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Mn State Lawmakers encourage residents to 'Bee Friendly'!

Bee lawn at Kenwood Park in Southwest Minneapolis.
Minnesota lawmakers made big strides during the Spring 2019 legislative session to help our home landscapes become a little more friendly to bees. They've set aside $900,000 for one year to assist homeowners with the cost of establishing a bee lawn (See Star Tribune, May 30, 2019).

What's a bee-friendly lawn? Bee lawns are turfgrass areas that include low-growing flowers that wild bees and honey bees use as forage for nectar and pollen. Some of the flowers used include: Dutch white clover (Trifolium repens), self-heal (Prunella vulgaris), and creeping thyme (Thymus sepryllum).

What causes pollinator decline? 

Several main factors contribute to pollinator decline: 
  • loss of forage
  • irresponsible use of pesticides
  • introduction of pests and diseases from abroad
Bees need sources of nectar and pollen to survive, and given that over 50 million acres nationwide are made up of turfgrass (one of the largest mono-crops), the opportunity is great to provide more foraging opportunities for bees.

Bee Lawn study & findings

Researchers at the University of Minnesota's bee labs have done extensive work studying what turns someone's lawn into a good bee habitat. The University of Minnesota Turfgrass Science lab has teamed up with the University of Minnesota Bee Lab to re-imagine the American version of a turf lawn...through a project commonly referred to as “the bee lawn” project.

The research team includes Extension Entomologist and Professor Marla Spivak, Turfgrass Science Professor Eric Watkins and graduate student James Wolfin.

For three years, they studied two types of lawns to determine what kind of lawn supports a diversity of bees here in Minnesota.  Here are some of the findings:

  • The results from this study indicate that allowing flowers to grow in a low-input lawn, or intentionally seeding flowers into a lawn, can support a diverse community of insect pollinators.  
  • Dutch white clover lawns supported 55 species of bees, accounting for nearly 20% of the bees recorded in the State of Minnesota.
  • Lawns florally enhanced with Dutch white clover, self-heal, and creeping thyme saw greater bee diversity than clover-only lawns, with distinct bee communities utilizing the self-heal and creeping thyme. These lawns supported 66 species of bees.

These researchers encourage homeowners to consider adding at least white clover to their lawns. Read more about the study here:
If you build it, who will come? Evaluating the diversity of bees in flowering lawns


A question we hear a lot at Extension is, what about Creeping Charlie? Also known as ground ivy, this plant can serve as a nectar source.  Creeping Charlie employs a unique strategy to attract some bee visitors, such as sweat bees, bumble bees, and honey bees, that is tied into how the flower produces nectar. Read more about this "lucky hit" strategy in the following article:
Creeping Charlie: Management and Value to Pollinators

More bee lawn "how to" information:
Growing landscapes to help bees and other pollinators

Author: Gail Hudson, Extension Communications

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