Homeowners in Minnesota can benefit financially if they forgo the grass and instead grow a lawn for bees.

A new spending program approved by lawmakers in 2019 called Lawns to Legumes sets aside $900,000 annually to pay homeowners who replace traditional lawns with bee-friendly wildflowers, clover and native grasses, The Star Tribune reported. It's part of a larger effort to help the state's declining bee population.

Although the wildflowers and native grasses will benefit all species of bees, the hope is that unmanicured lawns will specifically attract and help the rusty patched bumblebee. Once abundant across a wide swath of North America, the bee species (Bombus affinis) was formally listed as endangered in March 2017. The fuzzy, striped critters have suffered an 87% decline in population since the mid-1990s due to factors such as climate change, pesticide exposure, habitat loss, population fragmentation and diseases transmitted from infected commercial domesticated honeybees.

The program will cover up to $350 of the cost for homeowners who convert their lawns. The grants may cover more in areas targeted as "high potential" to support rusty patched bees.

How people can help

White clover Some homeowners may consider it a weed, but clover is provides food for bees — and it's good for the soil. (Photo: Grigorii Pisotsckii/Shutterstock)

"I have gotten a ton of e-mails and so much feedback from people who are interested in this," said state Rep. Kelly Morrison, who introduced the bill in the House. "People are really thinking about how they can help."

The three-year program will be launched with at least 20 workshops around the state, according to Minnesota Public Radio (MPR).

The state has also launched a Lawns to Legumes page dedicated to the program, detailing what grants and learning opportunities are available.

Homeowners can apply for funds for pollinator habitat projects. Funding will be prioritized for areas where rusty patched bumblebees live.

"For people that are within the rusty patched bumble bee zone they'll be eligible for $500," Dan Shaw, senior ecologist for the state Board of Water and Soil Resources, told MPR in August 2019. "People in our secondary pollinator corridors in the state will be eligible for $350, and then people outside of those two areas will be eligible for $150."

If you are not eligible or you don't live in Minnesota, you can make your yard more attractive to bees by forgoing a chemical lawn service (which can kill pollinators), growing lots of different flowering plants and leaving a few small spots of bare soil for bees to nest.

If you can't give up your whole lawn to clover and wildflowers because of pesky homeowner associations or other aesthetic reasons, at least try sneaking in a small undisturbed corner with tall grasses, sticks and general chaos. The bees will be happy and should move right in.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with new information since it was published in June 2019.

Mary Jo DiLonardo covers a wide range of topics focused on nature, health, science and anything that helps make the world a better place.

Minnesota will pay homeowners to make their lawns bee-friendly
A Minnesota spending plan will pay homeowners to transform their lawns into bee-friendly habitats.