Herbs are among the most useful plants in nature. We use them in food and medicines. We use them in skin care products. We even use them to scent the air. But human beings are not the only creatures that love herbs. Bees, butterflies and other insects love them, too – as do some birds.

David Trinklein is a plant scientist with the University of Missouri Extension, in Columbia, Missouri. He told the Associated Press that people’s interest in herbs has been growing and herb sales are on the rise.

People are using fresh garden herbs for cooking, he said, but their other interest in herbs is to support pollinators – creatures that help plants to reproduce.

Bee populations, for example, have been shrinking in many areas. Scientists suspect pesticide poisoning and climate change as among the main causes.

Many gardeners are trying to help pollinator populations by giving them the plants they need to be healthy.

Francis Drummond notes that bees enjoy many kinds of herbs. Drummond is a professor in the School of Biology and Ecology at the University of Maine.

He said that herbs with the most nectar bring bees to the garden. Bees love nectar-filled herbs, such as thyme, comfrey, oregano, lemon balm, lavender and rosemary.

Pollinators are necessary for a huge amount of the world’s food production, but European honeybees are especially important, Trinklein said.

“They’re the king of the pollinators,” he said. But other kinds of bees can often be accidental pollinators. Honeybees are also greater in number and more active than other pollinators.

Bees must collect syrup and pollen from early spring through late autumn to support a healthy bee colony, Trinklein said. That means gardeners should plant many kinds of flowers and herbs to lengthen the flowering season.

Gardeners wishing to help pollinators might consider planting scent gardens made up wholly of herbs. They can make your home smell wonderful and supply nutrients to bees, he said.

Exercise 1


Read the following vocabulary with your teacher.

scent (n.) /ˈsɛnt/ - a pleasant smell that is produced by something

  • The dogs followed the fox's scent.

pesticide (n.) /ˈpɛstəˌsaɪd/ - a chemical that is used to kill animals or insects that damage plants or crops

  • In recent years, the use of pesticides in agriculture has been increasing steadily.

nectar (n.) /ˈnɛktɚ/ - a sweet liquid produced by plants and used by bees in making honey

syrup (n.) /ˈsirəp/ - A thick, sweet liquid

  • She poured syrup all over her pancakes.

pollen (n.) /ˈpɑːlən/  -  the very fine usually yellow dust that is produced by a plant and that is carried to other plants of the same kind usually by wind or insects so that the plants can produce seeds

  • Bees store honey and pollen to serve as food for their young.


Exercise 2 


Answer these questions about the article.

1. What do people use herbs for?

2. Why are bee populations decreasing?

3. What kinds of herbs do bees enjoy?

4. When do bees collect pollen and syrup?


Exercise 3

Fill in the blanks

Fill in the blanks with the correct word listed below.

scent, pesticide, nectar, syrup, pollen

1. The bees fly within a five mile radius to collect ____.

2. Smaller flowers produce less ____.

3. Make a simple mint ____ by boiling sugar and water together for 5 minutes.

4. The flower has a wonderful ____.

5. Spraying crops with _____ is very dangerous.


Exercise 4


Have a discussion on following questions.

1. Are you surprised that bee populations are decreasing?

2. What would happen to humans if bees became extinct?

3. Do you have a garden? If yes, what kind of plants do you have in it? If no, would you like to?

4. Is gardening popular in your country?


This lesson is based on a news article originally published by VOA.