Dandelions have a bad reputation in the gardening world, but they are actually quite beautiful and have many enduring qualities, including feeding bees . Dandelions are a main source of food in early spring when both bees and dandelions start to emerge after a long winter. Since the dandelion is one of the first flowers to bloom, bees rely on their pollen for protein and nectar for sugar.
Dandelions provide nectar for at least 100 species of insects, while the seeds and leaves feed over 30 species of birds, chipmunks, and other wildlife. Their presence alone attracts and supports several key species in the local ecosystem, including bees, butterflies, moths, and birds, which in turn pollinate fruits, vegetables, herbs, and other flowers that feed even more species.
Did you know that the dandelion is actually an herb? Botanists consider dandelions to be an herb of the Asteraceae family, which includes sunflowers, daisies, chamomile, chicory and globe artichokes. For centuries, people have used the leaves, stem, flower, and root of the dandelion for medicinal purposes to treat cancer, acne, liver disease and digestive disorders and they are full of potent antioxidants.
Happiness! The dandelion’s mane displays over 150 yellow petals and closes every night and then bursts open each morning brightening up yards and fields with a golden glow. The color yellow makes you feel happy and spontaneous and is associated with laughter, hope and sunshine. Look closely and admire how beautiful these flowers truly are.
Help the bees! Please don’t use pesticides! If you must remove dandelions, please don’t spray them with pesticides. Owner of Rent Mason Bees, Jim Watts, works with farmers across the country teaching them ways of maintaining their crops safely for bees and encourages gardeners to do the same. “Pesticides kill our sensitive bees and then seeps into the ground contaminating the mud source, which is what mason bees use to build individual egg chambers for their young.”, Watts says.
If you need to remove dandelions, the safest way to do this is pull them out by their roots. There are many tools on the market that help you achieve this. We love the stand-up version that easily pulls out dandelions from lawns or other soft patches. You can also use neem oil, vinegar and Epsom salts that are natural alternatives that can be used safely without damaging bee populations.
If a pesticide must be used on fruit trees, vegetable or landscape plants, then use a product with low toxicity to bees and think about ways to reduce exposure, such as treating plants late in the evening. Look for the “Protection of Pollinators” section on the label for information on the toxicity of the product to bees. Always follow label recommendations when applying any product.
PLANT MORE FLOWERS – Bees are healthier when they forage upon a diversity of pollen and nectar sources. Perennial flowers are a great option and are easy to plant and low maintenance. Plant the flowers in clumps to make it easier to hover from one flower to the next, and also creates a healthy, bee-friendly environment that will outcompete dandelions. Ask your local nursery what flowers are best for pollinators and they’ll be able to guide you with what to plant.
MAKE A WISH! Kids and adults love to “make a wish” when blowing dandelion seeds into the spring air. Have you thought about making the wishes last longer? Collect the seeds and place into a wish jar to give out wishes year-round and brighten someone’s day and make them happy!
SHARE & CARE– My wish is that after reading this dandy little blog, you start to see dandelions for the beautiful flower that they are and encourage people to stop spraying them with pesticides that can kill our precious bees. Please share if you care about bees and nature, then more wishes will be granted for everyone.
-Thyra McKelvie – Rent Mason Bee Host