We’re here to help! Wild Yards is a completely free website that is 100% dedicated to helping you create a wildlife-friendly, sustainable yard. Read more
It takes an astounding two million flowers to produce one pound of honey. It’s no wonder bees are always so busy! But another reason bees stay busy is that they can be pretty picky. There are some flowers they just can’t stand, like marigolds and geraniums. But how do bees feel about weeds? Do bees like dandelions?
Yes, bees do like dandelions and will visit them often when they’re available. However, they may not be the most nutritious source of pollen and nectar. Allowing a few dandelions to grow in your yard gives your local bees more foraging options.
Why are bees attracted to dandelions?
Like other bee favorites, such as daisies and zinnias, dandelions are open-faced. They give bees a place to stop and rest their wings as they collect pollen and nectar. That’s a major selling point from the bee’s perspective, who will sometimes fly upwards of 5.9 miles (or 9.5 kilometers) away from their hive to find food.
Another thing that dandelions have working in their favor is that they bloom very early in the spring. They’re among the first flowers to open. Dandelions also have a long blooming period, so they continue blooming throughout the summer, even when other flowers are done blooming or are just starting to bud out. So one of the reasons why dandelions attract bees is that, sometimes, they’re the only flowers around!
Dandelions produce a lot of pollen, as allergy-sufferers know all too well. Even though bees don’t use pollen to produce honey, it is a valuable source of protein for them. Of course, dandelions also produce nectar, which bees do use to make honey. And, unlike long, tubular flowers, such as honeysuckle, the nectar in dandelions is easy for honey bees to reach.
Are dandelions good for bees?
Dandelions are actually a pretty mediocre source of nutrition for bees, even if they do like them. They lack several essential amino acids that bees need to stay healthy. When you couple this with the fact that they also leech valuable nutrients from the soil, away from ornamental plants and vegetable gardens, it’s not hard to see why so many people uproot them.
As we touched on a minute ago, during periods when dandelions are among only a small handful of flowers that are blooming, then they can be a valuable source of protein for bees. Only when no other options are available do dandelions become nutritious, and even then, it’s purely by default.
When you get right down to it, dandelions are better than nothing. But they’re certainly not the best source of nutrition for bees. If you want to improve the health of your local bees, there are much better flowers to choose from (more on that in a minute!).
Should you leave dandelions for the bees?
As long as your bees have a wide variety of other flowers to peruse, dandelions are a safe foraging option for them. So if you have a lot of dandelions in your yard, don’t worry, they won’t harm the bees! Allowing a few dandelions to continue growing in your yard gives bees a chance to browse. And that’s a good thing because bees are foragers, so they love to buzz from flower to flower.
Many other types of wildlife are attracted to dandelions, too, like deer, squirrels, and rabbits. And, once the dandelions go to seed, they can attract a variety of birds, including sparrows, blackbirds, and goldfinches. So if you’re an avid wildlife enthusiast as well as a bee-lover, consider leaving a few dandelions right where they’re rooted.
Now, while it’s perfectly safe to leave dandelions for the bees, don’t feel that you have to leave them in your yard if you don’t want to! If you don’t like the way those dandelions look, pull them up. Or, better yet, gather them to make delicious teas, soups, and salads. Dandelions may not have much to offer bees, but they’re highly nutritious for humans! Dandelions help improve digestion and boost immunity. Pretty impressive for a little yard weed, huh?
Which flowers can you use to attract bees instead of dandelions?
If you’re ready to give dandelions the boot, go for it! But if you want to keep your neighborhood bees happy, be sure to replace those pesky weeds with a few viable alternatives. For best results, choose flowers that bloom in early spring and midsummer, when pollen and nectar sources are limited.
Calendula, lilies, and violas are all early bloomers that bees love to feed on. Borage (also known as starflower) in particular is a fantastic choice because it’s a smash hit with honey bees. If you keep domesticated bees, be sure to plant plenty of these flowers near your hive boxes to support honey production!
Fruit trees also bloom early in the spring. Have you ever visited a fruit orchard when the trees are blooming? They practically vibrate with the buzzing of hungry little bees! Pear trees, peach trees, cherry trees, and apple trees are wonderful for attracting bees, and the more trees you have, the better! So, if you have room for them, consider planting a few fruit trees in your backyard to attract bees and other pollinators.
As for flowers that bloom in midsummer, you have several bee-favorite blooms to choose from. Lavender is good because it’s easy to find and super low-maintenance. Other midsummer blooms bees love include black-eyed Susans, globe thistles, and the aptly named beebalm.
One summer bloom that deserves a special mention is the sunflower. These plants bloom for long periods during the summer, providing food for the bees when other flowers have died back. They’re also an excellent source of vitamin E, making them a much healthier option for bees than dandelions.
Bees do like dandelions, but these weeds are not a critical part of their regular diet. Whether you decide to leave them on your lawn or pull them up and toss them on the compost pile, bees won’t suffer either way. Just be sure to plant a variety of other flowers that bees enjoy, and these pollinators will continue to visit your garden!