Are you frustrated because there are dandelions and other weeds in your lawn? Did you know that dandelion flowers provide one of the first springtime sources of pollen for bees, butterflies, and other pollinating insects?
I live in the Upstate, and I have a “bee friendly” fescue and clover lawn. Every fall, when I core aerate my lawn to over-seed with fescue seed, I mix in Dutch white clover seed with my grass seed. When the clover blooms in May, my lawn is a haven for many different species of bees and butterflies, and it literally hums with insect activity. Clover is a good pollen and nectar source and is an excellent way to add greater food diversity in a landscape.
Unless you live in a community that is regulated by strict homeowner association rules, consider providing a wide variety of plant material in your lawn that will offer a broad range of food sources. A healthy lawn will not be overrun with unwanted plants, and tolerating some wildflowers in the lawn will be one of the most helpful things you can do to protect native bee populations.
If you take time to watch a honey bee gather pollen, you might notice a dazzling array of colors. Different flowers produce different pollen colors. You can even identify which flowers the bees are visiting by the color of the pollen in the corbicula (the sacs located on the honey bee’s hind legs). Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule), a winter annual “weed”, has reddish-purple pollen; therefore, the honey bee’s corbicula will be filled with bright purple pollen. Crimson red clover (Trifolium incarnatum) has dark red pollen that will make the bee’s pollen sacs a dark red.
Without a healthy population of pollinating insects, the production of many fruits, vegetables, and nut crops would be severely affected. According to the Pollinator Partnership Organization (https://www.pollinator.org/pollinators), “birds, bats, bees, butterflies, beetles, and other small mammals that pollinate plants are responsible for bringing us one out of every three bites of food.” This does not even account for the food pollinators provide to wildlife.