The War on the Dandelion

It’s that time of year when Halifax yards are filled with dandelions, which have not yet had their first spring cut. As you walk around our community you can see many lawns filled with bright yellow dandelions, and each one will be peppered with several bees perhaps enjoying their first meal of the year. These spring flowering weeds are an important food for many insects, a meal that many of us will spend countless hours trying to remove for cosmetic reasons.

The common name dandelion comes from the French “dent-de-lion”, meaning “lion’s tooth”. Like other members of the Asteraceae family, dandelions have very small flowers collected together into a composite flower head.

When the weather warms up, the bee emerges from the hive which is typically depleted of honey and pollen stores. They are hungry and are on the hunt for flowering plants like the incredibly nutritious dandelions This valuable plant provides one the best and earliest available spring pollen and nectar sources that the bees need to start growing a strong and healthy hive.

By mid summer, each hive will have about 50,000 bees, with one bee making about 1/10 of a teaspoon of honey in her lifetime. The foraging area around a beehive extends for approximately three kilometres where one bee will have to visit two million flowers to make 454 g of honey. After their non-stop 12 hour day shift, they work in the dark hive at night repairing and creating comb as well as feeding the queen and baby bees. Honey bees hardly ever sleep, and after all that hard work, the bee’s lifespan is only a month.

I would like to suggest that maybe we could take a couple of weeks off from mowing the lawn this spring, or even raise the cutting height of the mower. It will not only be the bees that will be grateful, but you will be rewarded with other pollinators too. From butterflies, hoverflies, and beetles feasting on your spring gift you can help create a balanced community that every citizen and insect can enjoy.

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