Amanda: Not since I was five years old have dandelions meant so much to me. I can still see that bouquet of wilting heads on the windowsill in an empty Cheez Whiz jar.
I later became ruthless in my dandelion destruction. I joined the host of other gardeners who have turned to whatever tool possible to dig out the roots of what we’ve been taught to see as noxious weeds. See a yellow head, pop it off. See one of those spears of leaves, rip it out!
Not any more. I’ve learned bees love dandelions. Especially in spring, when they provide a great flow of nectar before other important sources emerge.
The province of B.C.’s apiculture departmentrates dandelions as a major nectar producer, right up there in a long list that includes red clover, alfalfa, cherries, apricots, peaches, apples, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries.
Among beekeepers there’s something of a campaign now to encourage people to not mow their dandelions into mulch. I just love these videos here and here from a fellow beekeeper in Newfoundland.
The other weed you will see growing in my garden is the white dutch clover. Turns out honey bees love this fabulous nectar provider as well. This is the same weed you see dotting lawns along our boulevards. Unfortunately, the heads of the flower seem to ripen just as people drag out their lawnmowers for the weekend trim.
Take a look around you and you will see these two familiar weeds everywhere. They have opened my eyes to being aware of a lot of other plants that provide nectar to bees.
The next time you get worked up about weeds in your garden, leave them. If you really don’t want the dandelions to spread, nip off the heads just as they ripen into seeds, after the nectar flow has stopped.
Take comfort in knowing that you are helping out the bees.