White clover.

MN Impact: Benefits of bee lawns inspire legislators, land managers and homeowners

April 8, 2020

Issue

Turfgrass lawns are ubiquitous in urban and suburban areas, covering over two percent of the land area of the continental U.S. but they don’t provide nectar or pollen for bees.  

What has been done

A group of interdisciplinary researchers at the University of Minnesota teamed up to explore flowering bee lawns as a concrete way that public land managers and homeowners can support bees. They conducted experiments to: 1) Determine which low-growing flowering plants could sustain growth within turf, continue to flower after mowing and provide food for a diverse number of bees; and, 2) Test flowering lawns in public parks and gather public perceptions on pollinators and flowering lawns. 

Results

Researchers collected 3,507 bees over the three-year study. They collected fifty-seven unique bee species off of lawns with only Dutch white clover, while they collected 60 unique bee species off of florally enhanced lawns with Dutch white clover, self-heal and creeping thyme. 

Of the 502 park visitors surveyed, 95-97 percent supported creating flowering lawns in public parks. Aesthetics and supporting bees were the two most commonly mentioned potential benefits of flowering lawns. 

In August 2019, the research team released a Flowering Bee Lawn Toolkit for Land Managers based on their research. Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board has already added bee lawns to their sustainable landscape plans and the Minnesota Legislature has gotten involved by funding a $900k grant program to assist homeowners with the cost of creating bee friendly habitats including bee lawns—over 4,000 residents applied for 2020 funds. Ultimately, this work will assist land managers and homeowners to adopt more sustainable land management practices and, in time, change perceptions on what the ubiquitous urban green space should look like.