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Why Those Dandelions in Your Yard Aren’t So Bad

Two dandeloins side by side. The left has a bee with a very fuzzy yellow thorax and dark wings and abdomen foraging on it. The right has a bee with with a black and pale-yellow striped abdomen resting foraging on it.
Figure 1. Bees visiting dandelions. Courtesy: Adam Varenhorst

A perfectly green lawn can be a thing of beauty to certain homeowners. However, it doesn’t leave much for pollinators to enjoy. Every year, people work hard using herbicides to keep weeds out of their yards. Some of these weeds, including flowering plants like dandelions, can serve as early season food sources for pollinators. While research has shown that pollinators, specifically honey bees, can’t survive on dandelion pollen alone, this doesn’t mean that the dandelions aren’t still important for pollinators.

During the spring, there are sometimes a limited number of flowering plants. However, dandelions tend to bloom on a consistent basis and can provide at least some sustenance to pollinators until other plants begin to bloom. On sunny days, close inspection of dandelions in a yard will reveal several different pollinators foraging for pollen (Figure 1 and Figure 2).

Two dandelions side by side. The left has a large fly with white and black striped abdomen foraging on it. The right has a small fly with orange and black patterned abdomen foraging on it.
Figure 2. Hover flies visiting dandelions. Courtesy: Adam Varenhorst

Pollinators often rely on a diverse assemblage of flowers and pollen to meet their dietary needs, so consider holding off on removing dandelions until other flowers, trees, and shrubs are blooming.

If you do choose to use herbicides to remove dandelions, make sure to read and follow all label directions. Pay close attention to required personal protective equipment, and re-entry intervals (especially if children and/or pets use the lawn).