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A close up of a bee on a yellow dandelion

Why Bees Love Dandelions

Published on 8th April 2019

I love this spring flower, much like the bees do! It brings a field to sunshiny life after several months of brown and grey.

As a child, my brother and I were encouraged to help our father with the upkeep of the garden lawn by filling buckets with the flowering heads. It seems now that anyone that loves their lawn hates dandelions, but if you dig a little deeper into these plants' purpose, the removal of them by force is pointless.

Studying herbal medicine, I soon discovered the medical benefits of this abundant herb. Its long tap roots delve deep into the soil, releasing and drawing up precious minerals like potassium and calcium. It then processes them into a form that humans and animals can digest easily.

Dandelion leaves were used as medicine by Arab physicians in the 11th Century and described in a Welsh Herbal guide in the 13th Century. More recently, two-year-old roots have been harvested and used to treat liver complaints.

In 2004, a study showed that dandelion root had marked anti-cancer activity and a significantly increased tumour death. Many herbal doctors and naturopaths think of it as their ‘desert island’ herb.

Bees know this too. Each flower head contains hundreds of individual flowers, each producing pollen and nectar that is rich in the minerals that have been drawn up from deep in the soil.

Dandelions will only grow where minerals are lacking in the topsoil. They are ‘correctors.’ The plant, once fully enriched by vitamins and minerals, dies back down, replacing the nutrients into the topsoil. Over time this soil is so enriched that dandelion seeds will no longer take there. So the saying ‘what you resist persists’ is very accurate with this weed. They have a mission to improve the soil, and if you try and interrupt that process, they will keep on trying to do their job!

Dandelions grow where others won't

Bees need protein in the early spring. The weather has warmed up enough for the queen to start laying eggs again, and the new larvae need protein from pollen. Dandelions also have nectar; the carbohydrate necessary to give the foraging bees the energy to travel back and forth to the hive.

If you’re looking at removing the dandelions in your lawn, please think of the bees. If you do take away this vital food source, what do you have in your garden to feed them with instead?

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Paula Carnell
Castle Cary BA7 7JW, UK
Author of ‘Artist to Bees’. Bee guardian. Experimenting with Golden, Freedom, WBC & Warre hives. Honey taster. Garden Day ambassador

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