinators to your garden

Because Borage is so attractive to pollinators, it makes the perfect companion plant to soft fruit bushes and other garden crops. Its bright blue flowers are edible, making a great garnish in salads and can also be frozen into ice cubes or used to colour gin and other drinks light blue.

Traditionally the borage plant was used to treat many ailments, from jaundice to kidney problems. Its medicinal use today it is limited, but the oil from the seeds has some of the highest levels of Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA) from any natural source. This is an essential fatty acid that the body can't make on its own and is a proven skin healer and moisturiser.

 

Honesty (Lunaria annua)

Another cottage garden favourite, Honesty is also known as the Chinese Money plant and is a prolific producer of both nectar and pollen in late March and April. Originally native to Southwest Asia, Honesty is an important food source for solitary bees, bumblebees and other insects emerging from hibernation at this time of year. It has small, purple flowers that are relatively long-lasting and looks beautiful in beds when many other plants are yet to flower.

Lunaria or Honesty has distinctive seed pods that produce a rich oil

Lunaria produces very distinctive seed pods 

Honesty is part of the mustard family and is highly edible with many uses. The leaves can be used as a green vegetable or salads, and the flowers frozen in ice cubes and placed in drinks or used as a garnish. The roots are edible when peeled, and the seeds can be ground into a mustard substitute.

As the plant matures through into summer, the seed pods change from green to silver and begin to resemble papery, sheer coins, making it a great source of visual interest in the garden, especially for children! 

Honesty plants are grown commercially in the UK for their seed oil. Naturally rich in several essential fatty acids, Honesty seed oil helps to improve skin barrier function while improving firmness and elasticity; perfect for dehydrated, tired and sensitive skin.

 

Rapeseed (Brassica napus)

This is an important commercial crop grown in huge volumes all over the UK, producing fields of bright yellow, pungent-smelling flowers every spring. It's a member of the cabbage family and is an excellent source of pollen and some nectar early in the spring, being visiting by vast numbers of pollinating insects. 

Beehives lined up to pollinate a field of oilseed rape

Beehives lined up to pollinate a field of oilseed rape

Many bee farmers are paid to bring large numbers of Honeybee hives to the borders of rapeseed fields, so that they can feed on the flowers, potentially increasing crop yields by up to 20% while also providing a bulk source of honey. Unfortunately, rapeseed honey crystallises rapidly, and so it's usually harvested early and mixed with other types of honey to give it a better consistency and flavour.

Rapeseed oil is widely used across the food industry for cooking oil and spreads etc. as well as for other commercial uses including bio-diesel. It's also widely used in skincare as it's a light non-fragrant oil, rich in omega-3, 6 and 9 fatty acids as well as vitamins A, E and K. This gives the oil excellent antioxidant properties as well as being very moisturising and emollient on the skin giving it a firmer, plumper appearance.

 

Poppy (Papaver somniferum)

Also known as the Opium or bread seed Poppy, these plants have been cultivated for various medicinal purposes for centuries. Harvested for their opium, as well as derivatives, including morphine, codeine and heroin, poppy seeds are also used on bread and other baked goods.

Poppy flowers are relatively short-lived and don't produce much nectar. They produce pollen in large quantities attracting bees and other pollinators in the height of the summer when most other plants are mostly producing nectar only. 

Poppy flower showing the black centre that attracts bees feeding on pollen

Poppy flower with the distinctive black pollen centre

Poppy pollen is intensively black and very easy to spot when stored in the Honeybee combs amongst the usual yellow/orange pollens produced by most plants.

Packed with antioxidants, fatty acids and minerals, cold-pressed poppyseed oil is a wonderful cosmetic ingredient for a wide array of skincare applications acting as a natural emollient, softening and conditioning the skin while locking in moisture and hydration.

 

Camelina, False Flax or Gold of Pleasure (Camelina sativa)

Historically cultivated since Roman times for its seeds and cold-pressed oil, Camelina is another Brassica and also closely related to Rapeseed. Here in the UK, it's also widely grown as a commercial crop, and again the large, flowering fields are attractive to all pollinators and are often serviced by colonies of Honeybees brought in by local bee farmers.

Camelina flowers produce a light delicate honey

Camelina flowers produce a light, delicate honey

Camelina produces honey with a delicate floral taste with no bitterness and is often used as the main constituent in the blends of commercial honey sold in supermarkets.

The cold-pressed oil is widely used in cosmetics and skincare as it is an effective natural emollient, moisturising and smoothing out the skin. It also contains a very high percentage of vitamin E, making it a powerful antioxidant aiding with the reduction of fine lines and wrinkles, as well as helping to reduce the formation and appearance of scarring and stretch marks.

 

 


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