ADS Executive Director

Are Daffodils toxic to bees?

May 2, 2020

Categories: American Daffodil Society, General

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From: Stephanie Digby
Subject: Neurotoxins

Message Body:

population. I am aware that bee populations have dropped by about 90%. There is an endangered bee that has been found in my neighborhood. I would prefer not to do anything to endanger them (or any others).
do you know of any resources on daffodil physiology and their neurotoxins.
Specifically do the neurotoxins leach from the roots in to the soil? Do the dead leaves leach neurotoxins?
Thank you.

11 responses to “Are Daffodils toxic to bees?”

  1. Sara Van Beck, Georgia says:

    Good morning Ms. Digby,

    Are you stating you know that genus Narcissus plants contain neurotoxins? Would you please provide a citation for your reference material?

    Thank you in advance.


  2. Ian Tyler, England Ian Tyler says:

    I don’t think so I find them sleeping in the trumpets of mine every year
    and covered in pollen.
    Ian. UK

  3. Melissa Reading says:

    Perhaps the prevalence of bulb flies, who subsist on daffodil bulbs, may show us that neurotoxins are unlikely to be an issue.

    Sent from my iPhone

  4. Drew Mc Farland, Ohio Drew Mc Farland says:


  5. Anne Wright, England Anne Wright, England says:

    Pollen and nectar of daffodils are popular with bees, I regularly have to shoo them out of my glasshouses.


  6. Anne Wright, England Anne Wright, England says:

    All parts of narcissi are toxic if eaten, at least by mammals.

  7. Michael Berrigan, Minnesota says:

    Daffodils have oxalic acid crystals in their sap making the wet foliage and stems abrasive,  After picking hundreds of stems, the skin on my hands gets rough and red.  If I were to expose a soft tissue like my lips gums or tongue to this assault, I would have a raw mouth.  Lily Rash is the result of having this combination of spikey abrasive particles and acid in contact with skin. Once dried, this effect is neutralized.

    Daffodils contain an array of narcotic contents in their leaves and stems.  Researchers have found that these alkaloids are less present in flowers. I have not run across a paper measuring the distribution of these alkaloids in the plants so will have to rely on practical understanding.   I have a fight early in the season to keep my pollen.   If I have to fight to get it, then the insects are not permanently damaged by eating the pollen.   I have to be there right away as the pollen matures and collect it.  If I wait even an hour, insect hordes will carry away this protein source.  Pollen beetles are found in most flowers within an hour of their opening.  I then have the bees to contend with.  One particularly cheeky one attempted to shove my forceps away from the anthers they were after.  I got four!  I also was there first.  The bee went through four flowers before I had finished gathering the four anthers I got.    The beetles and bees strip pollen from the flowers within two days of their opening.  The first flowers are those most sought after.  At the farm yesterday I was able to collect some very full capsules of fluffy pollen.  This was at about 20% bloom.  I do not expect to have as much trouble getting pollen the rest of the season.   I also have many other flowering plants.  If there is plenty of pollen available, the relatively few daffodils will not disrupt their diet. The daffodils attract a wide range of flying visitors.  The largest of our bumblebees which is at least 3cm long pierces through the base of the trumpet to get into the nectary thus ruining the flowers for show.  The smaller bees also find the flower shapes that best suit their foraging methods.  The div 3’s seem to have their pollen collected most efficiently.  The trumpets much less so.  The inner anthers of some of the daffodils never have their pollen taken.

  8. Jaydee Ager, Georgia Jaydee Ager says:

    I wanted to put in a thought about the bumblebees piercing the corona tube of daffodils, usually near the base. I have a friend that is an entomologist. He informed me years ago that this damage was the result of carpenter bees (that look like very much like large bumblebees). Carpenter bees, as I recall, have very shiny black abdomens. But there are many carpenter bees. Their genus worldwide includes some 500 bees <> in 31 subgenera. The carpenter bees I have here in middle Georgia damage daffodil blooms – in their attempt to participate in illegitimate nectaring. Their mouth parts/short labia – don’t allow for deep dive nectaring. Carpenter bees do great damage here on any wooden structure. They chew into the wood, and develop tunneled chambers. The woodpeckers follow and tear up the wood to get to the pupae in the chambers. So we utilize carpenter bee traps here. The traps entice the carpenter bees to enter and then they cannot exit. Don’t worry or feel badly about the carpenter bees. We have a gazillion and are barely making a dent in their population. We are tired of replacing wood from their damage and the woodpeckers which relish the future carpenter bees. We have carpenter bee traps on most of our structures here at The Homestead.

    Jaydee Atkins Ager
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  9. Larry Force, Mississippi Larry Force, Mississippi says:

    I am well aware of the carpenter bee also as I have a lot of western cedar on my house that was being damaged. I bought one of those traps to help eliminate damage from them. Much to my dismay I discovered, I was catching other types of native bees other than just the carpenter bees, which I certainly didn’t want to do. So I took it down. The past few years I have gone out on my front porch arms with the trusty old fly swatter and knock down the carpenter bees if they attempt to bore into my western cedar and give them a reducing exercise with the bottom of my shoe. I seemed to have reduced the population in my immediate area or at least the ones giving me a problem and now have little trouble from them. Jaydee, I certainly understand your problem with them as they can be very destructive, Check your trap the next time you empty it and see if you are catching other bees also, if so you may want to go to another plan.

  10. David Adams, New Zealand says:

    Jaydee, we don’t have carpenter bees in our country but I can assure you that the bumble bees do pierce the longer daffodil coronas. They try to get down the corona first but are too fat to reach the nectar so resort to plan B, through the side entrance. They usually choose the trumpets that have an incredibly smooth perianth. The bumble bees make their hive in the holes left by the daffodil foliage, get angry when they are dug up and sting the digger in their anger.

  11. Margaret Seconi, New Zealand Margaret Seconi says:

    I agree with David. Always the best show bloom chosen.