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Bee Friendly vs. Weedy Lawns

University of Minnesota Extension, Stearns County News
April 26, 2017        
Source:  Beth Berlin, Extension Educator-Horticulture
University of Minnesota Extension
Stearns, Benton, & Morrison Counties

Bee Friendly vs. Weedy Lawns
By Beth Berlin, University of Minnesota Extension

ST. CLOUD, Minn. (4/26/2017) — Do you deal with Creeping Charlie, dandelions, clover, or other weeds in your lawn? Over the decades the “perfect” lawn is free of any of these weeds, but is it?  A lawn without any flowering plants is a bee desert. It may be time to rethink what the “perfect” lawn is.

Have you ever considered leaving some of these weeds there? Some “weeds” like clover can be very attractive in a lawn to not only pollinators but children (and even adults) looking for four-leaf clovers. Research shows clover and dandelions are a very important food resource for bees in urban areas especially in early season when dandelions are some of the first plants to bloom.  Like all things in life, maybe in moderation is the best answer for you; consider leaving some “weeds” for the bees.

Another great option for all homeowners is to consider planting a flower bed, or put in a native plant area. These are two alternatives all homeowners, regardless of the size of their yard, should consider.  On March 21, 2017 the rusty patched bumblebee, Bombus affinis, was added to the Endangered Species List. This insect was once plentiful but now has a limited range, which currently does include parts of Minnesota.  By simply turning your lawn and yard into an attractive place for all pollinators we may be able to help. 

In short, any flower is a good flower for bees and pollinators in comparison to turf grass, but there are some that are especially attractive to bees for their nutrient value.  Excellent herbaceous plants include: wild geranium, beardtounge, coreopsis, lupine, goatsbeard, coneflower, lobelia, hyssop, swamp milkweed, purple prairie clover, joe-pye weed, sunflowers, sedum, blazingstar, beebalm, catmint, and aster.  Keep in mind, some of the newer varieties that have double-blooms are actually not a great source of pollen and nectar. It is fine to mix some into your garden, but be sure to plant species that are excellent nutrient sources for the bees and pollinators.

A few attractive shrubs or trees to consider planting are: hawthorn, linden, pussy willow, viburnum, chokeberry, flowering crab, or any fruit tree. Consider the bloom time of all herbaceous plants, shrubs and perennials and try to have something blooming in your yard at all times of the growing season. Even planting spring blooming bulbs is a great early season source of food for the bees and pollinators. An added bonus is you have also created an attractive habitat for hummingbirds.

Think twice this spring as you are about to put down your herbicides to treat weeds in your lawn and consider the bees. Simple changes to your lawns and yards can make a big difference. For more information about bees and creating habitat visit

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