Do Azaleas Attract Bees? (An Accurate Guide)

Azaleas are beautiful flowering shrubs that are often used in creating bouquets, as décor, within the landscaping and making aesthetically pleasing bonsai trees.

However, do azaleas attract bees as well?

Yes, they do, in fact when it comes to pollination, bees love azaleas because of their abundance of pollen and nectar.

The colors and scents drive also extremely inviting for them. However, the leaves and flowers of the azalea contain toxins called grayanotoxins.

These toxins can be lethal to certain bee species, and the honey is created using the nectar from these shrubs.

Do azaleas attract bees

In this article, we’ll go through the relationship between azaleas and bees in much more detail. 

The role of azaleas in the ecosystem

Azaleas play a significant role in securing the plant ecosystem by attracting butterflies and hummingbirds. Their alluring blooms hypnotize these frequent workers, especially during the blooming seasons.

They also provide a ton of nectar, pollen, and even caterpillars to make sure that these pollinators have enough energy to go about their working day unhindered. Bees and other pollinators are vital to the survival of pretty much every single plant species to exist.

The role of azaleas in the ecosystem

Without these pollinators, plants wouldn’t be able to reproduce by themselves. Pollinators do that for them. Everything would simply die out, and no new plant life would be able to grow. We would be left with a barren realm.

This would be a disaster for humanity as plant life is required for us to live. Not only for a food source but also to hold the earth together, but that’s a conversation for another article. Given these points, azaleas are extremely important cogs in the plant ecosystem. 

Do azaleas attract bees? (Right Answer Only)

Not only bees, many pollinator types are attracted to azaleas because of their inviting colors and smells. This includes Swallowtails, gray comma butterflies, bumblebees, and hummingbirds, to name a few.

Surprisingly, flame azaleas, which produce orange and red blooms, rely almost solely on butterflies to reproduce. Furthermore, the butterfly’s wings are the part that does the pollination. 

Another reason why azaleas are so attractive to these pollinators is the amount of nectar and pollen they contain. The nectar provides long lasting energy for the pollinators, whereas the pollen is extracted and delivered to the plants where required to assist in the reproduction process.

Another attractive feature of azaleas is some of the other smaller food forms pollinators enjoy.

These include lace bugs, azalea caterpillars, ants, aphids, beetles, gnats, and mosquitoes. Bugs and insects like these hang around when excess moisture is present or disease is crippling a plant.

Pollinators love feeding on most of these little pests, especially the caterpillars. Bees, on the other hand, only feed on nectar and honey. 

Overall, the role azaleas play in attracting bees and other pollinators provide the whole ecosystem with an abundance of reproducing food and resulting energy. 

Why Bees Are Attracted To Azalea?

There are several reasons that bees can be attracted to azaleas. However, not all bees can use these bushes as a food source and pollen. They contain grayanotoxins which are deadly to some bee species.

For example, the Native Irish honey bee and miner bees can unknowingly feed from or attempt to make use of an azalea and die within hours.

Why Bees Are Attracted To Azalea

On the other hand, bumble bees go about their merry business without experiencing even the slightest discomfort. Let’s look at why azaleas are such an attraction to bees in more detail. 

Colors and smells

The vibrant colors and smells of azaleas drive bees crazy. Azaleas bloom from late March to mid-May (Northern hemisphere) and then produce another round of flowers for several months from midsummer through to fall. During these times, their colors range from whites to purples, pinks, reds, oranges, and yellows.

The brighter and sweeter any pollen filled plant smells, the more heightened a bee’s sense is. The smells these wonderful bushes produce are delightfully scented with a sweet and spicy clove aroma. They are much like cottage pinks and carnations at the height of their bloom period.

The biggest issue with this is that the wrong bees are also attracted. As mentioned, the toxicity of azaleas pollen and nectar can be deadly to several bee species. 

The abundance of pollen and nectar

Azalea flowers are known to be caked in pollens and nectar. They are not at the very top of the most pollen and nectar per flower list. However, they are close behind the leaders. Consequently, the abundance of these 2 substances is a little deceptive.

The abundance of pollen and nectar

Azaleas simply present these characteristics, but the pollinators themselves are drawn to them. As previously mentioned, this can be deadly to some pollinators, including bees. Pollen is collected by pollinators and delivered to other flowers to assist reproduction. Nectar is eaten and used solely as an energy source for these pollinators. 

World watchers

As crazy as it sounds, bees are almost the most important life form. They are solely responsible for reproducing most (not all) growing organisms. The more bees that we can attract, the more that becomes pollinated. Increased pollination allows more growing organisms to produce resources for us as a human race to eat and utilize in many other ways. 

Are Azaleas Harmful To Bees?

Azaleas contain grayanotoxins which are poisonous to many bee species. These include honey bees, miner bees, and native Irish honey bees. They can die within an hour of interacting with the flowers.

Are Azaleas Harmful To Bees

However, there are some bee types, such as the bumble bee, that the toxins will not affect at all. Surprisingly though, the key to azalea pollination is butterflies. 

What about humans and animals?

Furthermore, these toxins can also harm humans and animals when ingested or even touched. It’s not recommended that you get up too close to smell them. The symptoms of azalea poisoning can vary depending on the recipient’s sensitivity.

Smaller ingestions can cause a burning feeling in the mouth, throat, lips, and tongue, and stomach discomfort. Larger ingestions can cause the recipient to feel tired as their blood pressure and/or heart rate is altered due to the toxin. If the azaleas touch the skin, the recipient may experience mild skin irritations.

Do Azaleas Attract Other Insects?

Azaleas appeal to bees due to their vibrant colors and spicy aromas. The violets and blues are especially mesmerizing due to the bees’ sensitivity. However, bees aren’t the only little troopers that enjoy the buzz surrounding azalea bushes.

Do Azaleas Attract Other Insects

Several other insects or birds can also benefit from their attractive nature. Whether for a food source or to assist with pollination. These include:

  1. Mosquitos: These pests usually hang around areas that have a source of moisture, especially during the warmer months when their environment dries out. When this occurs, they search for somewhere to feed and spawn. Azalea bushes offer the perfect shady, dark, and moist conditions to suit mosquitos. They can go into these dense areas and do their business without being disturbed. Luckily some pollinators enjoy feeding on them. Ahh, the circle of life!
  2. Butterflies: Butterflies are one of the only azalea pollinators guaranteed success in their works. Surprisingly, it’s their wings that do the pollinating. They love these plants because of their vibrant colors (red, orange, purple, yellow, and pink) and intense sweet aromas. The most common butterfly species that enjoy helping to serve the azalea bush kingdom are Swallowtails and Gray Commas.
  3. Lace bugs: Lace bugs use azaleas as a source of food. They feed on the chlorophyll on the underside of their leaves. Once ingested, they leave trails of white splotches on the affected leaves. Lace bugs can be distinguished by their tiny black bodies and lace-like wings. 
  4. Azalea caterpillars: These caterpillars can cause serious damage to azaleas in the way that they can completely devour a bush’s foliage in a short time. They are harmless to humans and can be removed and sent far away once spotted. The circle of life works again here as the hummingbird (another pollinator) feeds on these caterpillars during its working period. So although these bushes attract them, they are also utilized within the same ecosystem.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Do hummingbirds like azaleas?

Hummingbirds love Azaleas. These sweet-smelling, attractive-looking bushes contain a ton of nectar, pollen, and their favorite snack in the form of caterpillars. Therefore, they provide an abundance of high protein snacks, energy and a job for the older birds, and food for the youngins.

Can hydrangeas and azaleas be planted together?

Yes! Azaleas and Hydrangeas are great companion plants. They have similar growing requirements, including acidic, well draining soil and an abundance of shade. Azaleas flower through the spring, whereas hydrangeas bloom during the summer. Consequently, both of these bushes provide beautiful coverage throughout the year’s warmer months.

What plant keeps bees and wasps away?

For various reasons, there aren’t many plants that bees and wasps don’t necessarily like. However, those that are deterrents have one main factor in common: their scent. It seems that these 2 flying beauties don’t favor potent aromas such as mint, eucalyptus, and citronella. Identically, Pennyroyal (mint fragrance) and wormwood are also off the radar for bees and wasps. 


Although Azaleas can be poisonous to some bee species and humans and animals, other pollinators love the pollen, nectar, and food source they produce. Therefore, Azaleas are an important bush for the environmental ecosystem.

If it wasn’t for these bees, there would be very little chance of our survival. We hope that this guide has been helpful. You can read about similar topics here on our website. Check back again soon for more.

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