Catnip is great for bees and makes great honey!
Nepeta Cataria is the wild version of the plant and it is not common in Britain or Ireland but is naturalised in many parts of North America where the early settlers brought the plant as a medicinal herb.
The plant has erect growing stems that can reach a metre high and which in good conditions will bear abundant flower spikes. The flowers are white with purple and pink speckles and a field of catnip is an extraordinarily beautiful gift from nature.
We, in Fred’s Catnip Farm grow catnip for it’s well known qualities as an attractant to cats. But catnip is also extremely attractive to all kinds of bees including bumblebees, solitary bees and honey bees.
Honey bees need to forage for nectar and pollen to feed themselves and raise young bees in the hive. Catnip is a useful source of both nectar and pollen and therefore will attract honey bees in large numbers. Honey bees only forage from one type of plant at a time and so it is good for them to find sources of food where there are a large number of the same plants grouped together.
Our catnip field in summer is absolutely covered in bees and if you will hear the steady hum of worker bees foraging in the flowers. Fascinated by this I have done a little research and discovered that as far back as the 19th century, an early pioneer of commercial beekeeping, Moses Quinby, extolled the virtues of catnip as a honey producing plant and is said to have stated that if he were to grow any plant intensively for honey, he would grow catnip.
This year the beehives arrive at the catnip farm and all going well this autumn we will harvest our first catnip honey. I am very excited about this and really enjoyed completing the Federation of Irish Beekeepers course.
And of course our bees will be the best looked after bees and will be very happy on Fred’s Catnip Farm!