Aug. 15, 2019

The Buzz About Bee Lawns


Bee Populations - Past and Present

The struggling bee populations have gained a lot of attention in the news the last few years. You may have come across some of these articles and thought “That’s not happening, I see lots of bees flying around in the summertime”, but the reality is, wild bees in Canada are at a high risk of suffering devastating population declines. It has been estimated that about a quarter to a third of wild bee species in Canada are at risk of extinction due to climate change, insecticide use and habitat loss. This issue is not just isolated to Canada, bee populations are declining world-wide.

Importance of Bees

The declining bee populations is an important issue to be aware of and try to mitigate because bees are very important pollinators that greatly contribute to the production of the food we eat every day. Apples, broccoli and almonds are just a few crops that are dependent on bees. Along with their contribution to producing food, the Canadian Honeybee is valuable to our economy. According to the 2016 Agriculture and Agri-food Canada report, the total contribution of bees to crop production is valued at a range of $4 – 5.5 BILLION per year. Bees don’t just pollinate crops, they also pollinate flowers and flowering trees, which provides habitat and food for other animals as well as improving the quality of water, air and soils.

Burnbrae Farms Bee Lawns

Burnbrae is committed to improving the natural environment at all its locations. We are always looking for opportunities to improve the surrounding area and keep it as natural as possible.  One method we are exploring at the Lyn location is planting bee lawns. Bee lawns are a combination of grass and low flowering plants that provide nutrients and habitat for bees. The goal of this bee lawn project is to create an ideal habitat for bees, and hopefully see an increased presence of bees on our property. Currently, there is thirty-five acres of mowed lawn at Burnbrae Farms, Lyn. A new mowing strategy is being proposed to leave some of our rear lawns longer, only cutting them once a month compared to our current schedule of once a week.  White Dutch Clover has been seeded into several lawns or encouraged to grow where it exists.  This will have two environmental benefits. The first is our use of fossil fuels will be reduced, in turn reducing our environmental footprint. The second is that flowers will be present to provide food and habitat for bees.

How To Create A Bee Lawn In Your Own Yard

Creating a bee lawn is extremely simple, it just takes a little bit of work in the spring and during the summer you can enjoy mowing your lawn less frequently. If your lawn does not naturally grow low flowering plants, you can seed them into the lawn in the spring. The best practice is to cut your grass very short and then seed in order to increase the chances of germination through better seed to soil contact. In our bee lawns we seeded with Dutch White Clover and planted two patches of creeping thyme, but there are other bee friendly plants that work well in bee lawns such as Dandelions and Self-Heal.

A very common concern about creating a bee lawn on your property is that neighbours may become upset with the length of your grass, but a bee lawn doesn’t have to be left unmaintained. Cutting your grass every two weeks and maintaining it at a bit higher length has been shown to be most beneficial as it has the largest increase in bee abundance. An added benefit is that a slightly longer lawn will be more drought tolerant.

If a bee lawn isn’t for you, bee friendly gardens are also an option that are both visually appealing as well as beneficial to both bees and butterflies. If planting a garden, make sure you use native flowers.  Plant at least 3 different types of flowers to ensure there are flowers blooming in the Spring, Summer and Fall seasons.  Pick flowers that produce lots of nectar and are easily accessible such as daisies and marigolds.  Leave or add a little milkweed for the Monarch Butterflies.  Most of all, enjoy the wildlife in your own backyard!

Emma Selleck

Burnbrae Farms Lyn

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