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Leave early flowers to help bees
April 7, 2022
By Mary HightowerU of A System Division of Agriculture
(Newsrooms: with art https://flic.kr/s/aHBqjzJBsV )
LITTLE ROCK — Procrastination in the spring and a little less mowing in the summer
may be virtues when it comes to helping pollinators, researchers have found.
The University of Vermont suggests delaying spring mowing so flowers like dandelions
can provide early season food resources to pollinators. Those food sources are important
to pollinators such as bumble bees, mason bees and others that begin appearing in
Early spring mowing can also destroy any chrysalises still clinging to last year’s
grass, and any overwintering shelter for later-appearing pollinators, according to
the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.
“Dandelions are weeds to some homeowners, but to foraging bees, they can be a welcome
treat in otherwise barren urban lawns,” said Jon Zawislak, assistant professor of
apiculture and urban entomology, for the University of Arkansas System Division of
Zawislak said flowers in the dianthus family are very good sources of pollen, as are
those of the Virginia creeper. Clovers and lilies are also good spring sources for
“While most people never notice the small flowers on this ubiquitous climbing weed,
bees certainly do,” he said. “Holly is another plant with small, easily overlooked
flowers, but it's starting to bloom right now, and may be covered with bees on a warm
Bees in trees
“Early in the season, flowering trees are very important sources of pollen for bees,”
he said. “In particular, maple, willow and ash trees provide lot of nutrition, even
though we don't see them as having bright showy flowers.”
“Many things in the Rosaceae family such as pears, crabapple and wild plum, bloom
briefly in the spring but with lots of flowers for bees,” Zawislak said. “The exception
is Bradford pear, which nobody seems to like, except maybe the people who build parking
lots. These are fast growing trees, which makes them weak, and are not attractive
As summer rolls around and the urge to mow more frequently increases, ignore it.
“Research published by the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the U.S. Forest
Service suggests that homeowners can help support bee habitat in suburban environments
simply by changing lawn-mowing habits,” he said. “Investigators found that taking
a ‘lazy lawn mower’ approach and mowing every two weeks rather than weekly could help
encourage bee habitat in suburban lawns by allowing flowers to bloom, which helps
provide pollinators with more nutritious forage.”
Research Ecologist Susannah Lerman and Joan Milam, adjunct research fellow at UMass
and were co-authors of the study “To mow or to mow less: Lawn mowing frequency affects bee abundance and diversity in
Milam said she was amazed at both the diversity and abundance of bees their team documented
in residential lawns. "It speaks to the value of the untreated lawn to support wildlife,"
Research ecologist Susannah Lerman said the conclusions are “a reminder that sustainability
begins at home, and in this case involves doing less for more buzz."
The Cooperative Extension Service has many beekeeping resources online or contact your county extension office.
To learn more about Division of Agriculture research, visit the Arkansas Agricultural
Experiment Station website: https://aaes.uark.edu. Follow on Twitter at @ArkAgResearch. To learn more about the Division of Agriculture,
visit https://uada.edu/. Follow us on Twitter at @AgInArk. To learn about extension programs in Arkansas,
contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit www.uaex.uada.edu.
About the Division of Agriculture
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen
agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption
of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative
Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work
within the nation’s historic land grant education system.
The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas
System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension
and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex,
gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital
or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and
is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
# # #
Media contact: Mary Hightowermhightower@uada.edu