Homeowners in Minnesota can benefit financially if they forgo the grass and instead grow a lawn for bees.
State lawmakers have approved a new spending program called Lawns to Legumes that would set aside $900,000 annually to pay homeowners who replace traditional lawns with bee-friendly wildflowers, clover and native grasses, reports the Star Tribune. The spending plan is an 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 the 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 would cover up to 75% of the cost for homeowners who convert their lawns. According to the Star Tribune, it would cover up to 90% in areas targeted as "high potential" to support rusty patched bees.
How people can help
"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 starting this fall, according to Minnesota Public Radio (MPR).
Through the winter, homeowners will be able to begin to 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. “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."
The state has not released details about how residents will be able to apply for consideration.
In the meantime (and if 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.