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Stop the Dandelion Madness! Making Peace with Dandelions and Bees

I've been thinking about writing this post for several weeks now, ever since I first saw a Facebook meme telling people to leave the dandelions for the bees because dandelions are one of the bees' first spring food sources. At first glance, this sounds like a great idea. Bees like flowers, I like bees – save the flowers, save the bees. Easy peasy.

dandelion flower

The thing is, the dandelion saving movement has gone militant. Bloggers, foodies and gardeners everywhere are under attack because they pick the dandelions and eat them themselves. Over a dozen friends have received angry comments over their use of dandelions, with indignant internet users flaming them with rude remarks for “stealing from the bees”. It's time to inject a little common sense into this dandelion madness.

Dandelion Madness Fallacy #1 – If You Pick the Flowers, There Won't Be Any for the Bees

Anyone who has ever mowed a lawn full of dandelion flowers can clearly tell you this isn't true. You run the mower through, it's all neat and green, and the next day the yard is full of flowers again.

A dandelion plant, like all plants, wants to make more plants. To do this, it creates flowers, and those flowers eventually create dandelion seeds. If you harvest some flowers, it will continue to make more flowers, at least during the spring flowering season. Eventually flowering will stop or slow dramatically as the seasons change, but by that time there should be more food sources for the bees.

dandelion field

Dandelion Madness Fallacy #2 – If You Pick the Greens, You'll Kill the Dandelion Plant and Starve the Bees

For those who aren't familiar with the anatomy of a dandelion plant, they have beautifully well developed tap roots. This can make them quite a challenge to remove from the garden – and makes them very resilient and largely unaffected when you (or any other herbivore) harvests some leaves.

Further, if someone is harvesting dandelion greens to eat, odds are that they are doing so from an area that is pesticide free and safer for the bees. (If they're not harvesting from a pesticide free area, they should be.) Shouldn't we be encouraging people to use and cultivate the wonderful resource of dandelions?

Dandelions are loaded with vitamins A and C, lutein and zeaxanthin (for eye health), and an assortment of minerals. (Nutritional value will vary based on the health of your soil.)

Medicinally, dandelions have been used as a general tonic, and are particularly helpful to the kidneys and urinary tract. The sap can be used to soothe bites and stings, and may help clear warts.

It's been proven time and again that those who use a resource are the ones most likely to preserve it. For instance, Ducks Unlimited has conserved over 13 million acres since 1937. Heritage livestock breeds, such as heritage hogs, are making a comeback as people realize they are well suited to smaller homesteads. Heirloom vegetables are gaining in popularity as people realize that they've been missing out on an amazing array of flavors and nutrition by sticking to standard grocery store fare.

Dandelion Madness Fallacy #3 – If You Dig Up Dandelions, You're Killing the Bees

Those of us who have dandelions in our lawns and gardens can bear witness to the fact that if you have one dandelion, you probably have many dandelions. Also, if you dig up a dandelion and leave a portion of the root (which is likely, because root bits break off), odds are that that dandelion will regrow. As long as you're not dosing an area in pesticides, dandelions will generally survive and flourish. It's not going to wipe out the bee population if you clear a few unruly ones from your yard or garden, or if you harvest the roots for food or medicinal use. (See Harvesting and Using Dandelion Roots for more info.)

There Are Enough Dandelions for Both Bees and People to Enjoy!

Once we stop aiming for a “grass only” yard treated with herbicides and pesticides, dandelions and other broadleaf weeds like clover will naturally more in to diversify the ecosystem, enrich the soil and provide additional bee fodder.

If you need to keep your dandelions in check due to the cries of panicked neighbors, go ahead and dig some out and mow when you must, but add early blooming trees, shrubs and flowers to your yard to provide additional food and habitat for the bees.

Perennial plants like trees and shrubs flower earlier than annuals, and provide thousands of blossoms for hungry bees. See 5 Tips for a Bee Friendly Yard to learn how to make your yard to our very valuable winged friends.

Now that we've set the record straight, check out these posts to learn more about dandelions!

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  1. The best response to this nonsense is trolling. e.g. “Dandylions are wonderful flowers, but unfortunately some species are doomed to go the way of the dodo. Dandylions are doomed to extinction and there’s nothing us mere humans can do to stand in the way of mother nature and save them”

  2. dandelions! all parts are wonderful–roots, leaves, flowers. eat them, tincture them, vinegar them, make them into wine. dandelions!

    1. Have you ever tried eating the flower stalks? I read a blog where someone claimed they cooked and ate them (using two changes of water), but when I tried it, I ended up with a foul green bowl of mush. Every other part I will eat or use, but those I’d leave for the bunnies.

  3. Nice Post! You get a click on an ad for that 😉 lol
    Been reading also that Dandelions kills cancer cells very effectively. Check it out.

    1. Yes, I’ve read the story about the gentleman who cured his cancer with dandelion tea, and I believe there are some small studies underway at this time. It’s tough to get funding for weed research, as no one wants to back something people can get for free.

  4. While I don’t harvest dandelions now, I remember eating them as greens in the springtime, with a little salt and vinegar, very good. My grandmother also used to dig up the roots and dry them, then grind into powder to mix with coffee grounds, something she learned during the depression to extend the coffee grounds. Her and my grandfather had a farm, and their yard was yellow in the spring and summer.:) I really enjoy your newsletter, keep up the good work..:)

    1. Glad you enjoy it, Ronald. Dandelions have been a spring tonic in many cultures around the world – they’re survivors! Thanks for sharing your experience. Growing up, it was wine or critter food, but since then I’ve broadened my dandelion horizons.

  5. When i saw the headline to your article, i thought people who enjoy using dandelions were being accused of causing the plant to spread ! Because where i come from they are frowned upon as weeds.
    I think they are a beautiful and useful wild plant i collect the young leaves for salads and my friends across the road collect them for their guinea pigs. As any gardener knows they are impossible to kill as they will quickly regenerate from their very deep taproot . I wish people would get their facts right before accusing others of doing wrong!love the post,well done.

    1. The original meme was intended to stop those intent on spraying large amounts of weed killer – which is a good thing. The problem was that people interpreted it the wrong way and went after the very people who protect and use dandelions. The internet is a crazy place.

  6. The people that criticize us for picking dandelions are probably the same people that spray with glyphospate (Roundup). I’ll bet you that they are killing more bees than we ever would. Dandelions have been a spring cleanse for ever and I recommend that everyone try some. They are a little bitter but so worth all of the health benefits. I live in the country and if anyone wants to try dandelions you can come to my place to pick some…Bless Mother Nature for giving us healing medicines.

    1. I prefer the taste of the roots to the greens, but they work synergistically in the body so I do use both. I’m grateful to now live in an area where my neighbors don’t mind our crazy quilt lawn.

  7. I’m new here and haven’t seen the silly comments. I grew up (in Scotland) eating dandelions in salads, mum used to make dandelion tea, and when dad started making his home brew, mum one upped him and made dandelion wine. I now live in Australia and have a massive lawn, the dandelions are pretty, but I have to mow the lawn or the local council and neighbours will be jumping up and down for my tardiness. As for the negative comments, some people are silly and opinionated. I love your attitude, keep up the good work.

    1. Thankfully, most of the folks who visit this site have their heads on straight (or don’t share otherwise too often), but I’m part of a larger community of homestead bloggers who I work closely with, and the comments have rolling in on their social media accounts. And yes, people are silly an opinionated, but when they cross the line to hurtful, I’ve had enough.

      That’s wonderful that you’ve known and used dandelions around the world. 🙂

  8. I am a dandelion lover. As in growing and eating. My neighbors probably think my yard looks like shit. but I spend hours on my butt pulling bad weeds and growing good ones. I also harvest dandelion fluff and seeds to plant.
    I also have bees. In my region I will drive a hundred miles to save a swarm and transplant them to waiting hives free of charge. I have a list of dozens of bee keepers who call when the need to split a hive or are expanding.

    1. We love them, too. No bees of our own yet, but the native bees have already been visiting the early dandelions in the greenhouse. (Yes, we let some weeds grow in there, too.)

  9. These memes get passed around by people who have probably never even walked through a field of dandelions. Much less even understand how prolific and resilient they are.

  10. Seriously people are upset about us eating the dandelions, but not about the massive amounts of pesticides that are actually killing the bees. Something wrong with this picture!

    1. Thank you, i have posted the dandelion madness memes , i am a beekeeper,
      Im not saying dont cut them , simply dont poison them, they poison bees who then can carry the poison back to the hive and wipe out a whole colony.

  11. Those of us who want to use wild herbs and plants responsibly are probably aware of the need for food for pollinating insects. The meme believers should spend more time worrying about the folks using roundup to kill dandelions than those picking a few blossoms to make a salve or lotion.

      1. This is the first I have heard of the dandelion madness, but I love your approach to it. You set the record straight with some great facts instead of resorting to shaming or name-calling. I look forward to any other misconceptions you plan to set straight. And I vote for laughter too 🙂

        1. I choose to believe that people can remember and focus on what we have in common rather than the things that set us apart. Only time will tell if I’m right. 🙂

  12. I cannot put into words how much I love this! The bees and I both enjoy the numerous dandelions in my pesticide-free front yard. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    1. Oh my goodness–I will always feel free to do as I please in my yard. Including plant the many bushes we PAID for specifically for the bees and hummingbirds. We also provide food for the native birds–including the brands containing nuts and seeds—as well as a pond out front for the mother ducks to bring their young ones. No bread for these new families—but the food that IS proper for their growth and nutritional needs. Last season we had three new moms–bringing their young of various ages to our front yard in a sub division. These babies where from 2 inches tall up to 6 inches. I counted 18 totals–walking thru our garage. With bees-birds ducklings and the 5 chihuahua’s who MUST stay in the house just watching. I buy more food for critters than my hubby and I. LOVE IT!