Bumblebee on deadnettle

Finding a Balance: Weeds for Wildlife

This week I’ve been looking out for bumblebees on white deadnettles here. The white deadnettle (Lamium album) is an excellent wild plant for the queen bumblebees that have just emerged from hibernation in spring. The flowers, which are already opening now in April, are a great source of nectar and pollen when there isn’t much else around.

We have a lot of bee-friendly plants in the garden and I’m trying to develop this further by planting to provide for bees and other insects for as much of the year as possible. This is causing me a bit of a dilemma at the moment because this particular deadnettle runs rampant in my garden.

Deadnettles are members of the mint family and this one is determined to take over as big an area as possible. Before I knew that it was such a good bee plant, I’d spent years trying to remove it from the garden, with very slow progress. (I doubt that it was deliberately planted by anyone – most likely it just ‘arrived’.)

Recently I’ve been reading a lot of books about gardening for wildlife. They all recommend the white deadnettle for bees, moths and beetles, so I feel that I really shouldn’t get rid of it all. At the same time, these books don’t mention how invasive this plant can be.

It’s a UK native wildflower, but can be bought as a garden plant (presumably for a ‘wild’ garden). As you probably guessed from the name, it looks just like a nettle – except for the rings of white flowers around the stalk – but thankfully it doesn’t sting.

So now I’m wondering what to do. I have noticed that there are a couple of different species of bumblebee that visit the flowers. (Not many yet. It’s been quite chilly and if I was a queen bee, I’d have popped back to bed for a bit longer!) I really don’t want to deprive these bees of their food source but I know that the moment I turn my back on the deadnettle, it will reach out and grab the rest of my garden. The bees might then be really well-fed, but everything else will be swamped.

The best answer is probably to grow some of this over-enthusiastic plant in large pots. I’ll have to watch that none of the roots escape through the drainage holes, or else it will be off, racing through the garden again, with me in pursuit.

As you can see from the photo below, ladybirds like deadnettles too. Maybe I’ll get to like it eventually!

Ladybird on deadnettle

18 thoughts on “Finding a Balance: Weeds for Wildlife

  1. There’s a white-flowered Lamium at the Gore public garden that I really like and it doesn’t look like it’s rampant. I think it has pretty leaves and I doubt it’s the same one as in your garden. Will keep an eye out for any pics I might have hanging around. We inherited a pale-pink flowered lamium in one garden and that ran riot everywhere! Your close-up of the bumblebee feeding is cute!

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    1. It might be a much more civilized garden variety, or it may be in soil that it doesn’t want to spread in. But, whatever it is, the bees will love it. The pink flowered lamiums run riot here too, but luckily don’t get as big! I do love the big furry bumblebees – it’s fun to watch them. 🙂

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  2. It would be great if you could retain some dead nettle in a couple of big pots. The insects need all the help they can get (I help them by being a lazy, incompetent gardener, but obviously that approach isn’t to be recommended for talented enthusiasts like your good self! 🙂)

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    1. I’m looking out for some big pots that are still able to be moved about. That way I can plant them up with things like deadnettle and move them if they’re in the wrong place. (If you saw my garden, you’d laugh…it is not very tidy at all. For a number of years towards the end of my parents’ lives, I just didn’t have enough time to cope with the whole garden and everything just did as it pleased. Now I want to sort it out without causing mass homelessness. I’d like to make it a better space for wildlife and for us too. 🙂 )

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      1. It’s a difficult balance, isn’t it. Excessive tidiness in gardens may be aesthetically pleasing to some folk, but it’s the antithesis of nature and not a lot of use to wildlife. Big pots sound like a good compromise!

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      2. Big pots will be great – otherwise some plants just take over and smother everything else. (Not much chance of my garden being very tidy though – hehe!)

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  3. We have a purple-pink Lamium here that’s known as henbit. It’s an early bloomer, too, and because of the small size of the flowers, it seems to attract smaller native bees and various flies. I know people who consider it a ‘weed,’ too, even though it’s a perfectly respectable native wildflower. Like yours, it can be enthusiastic about spreading: sometimes, too enthusiastic.

    I was glad to read that your nettle isn’t the stinging sort. We have a bull nettle that’s near the top of my avoid-at-all-costs list.

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    1. We have what appears to be henbit too, but it’s much smaller and doesn’t spread as far, so it can stay. 🙂 But we do have stinging nettles too – ouch!

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    1. Yes, Indira, they’re valuable to wildlife. So I’ll be planting some up in some big pots – that should stop them taking over! And the bees will be well-fed. 🙂

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  4. Goodness – great pix of the bumblebee I must say! Do you call the little red bug a Ladybird? I always called them Lady Bugs. I think they are so cute! Lovely blog on the Deadnettle (what a name).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Syd! Yes, with us, ladybugs are called ladybirds. Why the ‘bird’ part I don’t know. ‘Bug’ does make more sense! And the ‘deadnettle’ is dead because it doesn’t sting (just pretends it would). Thank goodness – otherwise I’d be well-stung!!

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  5. The only nettle we’ve had here is the stinger. As you might imagine we do not encourage it. I imagine it does provide sustenance for some very tiny pollinators. There are always a few plants that remain after we rid the garden of most of them and hopefully that is enough to satisfy the need. Yours have very lovely flowers. If ours did we might not mind them so much.

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    1. We have the stingers too, but I don’t feel any need to encourage them because they’re everywhere around us (we’re on the edge of countryside), so there’s plenty for caterpillars etc.

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