Seasoned NE Beekeeper Abuzz Over Bee Lawns, Other Bee-Friendly Practices
Thursday, August 31, 2023
Bees and other pollinators are indispensable to a huge number of crops, and in Nebraska as well as across the country their numbers have been declining.
From 2020 to 2021, Nebraska beekeepers lost 45% of their honeybee colonies, more than double the rate expected as a result of weather and other stressors such as the deadly Varroa mite. The disappearance of foraging material is another factor in the decline.
Dustin Scholl, information coordinator for the Nebraska Beekeeper's Association and a longtime beekeeper, said the most helpful thing property owners can do is plant flowers.
"We need flowers blooming from the earliest in spring to super late in the fall," Scholl urged. "All our bees, they all rely on that forage. And I'm talking about our native flowers."
Scholl admitted his "big soapbox" is lawns, especially "pristine" lawns free of pollinator-friendly plants such as clover and dandelions. He encouraged Nebraskans to consider replacing at least a portion of their lawns with native wildflowers. Scholl pointed out the local extension service or one of the many nurseries specializing in native plants are good resources.
He emphasized another option is to plant a bee lawn, which is a mix of grass seed and bee-friendly flowers which are low-growing and resistant to drought.
"Once you mow them off, if you do have to mow, the flowers come back," Scholl explained. "You can provide more forage for all bees throughout the year."
Scholl added the grass included in a bee lawn mixture is a slower-growing grass. The University of Minnesota has research about the effectiveness of bee lawns.
Care and management of garden areas at the end of the season can also make a huge difference for bees and other pollinators. Scholl recommended leaving stalks and stems, where bees can shelter during the winter until well into the spring.
"If you have native plants planted in your landscape, you'll have these tiny little bees -- hopefully -- that are making a nest in the hollow stems," Scholl said.
For those interested in learning more about bees, the Nebraska Beekeepers Association's Bee Fun Day will take place Sunday, Sept. 10 at the State Fairgrounds in Grand Island.
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