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What’s the Buzz about Bee Lawns?

Marjory Blare, Master Gardener

What’s the Buzz about Bee Lawns?

You may have heard about bee lawns on the news or from a friend or at a county park. And, you may be wondering what that is and why you might want to plant one in your yard. Read this article about bee lawns to help you decide if planting one is right for you.

Annual Red Clover

Did you know that about 1/3 of the plant-based foods that humans eat are insect pollinated? But pollinators are in trouble due to habitat loss, pesticides and parasites. Butterflies, wasps, flies, soldier beetles, and moths are also in jeopardy. A pollinator lawn provides the high-quality nutrition that pollinators need to survive. A bee lawn can attract over 50 species of bee! 

A bee lawn integrates low-growing flowering perennials with grasses. They require fewer pesticides, less fertilizer, water and mowing than a traditional lawn. 

Grasses in bee lawns can include grasses already present in your lawn, but, adding fine fescues and Buffalo grass will reduce the number of mowings needed per year and make the lawn more drought tolerant. “Strong creeping red fescue,” “slender creeping red fescue,” “chewings fescue,” “hard fescue” and “sheep fescue” can be grown with other cool-season grasses in full sun to shaded areas. 

Red Fescue

Another alternative to cool-season grasses are sedges. However, they don’t take as well to mowing. Pennsylvania sedge grows to about 6”. 

Pennsylvania Sedge

White clover springs to mind when thinking of bees, but there are several other good candidates that will spread out the flowering season from spring through fall. “Self-Heal” (Prunella) and “creeping thyme” and “birds foot trefoil” are non-natives that should not be planted near a wild area, but can be used in urban areas. “Ground plum,” “sweet white violets” and “common blue violets” are native alternatives. 

Self-Heal and Creeping Thyme

Bee lawns can be treated similarly to lightly-used traditional lawns. They can be mowed (or not) at 3” or higher and take light foot traffic.  Some examples of good places to plant bee lawns are: boulevards, steep slopes, primarily aesthetic areas, rights of way and easements.  

There are at least two ways to plant bee lawns. One is to start with bare soil (be aware that this area will have a “seed bank” of weeds.) and the other is to overseed. In certain cases, plugs might be a better choice. Click here for information on planting a bee lawn:  

And here are some additional sites to help you get started on your bee lawn:

Here is a site to find bee lawn seed:

Click here to get signage for your lawn:

Click here to see the Lawn to Legumes site and apply for a grant to help with expenses:

Here is a webinar discussing the ins and outs:

Your lawn can “Bee” the change!

Photo Credit: Marjory Blare (1,2,3), University of Minnesota Extension (4,5)

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