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Minnesota Will Pay Residents to Grow Bee-Friendly Lawns (smithsonianmag.com)
565 points by pseudolus 17 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 200 comments

I recently added a load of "bee-friendly" high nectar plants to my garden. Until recently we thought it had been unsuccessful, and wrote it off as a failed experiment. Fast forward a couple of weeks and we suddenly couldn't walk a few meters without spotting at least 7 or 8 bees of various different species (both hive and solitary) buzzing around the place. It's been wonderful, and I've recommended all my friends who are into gardening to try it out. We've also had some new insects and bird species move in, along with a family of hedgehogs!

If anyone else would like to outfit their garden with some more bee friendly plants, we've had great luck with the following:-

  -Himalayan balsam
  -Yellow water iris
  -Common comfrey (Makes great fertilizer, and attracts some unique species)
  -Hedge bindweed
  -Honeysuckle (Smells amazing!)
  -Sweet pea
  -Bluebells (Good food source for early spring)
  -Clovers (Bees really have really taken a liking to these)
  -Greater knapweed (Super hardy)
  -Hellebore (Late flowerer, so great to keep them running over winter!)
  -Viper's bugloss
  -Wood anemone
Most of these are common meadow plants that take little to no effort other than seeding them. Throw them down, cover with grass trimmings, mulch or compost and you're ready to go. This particular list is ideal for a mild, wet climate like the UK. Feel free to modify it depending on your wants and needs!

Is it worth pointing out that Himalayan Balsam is a major invasive species? Characterised as a 'nuisance plant'.


I was going to say, this list would be better if the non-native species were labelled with a * or something.

Even in Minnesota, there's a push to restore native prairie grasses, which also benefits bees: https://www.beeculture.com/prairie-restoration/

> restore native prairie grasses

And what would be "native" to Minnesota given that (at least) 2C temperature raise is pretty much in the books?

Native plants are plants that occur... natively. If a plant was brought in from elsewhere it is invasive. It has nothing to do with temperature.

Plant seeds tend to travel far and wide with birds and animal migratory patterns. What takes root is dependent on soil, climate, etc. Meaning, what’s native is less dependent on location and more on conditions.

As climate changes, conditions change, and so the set of plants best suited to any particular location changes as well.

Plant ranges are migrating due to climate change. For species that are native to areas close enough to be introduced naturally invasive is not a useful definition.

Exactly. Those plants are not invasive.

Some native plants can handle that kind of temperature change better than others. I wish there were a database of plants that are both native and climate resilient for different areas.

As is the Himalayan Blackberry - https://www.nwcb.wa.gov/weeds/himalayan-blackberry

The himalayan environment spawned some very pernicious and hardy species!

Plenty of these around me. Grow super fast, push out everything else, and are very hard to get rid of.

Are the berries edible?

Very, they're quite delicious!

However, the vines themselves are a thorny menace, with a coating of sharp, strong spines that hook backwards towards the root. Catch one of these sometimes slender tendrils around an ankle while walking, and you might think you can just pull through it... and rapidly learn that you shouldn't.

If you can't convince someone to pick them for you, go armoured. I have some old fire turn-out pants that help quite a bit.

Yellow Water Iris is also invasive. Once you have them, they are very difficult to get rid of.

I believe they're native to the UK, but not the US. The plant was also rated in second place for per day nectar production per flower in a UK plants survey conducted by the AgriLand project which is supported by the UK Insect Pollinators Initiative.

They also look wonderful, so they're very much here to stay.

One or two on the list are non-native, simply because their nectar production was so good. Admittedly I've been relatively blasé when it comes to native vs non-native. My only requirements were that bees like it and it can grow in the hard, clay-like soil in my garden. I've had no issues with the native plants getting blocked out by the non-native, but I will keep an eye on it and remove any foreign guests that seem to be taking my hospitality too generously.

Honeysuckle too.

I've planted the Lonicera periclymenum species, which is very much native to the UK. I'm also looking to plant the other type, Lonicera xylosteum, in the coming months. If you're in the US though I believe it could well be an invasive species from Europe.

Yes, I'm in the US - Minnesota in fact. Our worst bush/tree invader is Buckthorn, but Honeysuckle is right behind it. I believe both were introduced as garden plants.

Rhododendron is pretty bad as well.

Having just now read about Rhododendron destroying habitats all around the UK, I'm inclined to tear it out. I'll play it by ear and just keep an eye on it for the moment. If it starts growing unruly I'll be sure to take my shears to it. If only it wasn't so pretty, and so bee-friendly!

There are native varieties as well as the ones from asia.

My wife and I have been working on growing a lot of native plants (we're in MN) and one of the most amazing things is in the fall we'll have anywhere from 50-100 bees in our plants surrounding our patio. OUR PATIO! The best part about it is that we can sit out there, have a beer, and the bees don't care about us at all. I love to watch the bees, and show the bees to my kids.

We did something similar at the end of the garden with emphasis on native wild species and minimal maintenance - aiming for more wild than garden. The low maintenance didn't quite work as planned. Nature helped and now we've gained brambles (probably the highest maintenance part, as if left alone we'd have no garden, and once in they're damned hard to get rid of), thistle, inevitable dandelions and a few unidentified things have moved in too. The blackberry, nettles and dandelions need regular encouragement not to do too well. Less effort than a boring lawn though.

First year was fairly underwhelming, since then have had all sorts of insects and birds as constant backdrop. Last few years two pairs of birds, not sure if same pairs, have used it for their nesting spot - there's always one nest in the blackberries. I guess brambles are staying! The back of the garage seems to have a couple of masonry bees every summer, and there's a lovely extra sound background from it all. There's constant birdsong at the back. A local cat keeps trying for those nests, but hasn't got to them yet, and has failed noisily a few times... :)

We've twice spotted a frog, but we have no pond and there's no open water near us, so that's been a bit surprising.

> We've twice spotted a frog, but we have no pond and there's no open water near us, so that's a been bit surprising.

We had a similar experience with salamanders showing up. I could not imagine what path they took to get to our garden in a pretty urban place where the nearest creek is a couple of miles away and generally concrete lined. The gardener however suggested that they come from the street drains (which in our area drain to the SF bay, they aren't sewers which take water to the water treatment plant). The nearest street drain is about 3 houses down, still quite a hike for a small beast that likes the wet but I suppose manageable.

After cutting our ivy back from taking over our patio every year for 3 years, I ripped it out and planted raspberries last spring. They're taking over, which is exactly what I hoped would happen, and seem to have successfully outcompeted any ivy I may have missed. If I'm going to have that spreads relentlessly, I may as well get berries out of it.

We'll get the first fruit this year. They're biennial. Super excited.

Saw an article about edible weeds on HN some time back, and got to know of a book on the same subject for a part of India, recently. Interesting topic. Work with nature instead of against it.

Do you have any pictures? I love the idea of a grass-free yard.

I'll add some edible things that have been a hugely popular with our bees.

  - Borage
  - Raspberries
  - Sunflowers
  - Calendula
  - Peas 
And we also planted:

  - Dark Star Ceanothus
Which is basically a bee colony when it is flowering.

I had some Borage in my garden for the bees - turns out I have an allergic reaction to borage. Itches like crazy.

you are not allergic. borage belongs to the cucumber family and the stems and leaves have these tiny prickles. just wear long gloves. they reseed like crazy..they are edible flowers and bees love them.

further, the leaves can be cooked as pasta filling. mild taste of cucumber. once you have one borage plant, you will never get rid of them. i have both the blue and white variety.

When I redid my garden I focused on native plants that were unlikely to attract mammals (so no fruiting plants) and would have relatively light water requirements. California is a huge place, so California native doesn't necessarily mean much if you're trying to keep coastal succulents alive in the desert. In theory I've planted things that attract a variety of birds and insects. So far I've attracted mostly hover flies (which I had never seen before) and (very docile) wasps, and a variety of caterpillars. The birds tend to like to bury stuff (whole roasted peanuts…) in the garden and the bees seem more interested in some of the other flowering plants.

That said I would recommend going with native stuff as it will often be more attractive to the indigenous bees and whatnot (European honey bees are, well, European). Sure, Monarchs like milkweed, but the type of milkweed they like will vary by location. Sure, clovers attract a ton of fauna, but the type of clover will vary.

In California, the California Native Plant Society has an invaluable site where you can look up California native plants and where they're typically found[0]. The sticky monkeyflower and tomcat clover have been especially easy to keep alive.

0: https://calscape.org/

It's a bit late to edit my comment now but yes, most of this list is native to the UK so if you're looking to do something in the US or elsewhere, check online or with your local gardening society to see what works for you.

Native is really ideal. Native plants will have the right water & soil needs, aren't invasive, and are known to pollinators. You can see this in action in our yard- even without supplemental water in a semi-arid climate, the penstemons go gangbusters and are covered in bees.

Penstemons are notoriously difficult to grow in a garden. I had a couple (native to coastal California) and they were disease and pest (aphid) magnets. Absolutely stunning flowers though.

Well, I guess that just illustrates my point- here, they grow like weeds, and if you pay attention they are everywhere. Which makes them a good choice- here.

You can see something similar in our columbine patch, the native blue varieties have reseeded with great success, & the founders are huge and vivacious. But the non-native varieties are pale, small, droopy, stressed, and have not propagated.

P.S. if you're saying you live in coastal CA & tried to grow the local penstemon, did you plant them in the right conditions? They are a xeric plant family, the less you water them the happier they seem...



Yeah the penstemon (Panoche and Blue Springs[1]) were planted together with some woolly sunflower and a native lupine. I also have some epilobium and monkey flower going. None require much water.

Of that one group, the sunflower was the only one that survived. The penstemon were just the biggest magnets for aphids, fungus, and spider mites. One of them bolted, but both had some amazing flowers that the bees loved. In the end I think the soil was just nutrient deficient.

The sunflower has mostly taken over (but is loathe to actually flower), and I've planted a magentaish monkey flower and another lupine. This time around the lupine looks much better. The epilobium and the orange monkey flower continue to thrive.

I'd love to plant another penstemon, but I think next up might be a yellow lupine.

1: https://scontent-sjc3-1.cdninstagram.com/vp/d0c68067fd466fa6...

Not all plants work everywhere or should, some on that list are invasive to areas. Your local university or city probably has resources for what native plants would work best for your environment and bees.

Agreed. I would edit my comment but it's a little late now. Most of this list is for the UK, bar a few non-native that I added for looks/nectar production. If you're in the US or elsewhere, make sure to find what is native for you.

I'll just add that Foxglove is poisonous (you'll die if you eat it level). So don't grow it if you have kids around.

I think it's one of those things that can poison livestock, so maybe keep it out of areas with goats, sheep, and some children.

I've heard to avoid planting it just in case a wandering cat decides to chew on it.

Or even better, teach your children what isn't safe to eat so that when the fancy strikes them they don't eat poison. Regardless of whether or not it is in your yard, this can only benefit them.

Do your children randomly forage?

They might. My sister and I would crush up plants when we were little to make “potions.” We stopped when we made a potion with Serrano peppers at my aunt’s house in Mexico, at least it wasn’t some deadly plants.

Yes. We live in the woods in northern Illinois, and we have taught them to identify wild raspberries and blackberries. They don't eat without running it by us first. That said, I would try to avoid intentionally planting toxic plants in the yard due to both kids and pets.

I planted a lavender bush here in my yard and when it's flowering, I'll count at least 10-20 bees at a time on it.

Lavender seems to be a really popular flower for me too. It's also very hardy, and smells wonderful obviously so is a great choice all round.

I have a lavender bush next to my front door. There are always a bunch of bees on it... makes leaving the house in the morning a little more enjoyable.

Oregano is a big hit with bees in my area, plus it's great for cooking!

You need some small flat flowers to get more predator species in there (including lady bugs, lacewings, and some parasitic wasps). Yarrow is the easiest for most of us to get.

We had plenty of these species in our garden before. The lady bugs are an absolute menace and get everywhere! This list was just for particularly bee friendly species.

>a mild, wet climate like the UK

Never been there. By "mild" do you mean 'not that cold', relative to other places at the same latitude? Because I thought the UK was pretty cold, although a UK friend told me Germany is colder (generally).

I'd describe mild as a lack of drastic change in temperature year around. We normally get temperatures between 0C and 20C, with a few outlier days (more so recently - lots of heat waves for obvious reasons...) This changes from North to South, but we rarely get temperatures and crazy weather like you guys in Europe have at the moment.

I'm not from Europe, I'm from India. Other than that, got your points, thanks. That frequent drizzle or rain and also somewhat frequently varying weather I've read about (mainly in kids' stories and later novels with England as the base location), make the UK weather sound interesting. I've lived in places like that, and also in others, where there are well-defined seasons such as wet and dry, hot and cold. I like both kinds.

The climate in the UK is 'cool' but never extreme in either direction. Germany is hotter in the summer and colder in the winter than the UK, mainly due to the UK being an island nation and being in they path of the jet stream.

Got it, thanks.

>path of the jet stream.

As lovemenot said, you probably mean Gulf Stream.



Gulf stream, I believe you meant.

Yes I did, thanks!

Milkweed is essential for monarch butterflies, also a pollinator.

Love the idea! Does anyone have a similar list for a more chaparral-type climate like in Southern California?

https://www.pollinator.org/guides Punch in your zip and get suggestions for your region/ecosystem.


with so many experts around, it's time to ask the question: it appear that there were no honey bees before the European colonization.

1) were there other types of bees, of was all the polinisation done by other insects?

2) what's the point is saving a non-native specie, when so many others need saving?

There are hundreds of native bee species in California alone. None of them produce honey stores like the Apis mellifera, the european honeybee. We do, however, depend on the honeybee for food crop pollination, which is a huge industry in the US. Beekeepers haul their hives all over the country following the seasons for different crops. Because they're profitable, we have a lot of honeybee research and attention, and that makes them valuable for pointing out problems that are likely affecting other insects (like native bees).

There are a ton of Native American bees, though most of them do not hive together and are solitary. Mason bees are an example.

even wasps are pollinators. honeybees extract and store nectar and save pollen. we need both pollinators and apis mellifera.

bumble bees are ground nesters and solitary, for example..they dont create bee hives. better pollinators than honeybees. ditto with carpenter bees/mason bees. honey bees proliferation can displace local pollinators. a balance is needed.

We live by a creek in Appalachia. The creek sits at the end of our back yard. The previous owners kept the grass mowed short all the way to the banks of the creek. It looked nice. On the other hand, there was a tendency toward erosion, and I feel its part of my responsibility to do what I can to encourage healthy waterways. Besides, this area is a really important pathway for migrating animals (see: https://www.climatecentral.org/news/map-animal-migration-cli...), and one of the most bio-diverse areas in the country. I don't want to be part of the problem, and I hate mowing.

So, this early Spring, I decided that, city be damned, I'd not mow within 40' of the creek. It rapidly turned into a thick meadow.

But then I chickened out, because I knew city officials were coming to inspect the neighboring property. I mowed. In addition to the enormous number of insects, I nearly mauled a turtle, a garden snake, and a bird's nest. So, I said screw it, and put the lawn mower away. I've got plenty of lawn for the kids to play on, and for me to sweat my undies mowing. And the city officials never said anything.

I genuinely salute you and your actions. Collectively, we need to get over this post-WWII 1950s white picket fence obsession with lawn care. It's bad for the planet, bad for our pocketbooks and takes away time that we could use for other more interesting activities.

Why would the city care about you having wild flora within 40’ of a river?

Because cities love to tell people what they can and can't do, like how tall their grass can be.

you are a hero.

thank you. i am slowly moving my farm operation to no-till or minimal till. ag is the worst thing we have done to our planet and soil biome. soil is living medium.

I've a friend who owns a small farm in North Carolina. It used to be used for tobacco. He tells me the soil is biotically dead. Sure, with fertilizers and all that you can still raise a crop, but there is nothing living in the soil anymore. His goal, more than making a buck, since he has a day job, is to restore the soil.

Others have mentioned the climate impacts, but I'd like to salute you for a different reason: your property is yours; good for you not listening to some BS regulation. The authority of others stops where your property begins.

Well, because externalities, I guess. I'm originally from California. In my neighborhood, every 4th of July, someone's overgrown grass catches fires by some errant bottle-rocket. That's no joke, especially in a drought.

I know some homeowners hate dandelions with a passion. I don't, and I let them grow. But there's no way my dandelions aren't invading my neighbors' yards (fortunately they don't give a fig). And if they sprayed pesticides to get rid of those dandelions, no way those pesticides aren't blowin into my yard. So both of us would be unhappy.

I had a family friend who inherited an old olive orchard in California. He let it go wild, and it became a little wild-life park. It was fantastic. But the neighbor farmers didn't like it, because they believed that it harbored pests that would eat up their crops, and weeds that would compete with their crops. So the farmers complained, and the county forced him to mow it all down.

Of course, all of this is about which externalities matter, and when, and to whom they matter. In a fair society, that requires examining the public purpose, what priorities we set as a people. In an unfair society, it means who has the power to get their way.

I sympathize with your problem, and it feels that things would be easier were the courts not so screwed up. It was formerly the case (hundreds of years ago) that if your neighbor burnt your lawn, you could sue him. No lawyers needed. It's sad that's no longer an option. That's how negative externalities were addressed in the past. The advantage to this system was that it didn't require the incompetent, corrupt, moronic politicians to stick their grubby hands into every thing; problems could be addressed on a case-by-case basis rather than some pencil-pusher with no wit deciding he knows best for a large group.

There was a recent story of a pest control company that accidentally sprayed the wrong yard while the person was away running errands. They even left an invoice.

She'd spent 3 years cultivating a pollinator friendly yard. The next day she noticed there were no butterflies around.


Why the hell would you ever want your yard sprayed?

If someone doesn't take good care of their yard and/or there is an infestation of sorts (E.g. ticks in relation to lyme disease, beetles destroying native plants,etc) some governments may even require you to spray the yard.

At my last place, in the mountains, if you did not spray outside the house, you would have ants and spiders up the wazoo in the house.

Those can be handled in other ways. For instance, seal openings to the outdoors, keep the house clean so ants aren't getting food, lay out ant poison that they take back to their nests so it's more targeted, spray diluted citrus oils in the places spiders like to hang out since they don't like the smell, etc.

or encourage possums to go tick picking.

> you would have ants and spiders up the wazoo in the house.

The spiders are great, they control the flies and other pests. The ants are a minor annoyance.

Some people have anaphylaxis to bee stings. There are other ways to deal with that, sure, but I have a hard time blaming someone for trying to get rid of an immediately deadly hazard.

Mosquitos are dangerous, painful and a huge nuisance for a lot of people.

If we're talking about the USA, mosquitos are not dangerous enough to warrant taking any action whatsoever. Of the dozens and dozens of species of mosquito, there are less than a handful that are potentially dangerous, and only in a small region, and only sometimes.

There is no reason to spray chemical toxins in a yard because of mosquitos.

If you want to take action to reduce mosquito numbers, start with pooling water. They are often able to breed in ruts left by vehicles driving on paths where they aren't supposed to be.

Zika [1], West Nile, Encephalitis, Dengue, Chikungunya have all shown up in at least Texas and Florida in the past few years [2]. While I agree reducing pooled water is the most important vector control action you can take, it seems likely that the US will not remain immune from arboviruses in the long term. Thankfully the vast majority of cases continue to be travel-related but there are small numbers of locally-acquired disease being reported since ~2013.

Which is to say in those areas at least you should most definitely wear long clothes, wear an approved repellent, and avoid sleeping in unprotected areas (rooms with open windows without screens, outdoors without netting, etc).

[1]: https://www.cdc.gov/zika/geo/index.html [2, and annual summaries]: https://www.dshs.texas.gov/idcu/disease/arboviral/westNile/r...

Mosquitoes are pretty generally determined to be bad. Their value to any ecosystem is difficult to justify. However, many methods used to eliminate them have collateral damage.

I want this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mosquito_laser

If you search for videos, particularly the high speed captures, you'll be impressed.

Holy crap! I imagined this exact thing when I was a kid. I didn't think it had ever become a reality. Very cool.

We put up a few bat houses in our yard this spring. We think a few have finally moved in to one. These are really supposed to help control mosquitoes.

we have a bat house at the farm and not only do they do an excellent job patrolling..the area where they drop their poop is the best fertilised soil.

I encourage people to put up bat houses, one of the mosquito's natural predators.

That's not a good reason to do the equivalent of carpet bombing and killing every other sort of insect life.

Just to shill for bee friendly lawns: I have a creeping thyme lawn that I would recommend entirely. It attracts tons of bees, butterflies, doesn’t need mowing but once a year (to clean up the spent flowers which are lovely in the summer), is drought tolerant (I water once every 2 weeks), and is evergreen to boot!

Would you mind posting a picture? My lawn is this delightful combination of grasses and local weeds that is simultaneously uncomfortable to walk on, and also tremendously unaesthetic no matter what I seem to do. Wouldn't mind power-raking it up and putting down something better one of these years, but don't want to just do something conventional if there's a truly better option.

Very cool. So how did you make this happen? Nuke the lawn, fresh soil, and seeds?

I didn’t have to amend the soil. Thyme actually does well in poor soil conditions! As for planting you’ll have to buy plugs if you want consistency. These varieties if grown from seed won’t necessarily be true to form.


We've banned this account for posting unsubstantive comments and ignoring our request to stop. Continuing like this will get your main account banned as well, so please don't.


This sounds great! What sort of climate are you in? And may I ask if you (or anyone else here who has done this) has kids? I would love to replace or supplement my lawn with clover or thyme, but I’m a little concerned that I’d be asking for my kids’ feet to get stung.

I'm in Albuquerque (zone 7). I'm not sure this is a great kid lawn because while it will hold up to foot traffic, it might get kind of torn up if kids are running around on it a lot.

That pic is awesome, did you plant from seed?

No, these were all planted as plugs. Each variety of thyme must be propagated via cutting as the traits of that variety are not guaranteed if grown from seed.

What does the climate need to be like for this to work? I've seen it done very nicely in the Adirondacks, but I haven't seen it within NYC.

Zone 5 from what I can find. Would not survive in MN.

It's a little surprising that the article itself calls out creeping thyme as one of the bee-friendly candidate plants for MN, then, as does the article it ultimately sources from:


Perhaps there is a hardier variety? Or maybe they're expecting people to just plant fresh each spring?

Live in MN and have creeping thyme in our yard (was planted in our perennial garden and creeped). It grows very well here.

Creeping thyme works fine in the Twin Cities metro, at least. It grows very well in our yard, and it's all over our neighborhood.

We also have a big bunch of yarrow planted in our hellstrip. It grows great in those tough conditions. We don't even water it, and it's always full of bees and other bugs.

Can confirm - TC metro area is great for our thyme. It's certainly crept and spread :)

Whoa, now I want to do this. It sounds amazing! How many varieties can be used in this manner?

Tons. https://www.mountainvalleygrowers.com/Thyme.htm

I have Pink Chintz, but if I had to do it again I'd probably go with Pink Lemonade (grows faster) mixed with Caraway (culinary)

As a Texan, I've got to proudly point out that Texas has been providing an exemption on property taxes for beekeepers for a while now.

It is restricted to property of size 5-20 acres, which I think is a great sweet spot that doesn't allow large landowners to abuse the exemption.


Minneapolis allows beekeeping in the city as long as your adjacent neighbors sign off on it and you notify the city (there might be fees, but I don’t recall). There isn’t any exemption that I know of but I’m on board with the city allowing residents to keep them. Good on you, Texas (and any place else with friendly bee keeping laws)

Why shouldn't big landowners get the benefit if they are truly bee friendly? It would take way more small landowners to have the same effect. Why not give a break to people under 5 acres as well?

20 acres is not large? What's large for TX? Large for RI would be 2 acres.

Michigan checking in, 20 acres not that big really.

If you're in a city 20 acres is large. If you're in the middle of the west TX desert it's nothing.

The U of M also offers free bee classes at the lab they mentioned:


Within the article they mention that this issue is due, in a large part, to monoculture farming so, why not do as cities do with developers who need to provide a certain proportion of affordable housing in new developments and just require a portion of farms to be free growth land. I'm all for this initiative on top of that but pushing for better agricultural land usage would probably increase the efficiency of the land that's actively farmed and provide more evenly spread preserves. It's always easier to target businesses through penalization than individuals through incentivization.

Bees are pretty sensitive to various chemicals, I'm not convinced that the population decline isn't also due to urban chemical usages that we haven't discovered yet.

Have you done a study?

I live on a 1ha (2.4acre) property in far southwest (Zeeland) Netherlands, an area of mostly commercial farming. Our neighbors on all sides are commercial farmers.

We, however, are permaculture novices/enthusiasts. My girlfriend knows what each plant does, why it grows well or does not, and what it provides to plants/insects around it.

Since moving here a year ago, we have seen a marked increase in bee and bird numbers. Unfortunately, the owners of the property have the "tidy" mentality; periodically they come and destroy flowers and "weeds" that they think do not belong. It's utterly depressing. Tonight, after a culling, I walked and observed many large bees ducking in and out of the flowers on cut plants. And while I don't know the name of the bees we have, they live individually in holes dug in the ground (like the ones in the article).

It is such a battle to educate people that think the right way is to cut the grass on the lowest setting, to use herbicides to remove plants that are not simple grasses, and to otherwise sanitize things they don't understand. When I walked out and spoke to the guy and said, "We really enjoyed the fresh parsley we used from this plant that you just destroyed", he seemed a bit shocked. To him it was a weed.

If the glaciers are indeed melting at unprecedented (in human terms) rates, and the ice caps are melting, and the co2 is accumulating, sea levels and temperatures rising, etc. etc., it becomes quite difficult to see a decent future for humanity beyond 100 (or 40?) years. It's enough to make one want to just burn everything down and finish the job to get it over with.

Good work, keep it up. I'm just getting interested in permaculture myself. Had done some organic gardening in the past.

Look up "food forest" while you're at it. A successful food forest is balanced and requires no maintenance, but you get fresh edible food just for the effort of walking in and picking it.

Thanks. I did come across the term "food forest" a few years ago, had read some articles and saw some pictures of them. Very interesting. It definitely works. Also there is precedent for it.

In some articles, Wikipedia or other, about the term, I saw that traditional gardens in places such as Kerala (India), North-Eastern states of India (like Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, etc. - which have climate partly like Kerala, in the sense of getting a lot of rain), and probably places in other countries, like maybe Thailand, Philippines, etc, are basically like food forests, or rather, food forests are like them (since they came earlier). For example, in home gardens, as they are called in Kerala, common plants grown in the same area (polyculture), often just part of and outside some person's home, include species like banana, coconut, jackfruit (all three are medium to big trees, although banana is more like a herb) (also all three being wonder trees in the sense of having many uses), spices like cardamom, pepper, clove, various edible greens, herbs and spices like turmeric, coriander, cumin, onion, garlic, etc. All growing together in natural symbiosis and helping each other.

>requires no maintenance,

A bit of a nitpick, but they do require maintenance. It is not a closed loop. Since we keep harvesting stuff, nutrients decrease, so we have to add inputs too, like organic manure, compost, etc. Can't keep taking without giving back.

hedgerows. if you can plant hedgerows of yarrow or sage or lavender ...they will look neat and also provide forage for pollinators and fall food/shelter for birds.

The Xerces Society has pollinator-friendly plant lists for a variety of region in the US: https://xerces.org/pollinator-conservation/plant-lists/

They're named after a butterfly that used to live in the Sunset District of San Francisco, and went extinct because a city was built on their habitat.

Here's what's great: all you have to do to make your lawn more bee-friendly is literally nothing. Just stop dumping chemicals on it and flowering "weeds" will grow (which can be beautiful, by the way).

A surprising number of common yard weeds are useful medicinal plants as well. I found self heal and lemon balm in my yard this week!

As a human, this sounds great, but as a human with a deadly bee allergy, this doesn't sound great.

If your humanity is intrigued then take a look at Solitary bees many are either stingless or less aggressive by nature of not being hive driven. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bee#Solitary_and_communal_bees

I planted a normal grass backyard when I bought this house a few years ago, but since the local clover has just dominated. At first I found it annoying as I couldn't mow it down without bees getting aggressive, but now I just leave it until it starts to get too high. The bees absolutely love it, there's got to be several dozen at any time. Great thing too is once I do chop it back down it re-flowers very quickly.

Since then I've put in a mason bee shelter, and planted more butterfly friendly plants.

When clover out-competes a regionally appropriate grass, it's usually a strong indication that the soil was low in available nitrogen.

Which makes sense. The homebuilders never replaced any of the soil and just left it as clay. I didn't really put down much before planting anything but it seems that the soil quality is getting better. The wild berries love it at least.

plant fruit trees.. they do well in clay as they hold water. and the pollinators will take care of the pollination.

Wow, this is excellent!

There's a few additional cautions I heard in a talk from a rep of the Xerces Society for protecting invertebrates [1].

One is that some of the new pesticides are systemic and durable. This means that you can buy a plant from a nursery that is supposedly bee- or butterfly-friendly, but if it was sprayed with one of these pesticides in it's growth, it now will actually be deadly to the very insects you are trying to attract and nurture.

Also, many of the bred variants of the plants may look nice, but actually be incapable of growing the nectar, etc. that supports the insects we're trying to nurture.

So, best to seek out the original native cultivars and organically grown (or at least with known transient non-systemic pesticides).

Also check out the Xerces society and its materials -- they're a wealth of knowledge on the subject.


Oops, somehow the link didn't make it in there

[1] https://xerces.org/

I wonder how well this will go over with the local municipalities and homeowner's associations. They are the biggest barriers to converting lawns into useful land, not the cost.

I think it would probably be more effective to just provide seeds for native flowering plants to them directly, as well as sowing county/city/state parks and interstate/highway greens with some.

I've had the idea for years of playing Johnny Appleseed by being "Ryan Flowerseed" and driving around throwing hand fulls of seeds from native flowering species off the shoulder/into the medians of interstates and highways but it would actually be quite expensive to do it even over relatively short distances and I'd probably get a ticket for littering facepalm.

This is kind of a thing, at least at the county level. The county I live in has an annual sapling/seed sale where bunches of Minnesota-appropriate saplings are sold at low cost (average $25 for 2 dozen tree saplings) along with packets of various types of prairie grass and wildflower mixes. My main problem is laziness, so a lot of my plants end up dying before I get them in the ground, or I forget to take care of them after I do. I've planted a bunch of seedlings from the program over the last 10 years and a couple are already over 12' tall. I planted about a half-dozen swamp oaks last year and most of them are doing fine so far.

Part of the problem (as always!) is people. There is the Roadsides for Wildlife program, meaning that the county will not spray herbicide in areas with the sign in order to promote wildlife habitat. But a lot of people will take the signs down. I guess because "dandelions ugly."

Since my "lawn" is already mostly clover and other wild plants anyway, I'm definitely going to look into this program.

So a couple of complicating factors with that. Typically maintainers of 'right-of-way' spaces (transportation corridors), are pretty heavy users of herbicide and manage in a manner which is fairly antagonistic towards plant/ animal life.

Likewise, whenever you are running a program to do some kind of home-owner outreach/ change in behavior, its pretty important to have some training, professional educators, validation components to the work. Otherwise the program will get accused of just handing out freebies with no return on investment. As well, you'll want to quantify the residual impact of the program. Typically the goals of these programs is to try and create an overall shift in how people manage their spaces and a 'keeping-up-with-the-joneses' effect. For that to work however, the impact needs to be visually appealing.

Leaving it to homeowners is probably a bad idea.

>So a couple of complicating factors with that. Typically maintainers of 'right-of-way' spaces (transportation corridors), are pretty heavy users of herbicide and manage in a manner which is fairly antagonistic towards plant/ animal life.

Here in Indiana many have signs that say something along the lines of "wildflowers, do not cut" so I would presume this means do not spray either.

National Trust have a guide on how to make wildflower seed balls: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/features/how-to-make-wildfl...

Depending on where you are those spaces along highways are often available for farmers to use for heying... so while it flowers can can grow there, it's not a sure thing that they'll be there consistently depending on use.

I previously read how "local honey" supposedly helps with certain allergies. I do not have personal experience with either allergies or how local honey might help them, but I am curious if anybody has -- or at least if anyone has investigated such ideas.

One problem with this is that most "local" honeys in the USA can be labeled as such even if they are 99%+ non-local honey. Just because it is sold in a farmer's market doesn't mean it is actually local :-(

I dug into this while I lived in Austin (hello "cedar fever"). It unfortunately appears to be a placebo. Nice theory, but just doesn't pan out.

See also this Nature paper that Paul Stamets is an author on: Extracts of Polypore Mushroom Mycelia Reduce Viruses in Honey Bees

> Waves of highly infectious viruses sweeping through global honey bee populations have contributed to recent declines in honey bee health. Bees have been observed foraging on mushroom mycelium, suggesting that they may be deriving medicinal or nutritional value from fungi. Fungi are known to produce a wide array of chemicals with antimicrobial activity, including compounds active against bacteria, other fungi, or viruses. We tested extracts from the mycelium of multiple polypore fungal species known to have antiviral properties. Extracts from amadou (Fomes) and reishi (Ganoderma) fungi reduced the levels of honey bee deformed wing virus (DWV) and Lake Sinai virus (LSV) in a dose-dependent manner. In field trials, colonies fed Ganoderma resinaceum extract exhibited a 79-fold reduction in DWV and a 45,000-fold reduction in LSV compared to control colonies. These findings indicate honey bees may gain health benefits from fungi and their antimicrobial compounds.


I live in Minnesota and will be taking advantage of this.

Though, to be fair, I was going to do it anyway, with or without subsidies.

Try cup plant around your water downspouts (or any local water). https://www.minnesotawildflowers.info/flower/cup-plant Bees and birds love them.

Thanks for the tip!

If you know a bee-friendly alternative to grass for the Pacific Northwest, please let me know. clover? and where to get seed for it? I have about .5 acres I wouldn't mind turning over.

In Portland, I use grass and clover mix [1]. Can get lawn mixes with more flowers like yarrow and daisies [2]. Or can go to wildflower meadow [3]. Lots of places have mixes with native wildflowers.

1: https://ptlawnseed.com/collections/eco-and-alternative-lawns... 2: https://ptlawnseed.com/collections/eco-and-alternative-lawns... 3: https://ptlawnseed.com/products/pt-454-native-urban-meadow-m...

Looks like these guys have a mix for you: https://www.americanmeadows.com/wildflower-seeds/wildflower-...

Also, most home centers have "wildlflower" mix. You'd have to check and see if what is has is native to your area.

We have a very bee friendly yard. It's basically survival of the fittest. We did a bunch of research on plants that would work well in our area and be hardy. A plant that is invasive in one area may not be invasive at all in yours. We might treat a plant as a pet for a little while, but if it cannot survive on its own, something else will.

We minimized the lawn area and use zoyzia there. It is hardy in our zone, and requires minimal care (no watering, mow every few weeks, no chemicals).

We're fortunate to live in a community without a housing association, so we don't have to worry about that. Some of our neighbors love it, and some hate it since it is not the 'traditional' mowed lawn. We spend a lot less time working on it than they do on theirs, though, and enjoy the critters.

Great news for the bees! In related news, I was just reading about a number of councils in the UK leaving roadside verges to flower, saving them money and encouraging wildlife to flourish.

Would be great to see more of this in towns and cities too, new developments that cover an entire area with concrete and a few token trees/shrubs are not a good long term outcome for anyone. I guess it comes down to how much a planning authority can enforce both the implementation and long term upkeep of 'wild' spaces by the private developers and management companies.


The state of Iowa (US) has a program to plant native species in the ditches and medians of state highways. Heard about it on the radio a year or so ago. Explains why the ditches are always so pretty to look at.


In Denmark is becoming sort of a trend to not trim your hedge, before it’s done flowering (to help the bees) and the baby birds have left their nests.

That basically means that, while it looks a bit messy for a few weeks, I only have to trim it once rather than twice. It an win-win in my book.

For people in the Lower Mainland (all of BC?)


We have a small garden box (4'x8') if Raspberry bushes and when it was flowering there was so much activity around it that it sounded like a hive in there!

One thing I've noticed this year is bumble/honey bees in abundance!

I mentioned in a child but I wanted to point out there are different species of bees. Solitary bees are growing in popularity and offer more effective pollination than the tradition honey bee and are non-(or less)aggressive.


Is it possible to explicitly host a colony of non-stinging bees to keep away stinging varieties?

I have family members who are terrified of bees. Don’t want someone to step on a bee and get stung, etc

Yes. However, it isn't really a colony or hive. I actually had my first bee house this summer (in Texas) in hopes of pollinating my apple tree (spoiler - it worked).

I bought 40 Mason bee larva from https://masonbeesforsale.com around March and around May I found some reeds in my bee house filled with mud (meaning they had created their nest). It was a fun experiment and at no time did I feel like bees were swarming. If anything, they actually left my yard an pollinated my neighbors plants.

In the UK I have ordered seeds from Pictorial Meadows http://www.pictorialmeadows.co.uk/ they optimize for more colour, a longer flowering season, and better support for biodiversity.

i have a lavender farm. it is a joy to have native and honey bees around. i rent my land from a quasi federal facility...so my land licence doesnt allow me to have bee hives as it would try to oust the local native bees.

while..as a farmer and beekeeper..i got annoyed because it took away a lucrative source of income from hives and honey...i slowly began to appreciate their rationale. i started seeing so many bees that arent really honey bees.

in california, honey bees are actually foreign italian bees. as a beekeeper, my favourite part of the job is to observe bees...and it was fascinating how many other kinds of bees there were other than italian bees that we usually buy ..as queen bee and nucs..

this, of course, creates an interesting problem. italian honeybees..not being native californian dont always tolerate native californian pollen. in spring..if there is a lack of flowering species, they will feed anyways when they swarm to california buckeye which is likely to be toxic to their digestive systems(this is true too of yellow jessamine vine in the south of usa) and can kill them.

the hack is to make sure they have other nectar flowers in early spring. they wont go to the harmful flowers is sufficient food is around and available. the easy answer is brambles. bramble berries flower early and are pollen/nectar laden. when i heard about it, i felt like i stumbled upon some super awesome secret.

i wish i can encourage everyone to be friends of bees...and other pollinators. there is so much we dont know about them. at times..when i am tired and had a bit of tipple..i even let me mind wander and wonder if they are possibly alien to our planet. bees are almost like alien intelligence. when they leave us, we should be scared...very worried, at least.

Man, I wish we had that here. I've slowly replaced about 30% of my lawn with native prairie beds, added clover to the rest, and never spray.

This site has tips for plants that attract pollinators, organized by region/ecosystem type. Just have to punch in your US/Canadian zip https://www.pollinator.org/guides

Hmm. Wonder if they need people to validate the effectiveness of their 'Bee-scapes'.

I wish they would do this in IL. I would be all over that. My garden is already that way. Lots of beebalm and wildflowers. Just this morning I was thinking, "Why not do the whole front yard?".

A bit late to comment but this is very relevant https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oz9I2YwmV8M

How much does it benefit bees to go out of their way to these lawns? Or are they more likely to build a new hive nearby and increase the bee population and subsequently the health of the local environment?

Bees have a large range, sometimes over 3 miles, so it's going to be fine to have a few dozen beekeepers per metropolitan area. Each hive can cover 9*pi ~ 27 sq miles.

What a great idea. We have been doing this with our lawn, although more down to laziness!

Pardon the shallow sarcasm but aren't we paying for things people used to do ?

In the past, large wildflowers and flowering bushes in my front yard would draw many butterflies and bees. The city started spaying all neighborhoods for mosquitoes every few weeks. You don't see butterflies or bees around any more. The bee hives in a nearby city were killed by mosquito spraying.

How about paying them to have a hive?

This thread is missing pictures.

Watch as all the landlords do a 180.

It's unsettling that we're both so eager to save the bees, and so eager to save our kids from ticks.

I don't know that it's "unsettling". Both of those seem like objectively good things. The fact that it can be difficult to do both simultaneously is definitely "a thing" but I don't believe it's unsettling. "Difficult to balance" maybe?

Unless you feel that either A- Saving Bees is bad or B- Killing ticks is bad?

I feel that C- killing ticks with ecologically destructive methods is ridiculously ignorant.

But that doesn't mean that it's "unsettling" that we want to save bees, which is what that statement implies.

I understood them to be saying they were unsettled by the dissonance of it.

I believe that you read it that way. I believe that it's a difficult to understand sentence that doesn't appear to properly articulate the message the writer was attempting to convey and that maybe different word choice would provide greater clarity to their point and further the overall discussion.

TL;dr- we deep enough down the semantics rabbit hole and I'm tapping out. Words, amirite?

U r rite

Why? Ticks are a disease vector and unlike bees their population is increasing due to milder winters.

Surely that's a factor, but habitat fragmentation and loss of biodiversity are also very important, and are directly related to the loss of bees.

Killing "the disease vector" doesn't heal the root problem, which is rampant, culturally and economically endorsed destruction of ecological diversity and the environments that foster it. This is happening on multiple fronts, climate change being one of them.

I agree with the poster who advocated chickens and possums... except that I'd go much further than just chickens and possums. We also need to dramatically rethink the way development happens. And further incentivize land rehabilitation and polyculture farming methods such as permaculture.



Get more chickens or possums to eat the ticks!

I agree! Our approach to ecological ailments should always be to foster stable ecological diversity!

How are these related?

They are somewhat opposed to each other. You spray pesticides and mow to keep ticks down. You don't want to spray pesticides on bees and natural landscaping features taller grasses / plants etc... that provide cover for ticks, not to mention rodents etc... You also want to spray and or mow to keep mosquitoes down. You can mitigate impact on bees by spraying at dusk/night and avoid spraying flowers.

If we let bees die much more than they already have, current farming becomes infeasible not only because other pollinating species can't pick up the slack but because modern farming actually relies heavily on driving bees around in absurd numbers on flatbed trucks going from farm to farm. If we can promote wild populations, it's a very good thing for not only humans but countless other species.

I'm also unsettled.

And I'm going to go out on a limb and say something very bold. I believe that these are all cut from the same cloth: conventional, extermination focused approaches to "invasive species"; old-school germ theory approaches to infection; peoples' crass approaches to refugees.


Houston, we have a problem. And that problem is the children.

And as Whitney Houston used to say, "pass me the coke"^W^W^W^W "I believe the children are our future"

I love bees to death, but white clover in lawns is a good way to introduce children to the business end of honey bees. Trying to get my own family to stop and watch a bush full of honey and bumblebees working has taken years of desensitization both for myself and then for them.

If you don't want bees to be in crisis again in 30 years when those kids are in charge, you need a better plan than this. Or at least a reworded one. What you want is flower beds in yards, (And you need to break the iron fist of the HOA to get more of those), not flowers in lawns.

Bees are pretty good about 'live and let live', at least in my experience. Unless you step on a bumblebee barefoot or something of the like, of course...

Wasps and hornets give bees a bad name.

Right, and where are children going to step on bees?

I grew up in the bad old 70s, full of bees and other stinging things, walking around barefoot pretty much all summer and I've never been stung on the foot. Likewise, we have a very bee-friendly yard, and our son (now 10) has never been stung by one.

Wasps and hornets? Him once, and myself 2-3 times, but that has nothing to do with plants, those suckers like making hives all over the place.

Try talking to people with bee phobias, instead of acting only on your own experiences. I get a high percentage of people who were either stung as a child or witnessed it happen to someone else.

It's very similar to your wasp experience, and some people's experience with certain dog breeds. What terrifies us is when a creature lashes out and we don't understand why. If we understand we feel we have control of the situation.

Most of us [lack] that feeling of control with wasps (I like parasitic wasps, I still hate the hornet family). Some people have this with chihuahuas or pits (hard to read body language). A lot of people who fear bees have the same thing.

I have to show them that you can put your face right up to bees foraging and nothing happens because they are busy and have no opinion on your proximity (it's the hive they care about).

People won't 'show up' for things they have no feelings about, or things they have negative feelings about. I don't want to deal with another generation of suburban bee-haters when I'm old and grey.

Edit: tortured use of negatives

Are we supposed to shape our world to fit the most fearful?

Or should we shape our world to fit our goals, and help the fearful adapt to it?

> Are we supposed to shape our world to fit the most fearful?

I'd say that whether we are supposed to or not, and despite how bad an idea it seems to be, we are shaping the world to fit the most fearful.

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