Damning the Dandelion

Here’s a A/B sort question:

Does this image scare you?  Or does it make you happy?

It should scare you–but not for what’s there.  What’s scary is what’s not there.

This is a part of my back lawn and my neighbor’s–a sea of gold.  For some, dandelions are the sworn enemy.  They’ll spray, spread pre-emergent weed control, dig, and kick the heads off these harbingers of spring.  And curse neighbors like me whose decidedly un-golf-course-like lawns are the source of the wind-blown scourge.

But dandelions are one of the most important early forage foods for native pollinators–especially bees of all kinds.  When I was a kid, I’d have to be careful walking through this in sandals to avoid being stung–there’d be hundreds–if not thousands–of bees of all kinds feasting there–the bumblebees with their butts all fuzzy yellow from the pollen. You could hear the hum of them working–the zoom as they moved from flower to flower–gorging themselves after a long winter.

Well, my son won’t have to worry about being stung.  There aren’t any bees here.  He’ll have other worries–like where his sustenance is going to come from when 1/4 of our food and drink derives from insect-pollinated crops.

I’ve been walking back and forth–mowing, yes, but also just searching–looking for the bees.  And there aren’t any.

There isn’t one.

Do you chemically treat your lawn?  Do you spray, dig, and curse the dandelion?

I want you to stop.  Stop now.  Make a promise to keep your yard safe for the bees.  Embrace the dandelion, the clover, the violet–even the creeping Charlie in your lawn. When you become the cursed neighbor, curse back–or better–teach those who curse you about the loss of our bees and what we might do to help them come back.

One of the best places to start learning about our native pollinators and how to help them is The Xerces Society’s Pollinator Conservation Resource Center.

But one of the best practices you can do right now is to stop damning the dandelion.


4 responses

  1. Hey Rebecca,
    Just today I was feeling a bit shabby about my yard, which is also covered in dandylions, creepying charlie and clover….feeling like I’m gonna be judged by my “golf-course-lawn keeping” neighbors. And telling myself that my customers expect a well-manicured and picture-perfect lawn.

    Thankfully, I always come back to the line of thought that chemically treating the yard with anything is detrimental to all the critters who inhabit. It was a strong conviction that my dad instilled, and it is soooooo important. Wish people could expand their thinking to iinclude and consider all the critters rather than the golf-course standard.

    And…just so you know I did see a single bumble bee – he was fat and happy. 🙂

  2. Well said.. Better yet, if you don’t like the dandelions, plant more attractive native plants to attract pollinators and other necessary insects, the vast majority of which are harmless.

  3. Many seed eating birds love the dandelion seeds. Indigo Buntings, Goldfinches, and Pine Siskinns think the seeds are yummy!

  4. Where are the bees?

    That was the question I asked myself when we moved down here to Houston, Texas six years ago. After living in Vermillion, it was a little unnerving to not see a single bee flying around in the flowers or my tomato plants. I felt like was living in a sterile land, void of all insects except those darn fire ants (that love to bite!). Gradually, however, we have seen more bees coming around. And, about two years, we had a swarm that came to live in one of our cable boxes in the back yard. No problem, we just “buzzed” (sorry, couldn’t resist) Jen, The Bee Wrangler. With the magical help of her smoker and the dusky evening light, she moved the queen into a box and the rest of the hive followed. It was amazing — my boys were fascinated and she took time to answer all the questions they asked. She took the bees back to her farm, where she manages large hives and brings the honey to the local farmer’s markets.
    I am hoping to see more bees around here. We don’t spray for insects and only apply organic fertilizer to our grass. Hopefully more people will get the message that you need Mother Nature. 🙂

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