Rhododendrons and Honey Bees

Asked June 19, 2018, 6:15 PM EDT

We just had 20 rhododendrons planted in our yard. We have been keeping bees and harvesting their honey for 3 years and love it. Now we heard that rhodies are toxic to bees and can contaminate honey. Should we replace these plants with other native species? The bees are very important to us.

Lane County Oregon

1 Response

Nectar of some species of Rhododendrons has been shown to contain a toxic natural compound called grayanotoxin. When bees collect nectar exclusively from the flowers of these plants then the nectar may have high concentrations of these toxins. In general rhododendrons are not a preferred forage for honey bees when there are other attractive floral resources in the surroundings. Also, i don't think just 20 rhododendrons in your yard will have a significant impact on honey bees in your area, as bees will collect nectar from a variety of flowering plants in that area which will dilute any potential toxins in the honey.