When determining which flowers repel bees, first think of what it is that bees need in a flower. Bees are searching for pollen and nectar, their source of food. They seek flowers with sturdy petals for stabilisation as they reach nectar with their tongues. Bees are also attracted by colour and scent. Reversing all the factors that attract bees helps the gardener choose flowers that hold little interest for bees and instead draw birds, butterflies or other insects to the garden.
Hummingbirds are attracted to large tubular flowers which accommodate the long bill of the bird. They hover while feeding, so the flowers they seek are usually horizontal or cascading such as fuchsia or trumpet vine.
Like bee flowers, many butterfly flowers are upright and clustered to provide a landing surface. Butterflies extend their long threadlike tongues to drink nectar from flowers. The tube within the flower they visit, called the corolla tube, is also long and narrow and discourages the short-tongued bee. Valerian, phlox and pollen-less sunflowers are good examples of butterfly flowers.
Number of Petals
Bees search for single-petal flowers and will avoid the double varieties. Double blooms are hybrid plants developed with extra petals which hide the anthers that bear the pollen needed by bees. Marigolds, mums, zinnias, impatiens and hollyhock are all available in double varieties that discourage bees. Butterflies generally visit these flowers.
Colour of Flower
Bees are attracted to flowers in colours of blue, purple, orange, white and yellow. They are not attracted to red since bees see pure red as grey. Hummingbirds and butterflies, instead, perceive and are drawn to red flowers. Pollen is carried on the head feathers of a hummingbird. Fuchsia, hibiscus, cardinal flower and coral bells are all examples of red flowers preferred by hummingbirds.
Fragrance is one of the main factors that attract bees to flowers. Generally the more fragrance, the more nectar, the more bees. Butterflies, on the other hand have a weak sense of smell. Butterfly-pollinated flowers are brightly-coloured but unscented. Choose varieties such as coreopsis, poppies, cosmos and impatiens for a striking colour display without scent.