Bees are crucial pollinators, vital for crop production and biodiversity. Unfortunately, their populations are on the decline in the last decades, so experts are warning about its possible devastating effects.
Therefore, they also share important tips to teach us how to help bees, as well as other pollinators, and thus positively affect the environment.
Ecologists advise people to start “loving weeds” and leave dandelions this coming spring alone to help bees.
Jane Memmott, a professor at the Bristol University and leader of the British Ecological Society, points out that we all need to live in harmony with nature, and we can start by keeping our lawns pollinator-friendly.
She explained that whenever she cuts her grass, she lives dandelions and buttercups, as “you can’t personally help tigers, whales, and elephants, but you really can do something for the insects, birds, and plants that are local to you.”
“Think about what you’ve had for breakfast. The pumpkin seeds in your muesli, apples, whatever made the marmalade on your toast, or even the coffee beans and tea leaves that make up your morning cuppa—all of these products rely on pollinators to survive and thrive.”
She later added that the plants we choose to plant in our gardens, on the balcony, or the lawn, can affect the entire local ecology.
Memmott explained that any plant with nectar and pollen parts visible when the petals are not pulled back can be seen and used by pollinators.
She advises people to avoid planting too many pom pom-shaped flowers that are excessively focused on the production of petals, and not enough to the production of nectar and pollen, and adds:
“Dandelions are fantastic for early season pollinators. The UK has about 270 species of solitary bee and they love dandelions.”
Dr. FitzPatrick, senior ecologist at the National Biodiversity Data Centre in Waterford, agrees:
“ Dandelions are a superfood for bees. Letting dandelions grow must not be seen as a sign of neglect or laziness.
We want it to be a conscious decision of people to let them grow to give hungry bees a chance to feed on them.
We need to change the perception that is so ingrained in people that dandelions are a weed. The presence of dandelions is very important to our wild bees that have such an important role in nature.”
“A queen bumblebee must visit 6,000 flowers every day when she comes out of hibernation. Even if gardeners decided to allow dandelions to grow in certain areas of their gardens or allow them to grow even on one strip of grass or along the borders or on verges, it would be very helpful to wild bees.”
Ken Willis, Head of Horticulture at University of Alberta Botanic Garden, said:
“There’s starting to be a lot more argument that they should be kept because of what they can do for pollinators. Ecologically they are becoming very important as a food source for domestic and wild species of bees, particularly in early spring because they grow so soon. Butterflies and moths also feed on them as a source of sugar, and some species of birds feed on dandelion seeds.”
Yet, note that while honey bees adore dandelions and flock on them both in the early spring and in times of dearth when little else is in bloom, dandelions are only a mediocre food source.
Namely, they lack some of the amino acids needed to manufacture protein. Bees, just like humans, need a wide variety of foods from many sources to be healthy.
Memmott agrees with numerous studies and concludes that the everyday interaction with ecology can be very beneficial. Nature always finds a way to repay our kindness many times over.