Last year, our tangerine tree had a big hive of bees right at eye level. We were concerned that our two dogs might try to jump at it, so we had it removed, but it got me thinking–do citrus trees attract bees?
Bees are attracted to most types of flowering fruit trees, including citrus. The bees are especially drawn to the flower’s color and scent, and then feed off the flower’s nectar. Citrus trees produce many potent sweet-smelling flowers, so they generally lure plenty of bees.
Whether you want bees in your garden or not, knowing if citrus trees attract them is good to know, especially if you have a bee allergy. But are bees necessary to pollinate citrus trees? And what are some alternative fruit trees that don’t attract bees? Let’s take a further look.
Do You Need Bees To Pollinate Citrus Trees?
Bees are incredibly helpful when it comes to citrus tree pollination, but as most citrus trees are self-pollinating, bees aren’t required. However, these citrus trees can still benefit from cross-pollination from bees. In these cases, the trees are more likely to have higher fruiting rates and less fruit drop.
To better understand if bees are needed to pollinate citrus trees, it’s helpful to know how pollination works in a bit more detail.
If you aren’t familiar, when it comes to a flower’s fertilization, the pollen is male and the flower is female. When bees visit flowers for nectar, pollen from the flower collects on their bodies and they carry it from flower to flower.
Other cases of pollination include wind and pollination by hand (you can also use a toothbrush to share pollen from flower to flower).
Between bees, wind, and hand pollinating, these three examples are called cross-pollination.
On the other hand, self-pollination is when the plant’s flowers already contain both male and female parts and don’t need to have pollen shared.
In this case, since most citrus trees are self-pollinating, pollination from bees, wind, or a brush is not required. However, it can still help. Cross-pollinating these citrus trees can lead to more fruiting and less fruit drop.
So, while bees aren’t necessary to pollinate citrus trees, it can be helpful to bear more fruit. If you don’t have a bee allergy and don’t mind bees, having them around your citrus trees could be valuable.
For more about citrus trees and self-pollination vs cross-pollination (including which citrus trees self or cross-pollinate), check out my guide on citrus tree pollination.
But what about if you have a potted or indoor citrus tree? After all, you don’t want bees in your home! Don’t worry, there are some ways you can help pollinate your indoor citrus trees without bees.
How To Pollinate Indoor Citrus Trees
First, as most citrus trees are self-pollinating, you likely don’t need to do anything to your potted tree to encourage pollination. However, if you want that increased chance of fruiting and less fruit or flower drop, here are a few ways you can assist your tree’s pollination.
- Cotton Swab
To pollinate by hand, make sure you use a new brush or swab and lightly brush the pollen from flower to flower. This should increase the chance that the flower is fertilized and becomes a fruit.
This is usually done in the late winter, but seasons can vary depending on the variety of citrus you have.
Additionally, you could wait until spring when the bees are at their most active and place your potted citrus tree outside. If you have bees in your area, they’ll most likely pay a visit.
However, if you don’t have any bees around your home, you can plant flowers that bees are attracted to, which will encourage them to also stop by your citrus tree’s flowers.
Bees are most attracted to blue, white, and yellow flowers. Some good flowers to start attracting bees are bee balm, daisies, and lavender. Avoid spraying pesticides around your flowers as it can deter or kill bees.
Fruit Trees That Don’t Attract Bees
So, what about if you don’t want bees around your citrus trees or garden? After all, if you have a bee allergy, it may be worth it to take some extra measures to make sure the bees visit your neighbor’s plants and not yours. While most or all citrus tree flowers attract bees, are there some fruit trees that don’t attract bees?
The best fruit trees to grow that don’t attract bees are figs, pawpaws, cherimoya, and of course-growing citrus trees indoors. While these fruit trees aren’t bee-pollinated, some are fly-pollinated. If you’re keeping any of these indoors or in a greenhouse, you may need to pollinate them by hand with a small brush.
Again, since most citrus trees are self-pollinating, you likely won’t need to pollinate its flowers by hand. However, don’t forget about the potential benefit of larger fruit and less drop.
While our tangerine tree attracted a hive of bees last year, we expect this trend to continue this year. Bees absolutely love citrus tree flowers, so if you have any citrus trees you should expect to see some bees around your garden, especially in the spring.
Even though most citrus trees don’t need to be pollinated by bees, they can still benefit from it and provide better fruit for you. On the other hand, if you have a bee allergy, then know that some fruit trees such as figs and pawpaws don’t attract bees and will help deter them from your property.
Need More Help?
You can always ask us here at Couch to Homestead, but you should know the other resources available to you! Here are the resources we recommend.
- Local Cooperative Extension Services: While we do our best with these articles, sometimes knowledge from a local expert is needed! The USDA partnered with Universities to create these free agriculture extension services. See your local services.
- 7 Easy Steps to Grow Fruit Trees (Free Guide): Need more fruit tree help from the ground up? See our free guide to make growing fruit trees a breeze.
- Ask the Free Community: Join The Couch to Homestead Community and connect with other members discussing gardening, homesteading, and permaculture.
- 30-Day Permaculture Food Forest Course: Learn how to turn your backyard into a thriving food forest in just 30 days with our online course.