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Honey bee forage: red deadnettle

After yesterday’s post about mint varieties that are bee favorites, two beekeepers recommended I include red deadnettle (Lamium purpureum). I agree that it is an excellent early forage plant for bees, but I did not include it because it is considered invasive to North America and is a problem plant in some areas.

Bee with red pollen.
Bee with red pollen. Kelley Bees.

Red dead ettle is often referred to as purple deadnettle or purple archangel. The “purple” comes from the flower color, whereas the “red” comes from the color of the upper leaves. “Deadnettle” refers to the fact that, unlike a true nettle, it does not sting. In other words, it is “dead.”

It can flower at any time

The plant can produce flowers almost any time of year, including the winter in mild years. Because it is one of the first plants to bloom, it can be an important food source for bees, producing both nectar and pollen. The pollen is an unmistakable bright red color.

This annual plant can reach 18 inches high, although it usually peaks at about 12 inches. It is found along roadsides, in cultivated fields, in lawns, and in other disturbed areas. The plant is edible and known to be high in antioxidants, although I’ve heard the taste is so-so.


Red deadnettle. Photo by Phil Sellens.
Red deadnettle. Photo by Phil Sellens.

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