How to control ‘weeds’ & wildflowers as a beekeeper

If you’re anything like me, you hate to cut down honey bee forage. Yet at the same time you can’t let nature crowd you in your own space. At some point, enough is enough. I’m going to show you how you can control the weeds and wildflowers without taking away that precious forage from the bees.

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blackberry blossoms in full bloom
Blackberry blossoms cover my property with their pink and white show.
Photo by Jonathan Hargus©

Controlling wildflowers: Two steps in Ecological Improvement

Step One- Secure zones 0-1

Zones 0-1 are permaculture terms for the area of your property that is used the most. That is, these zones have the most foot traffic.

These areas are important to the function of your household. You must be able to walk from area to area without any ‘natural’ obstacles. Maintaining these areas also keep the tick population down, which is definitely a good thing!

For example: try to keep areas clear between the front door of your house to the car. Or the back door to the shed.

On my own land, I must keep a path clear from our Jeep to the creek where our swinging bridge is. After crossing the bridge there is another path maintained straight to the house and around its sides.

a swinging bridge on an off-grid homestead
This bridge connects two completely different permaculture zones on my land.
Photo by Jonathan Hargus©

But in the areas where you do not frequent as often, these are perfect for letting those wildflowers grow. This could be anywhere from zones 2-6.

Zone 0 is the homefront and zone 6 is the most wild parts of your property that you may only see once a month.

My property was overgrown as a zone 6 since the day I bought it. But now, six years later, I finally have the circumstances to be able to control things a little.

A huge part of the land is overrun with blackberry bramble and my home apiary is right in the middle of it. I have not wanted to cut down the blackberries for obvious reasons: Blackberries and Blackberry honey.

home based apiary located in a blackberry patch
My home apiary is located in the middle of my property among a lot of blackberry forage. Photo by Jonathan Hargus©

According to one of my very favorite books, American Honey Plants by Frank C. Pellett, I live in one of the few areas where beekeepers can make a crop from Blackberry. “In north Georgia it is one of the principal sources of surplus honey.” And it tastes awesome!

So my solution has been to secure paths wide enough to walk and drive thru comfortably. The blackberries have their space and I have mine.

After having secured zones 0 and 1, let those wildflowers bloom. You can always cut them back after the bloom is over when the bees have finished foraging OR you can allow the wildflowers to go to seed so that there will be more for next year. This leads us straight into Step 2.

a well maintained area between permaculture zones 1 and 2
There is enough room for me to walk or drive through this area without issue. Photo by Jonathan Hargus©

Step 2- Allowing wildflowers to bloom and/or go to seed

Whether you let them bloom or go to seed, you can control when they’re cut down after they have been useful to local pollinators.

This way you have allowed the wildflowers to be useful as a nectar/pollen source and probably enjoyed the show of flowers and their aroma too.

If you like the particular species of wildflower, then I would recommend allowing it to go to seed.

In my case, after blackberry has finished blooming and when the berries begin to form and grow, next year’s blackberry shoots have already sprouted forth.

My goal this year is to experiment by mowing down portions of the blackberry bushes. Hopefully, next year’s growth will still have time to grow back and I’ll have plants for next year that will bloom again.

If you choose to cut down and clear the wildflowers after they have finished blooming then you may consider planting something else that doesn’t overrun the area so much.

Some good choices could be a native ground cover like Wild Ginger, or something like Huckleberry that can be trained into a hedge. As a bonus, Huckleberry bushes provide forage for bees, berries for you and me, and even a landscaping hedge all at the same time.

This is an Evergreen Huckleberry I bought from OneGreeWorld.com. It will grow in the shade up to eight feet tall and provide berries and hedging. Photo by Jonathan Hargus©

This is Ecological Improvement at its finest. In case you would like to learn more about ecological improvement as a career, I have an incredible source you need to check out below.


Final thoughts

In summary there are 2 steps for controlling wildflowers:

Step 1- Define and secure zones 0-1. These zones have the highest foot traffic from you and your family.

Step 2- Decide when you’re going to cut/maintain the next zone areas: Either after the bloom is over OR after the bloom is over AND the plants have had a chance for their seeds to fully develop for next year.


My honey bees are very important to me. The excitement I feel when I see them foraging on wild plants on my own property is priceless. I’m sure that many of you feel the same.

Yet at the same time it is equally important to maintain a balance between the edges of where we live and where nature begins. Hopefully, this is a blurry line if you know what I mean.

Learn more about Ecological Improvement in my book reviews here.

Do you have any wildflowers that you like to leave for local pollinators as forage? I would love to hear about it in the comments below. Please share what you’re doing to maintain your zones of use. Or ask me for advice on what you could do to take action.

Have you seen my new children’s picture book? Weeds are Wildflowers, let them Bee! is available on Amazon.com now!!

Until next time remember,

~Weeds are Wildflowers, let them Bee!~

Jonathan Hargus/Beekeeper Extraordinaire

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5 Thoughts

  1. Great post – I also have a massive stand of brambles in the apiary, which not only provides forage for me, the bees, and birds and mammals, but also fantastic cover for nesting birds. Dandelions are another great one for everyone: so many insects enjoy the flowers, the leaves and petals can be put in to a salad, and finches love the seedheads 🙂

    1. Wow, I wish I had thought of those other uses you mentioned. Brambles being a home and cover for other critters is a very important point. Thanks for sharing that Jennifer 😁

      1. I think it’s great when we can show that apiary sites are also brilliant for wildlife, and how beekeeping can – and should – promote good husbandry of the surroundings 🙂

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