Bee Lawns: Take it Easy
One of the many stressors that today's bees face is a loss of flowering habitat.
An easy way to increase and improve habitat is to convert our grass lawns, which to a bee is a food desert, to flowering bee lawns. A bee lawn will attract and feed bees while it saves us time, money, and effort.
A bee lawn is basically a mix of grass and low-flowering plants that can bloom between lawn cuttings. A bee lawn is a diverse lawn because it grows more than one type of plant and this diversity creates a lawn that is more drought-resistant, requires little or no fertilizer, and needs less water.
An excellent flower to add to your lawn is clover because it naturally adds nitrogen from the air to your soil. Clover also has a deeper root system than many lawn grasses, these deep roots stabilize soil and bring moisture up. If you can, add a clover that is native to your area. Connect with your local North American Plant Society to see if they have other bee lawn plant recommendations.
Bee lawns require a different maintenance schedule and this means less work for you! Set your lawn mower blades at their highest setting (about 4") and wait 2-3 weeks between cuttings. A slightly taller lawn will give the lawn flowers time to bloom. Avoid applying herbicides to your lawn because we've seen these chemicals drive away nesting mason and leafcutter bees. Native bees have short flying ranges and this means they are picky about where they will nest and search for forage.
To support ground-nesting bees, avoid landscaping fabric and mulch or beauty bark. Ground-nesting bees can't nest in a location covered with mulch. Set aside a dedicated location for native ground-nesting bees that is bare, low-foot traffic, and receives good sunlight. Remember that many bee species are only actively flying for a few weeks and 90% of bee species are also gentle solitary bees working hard to raise the next generation of bees.
Native plants are the best option for feeding native bees. Native flowers are 4-5 times more attractive to bees and they are easy to raise plants that are in sync with your local weather patterns. Add a native plant garden to the border of your bee lawn and feed more bees!