I love dandelions and I have always been baffled by the fact that they make some people cranky. When I was a little girl and my father would scold me for blowing dandelion seeds in the yard because the dandelions would spread, I didn’t understand the problem. In my opinion, they were not weeds, and they were not something to destroy. They were pretty flowers that appeared every spring through no effort of my own, and they made me happy. They still do.
Now, however, I have a stronger argument than “they make me happy” when I defend dandelions. Dandelions can help save the bees.
I saw this cartoon this morning on the Natural Papa blog, and when I saw that dandelions are bees’ most important spring flower, it made me happy. See, the bees think the dandelions are flowers. too.
Most of the important bee plants in the Northeast are wildflowers. Of these, probably the single most valuable early spring wildflower is the dandelion. If a hive survives the winter, beekeepers know the bees will be safe from starvation if they can stay alive until dandelions bloom. Dandelion pollen is moderately nutritious and the nectar is abundant. It doesn’t normally produce what we call a ‘surplus’, i.e. enough nectar to produce honey above and beyond what the bees will use for themselves, so you won’t generally see dandelion honey for sale, but it gives the bees a huge boost and adds to the health and wellbeing of the hive. So a very simple, easy way to help honey bees is to refrain from killing the dandelions in your lawn. They’re actually quite pretty. And next time you see a bare patch, think about planting Dutch clover instead of grass. The bees thrive on various weeds in lawns, including clover and plantain (from which they collect pollen). Do you really have to have that perfect, manicured, chemical-laden lawn?