Dandelion Time: Feed the Bees

Posted:  Thursday, May 4, 2017 - 10:00am
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    What's the Buzz" covers what's happening, what might be happening, and what should be happening in the opinion of the author.

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                Spring drags her feet across the Earth and hesitates to let go of winter’s chilly hands. She tosses in the wind and stretches her arms in the sun –almost- allowing trees to bud. She skitters back when gray mist begins to rise, not willing yet to allow the chrysalis to burst open, not ready to allow her next birth to flower. She watches mud and muck and argues with small green shoots of grass, not yet, not yet, not yet.
                One dark night the moon sees this stubborn child and calls to sister dawn, “Awaken.” Little buds burst forth. The gray skies clear just enough to encourage the flowers and suddenly one morning, the pathways are surrounded by the bright yellow faces of dandelions.
                We have picked them, wines have been made of them, and balms for the skin for centuries. When they go to seed the white puff balls have been wished upon and dreamed upon by children and adults alike.
                 Sadly, in the last century, these sunny blossoms have become demonized as weeds. Weed killers have been sown into lawns to kill them off.  Along with these wildflowers, we also poisoned bees. But the lowly dandelion is bold and brash and unrelenting. That is why it is brilliant. It’s everywhere and nearly always in flower and it’s the pollinator’s best friend.
                In early Spring, don’t mow them, don’t spray them, and don’t dig them up. Later in the year, there will be other sources of food for the bees, but dandelion is the plant bees rely heavily on in the spring. Dandelions bloom in heaviest concentration between March and May. In a year with a late spring like this year, the bees are struggling and it is even more important.  If a hive survives the winter, beekeepers know the bees will be safe from starvation if they can stay alive until dandelions bloom.
              A lazy way to help the bees is to simply to opt not to treat the wildflowers in the lawn with chemicals.  (Note that I didn’t call them “weeds.”) A good idea is to delay mowing the dandelions until other sources of pollen are available and the bees have moved on. 
            Dandelions have beautifully well-developed taproots. This can make them quite a challenge to remove– and makes them very resilient and largely unaffected when anyone harvests some leaves. If there is one dandelion, there are probably many.  If a dandelion is dug up, generally a portion of that root is left because root bits break off. Odds are that the dandelion will regrow.
            There are dandelions enough for bees and for people to enjoy It's not going to wipe out the bee population if   a few unruly ones are cleared from a yard or garden, or if the roots are harvested for food or medicinal use
Go ahead, pick bouquets of yellow dandelions. Steam or sauté the greens. Make wine and wishes and blow the seeds free to grow more flowers. Mow just a little later in the season. The bees will thank you, the pollinators will thrive, and the sunny flowers will replenish quickly.  

The Dandelion

By Vachel Lindsay 

O  Dandelion, rich and haughty,

King of village flowers.

Each day is coronation time,

You have no humble hours.
I like to see you bring a troop

To beat the blue-grass spears,

To scorn the lawn-mower that would be

Like fate's triumphant shears,

Your yellow heads are cut away,

It seems your reign is o'er.
By noon you raise a sea of stars

More golden than before.