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In Defense of Dandelions

It's just a little past time for this post but the little yellow flowers that some love to hate are still popping up in yards. Personally, I celebrate dandelions. They are one of the first flowers to emerge after a long winter. All types of bees use them for food and often they are the only food available in early Spring until other flowers join in the show. Check out the gorgeous bumble bee in the photos. Imagine if I had sprayed that dandelion with chemicals. Murder.

In my gardens, I try to go all native with my plants (with a few exceptions). Dandelions however are not native but I still love them. I don't want them in my gardens but I don't mind them in the grass. I kick the poofy seeds to spread them around. I've never understood the rage towards these cheery little flowers and I actively work to change people's mind about them.

My success story lies with my neighbor. One year he was spraying Weed and Feed all over his lawn. I asked him why and he said he wants to kill all the dandelions. I live in Cleveland, the lots are very close together. My beehive was 10 feet from where he was spraying. Knowing what I know about Weed and Feed, I had to compose myself and remember that freaking out on someone does not bode well and calm and steady wins the race. I took a deep breath and we talked about his reasons. I told him how Weed and Feed has half the ingredients of Agent Orange. How his little niece played in the grass and what the chemicals could do to her. I tried not to overload him with information but I did print out the following and give it to him the next day.

Five Reasons Not to Use Weed and Feed - Beyond Pesticides

I also supply my neighbors with free honey. They are the Aunts and Uncles to my honeybees. I explained drift and how it could hurt the bees they have come to love. The following year when the sweet dandelions popped up, I saw them out picking the dandelions instead of spraying them. Then he saw me and said, we only picked a few because we remember you told us that your bees need them for food right now. My heart grew three sizes that day.

It's not just what you do at your home, we live in a community, in a watershed, near a great lake. We don't live in a bubble. What we do affects others - human and animal alike.

Sidenote, even though my heart was racing at seeing the Weed and Feed so close to my beehive, I know that approaching someone with anger or freaking out is not effective. As an educator, I strive to present the information, tell the story, and let people decide for themselves what they are going to do. Thankfully in this scenario, that worked.

I highly recommend reading the book "Teeth of the Lion: The Story of the Beloved and Despised Dandelion" by Anita Sanchez. We brought her in to speak a few years ago to a packed house. The dandelion is a fascinating flower! No really, it is. Once revered and brought over to America and planted on purpose! I can only hope we once again see them for the worth they hold.

Blog Author: Amy Roskilly, Conservation Education Program Manager

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