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Extension > Yard and Garden News > Pictorial Ode to the Dandelion - With Special Recognition of our Pollinators

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Pictorial Ode to the Dandelion - With Special Recognition of our Pollinators

Karl Foord, Extension Educator - Horticulture

Karl Foord

Photo 1: Honey bee on dandelion

Karl Foord

Photo 2: Honey bee on Dandelion

Karl Foord

Photo 3: Split and curled stigmas of dandelion

Karl Foord

Photo 4: Dandelion stigmas & honey bee corbicula

Karl Foord

Photo 5: Native Mining bee (Andrena spp.)

Karl Foord

Photo 6: putative - Plasterer Bee (Colletes spp.)

Karl Foord

Photo 7: Native Small Carpenter Bee (Male) (Ceratina spp.)

For years I used to fight the dandelions in my lawn. I used herbicides and a small trowel. It was a bit of a losing battle as there is a third of an acre of school property adjacent to mine where dandelions are not controlled. This being separate from the nearby sports fields where the weeds are controlled. Imagine the number of dandelion seeds that blew into my yard each year.

As I have become more aware of pollinators, I have come to accept and perhaps even embrace the "noble" dandelion. Dandelions are an important source of pollen and nectar for bees early in the season when little else is flowering.

Given the problems facing our honey bees and native bees, it might be worth reconsidering dandelions and what they contribute to pollinator health. So with my new attitude I took camera in hand and ventured into the dandelion patch (Photo 1).

Consider how artistic is the dandelion flower when viewed close-up (Photo 2). The flowers each have split lobed stigmas that curl back and sometimes twist into shapes similar to the letter F shape holes cut into violins (Photo 3). Consider also the beautiful orange color of the dandelion pollen as attached to the corbicula or pollen basket of the honey bees (Photo 4).

The dandelion also provides nectar and pollen for our native bees: Mining Bees (Andrena spp.) (Photo 5), Plasterer Bees (Colletes spp.) (Photo 6), and Small Carpenter Bees (Ceratina spp.) (Photo 7). If you use your lawn for recreation and need a dense turf as a playing surface, you may want to control dandelions. However if this is not the way you use your turf, please consider letting some of the dandelions provide forage for our pollinators. In this way you can be a part of the solution to the ills facing our pollinators.

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