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The Dandelion Debate: A Weed or Food for Bees?

Updated: 06/08/2014 5:59 PM
Created: 06/08/2014 1:30 PM KSTP.com
By: Kate Renner

Is there a role for yellow dandelions to exist in harmony with our manicured green lawns? Some environmental and landscape experts believe so.

Before you pick them, and definitely before you blow the seeds into the wind, think twice about the dandelions in your yard.

Many people are starting to view dandelions less like a weed and more like an essential part of our ecosystem. They're often the first source of nutrients honeybees will get in the spring months. 

"Dandelions can be a great pollinating plant, because of their bright yellow flowers and attractiveness," said Sam Bauer, U of M Extension, Turf Grass Educator.

Attractive to bees but a possible eye-sore to your neighbors. However, the trend is shifting.

"Based on the reduction in pollinators in recent years. Dandelions are starting to become more acceptable in home lawns," Bauer said.

"There's a new way of thinking about lawn care and dandelions. We have to think of the whole ecosystem, and lawns are just part of a bigger picture," said landscape expert, Larry Pfarr.

"Allow the dandelions if you can," said Bauer.

"If we don't have bees, we lose the pollinators, and it breaks down the entire food system," Pfarr said.

If you want to get rid of the dandelions, Pfarr said, "plant other things in your yard to get the bees and butterflies as well."

Pfarr says he digs up the dandelions, root and all, but to make up for it he plants beautiful flowers in their place.

Another option is to spot spray dandelions with herbicides, not insecticides.

"The chemicals can harm the bees, if you spray these on your lawn on your dandelions, and the bees are taking in that nectar, that too can kill the bees," said Pfarr.

So rather than giving your neighbor the stink-eye for having an unruly lawn, you may want to give them the benefit of the doubt.

"Don't judge somebody by the look of their lawn, maybe they're helping the bees out," Pfarr said.

Experts say other good sources of weeds that nourish honey bees are clovers and creeping charlie.

According to a report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency, honeybee colonies are dying at a rate of 30 percent a year.


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