As a member of both Ashland’s Bee City USA subcommittee and Pollinator Project Rogue Valley, I am enjoying seeing all the dandelions with their happy yellow faces in the lawns in front of the Council Chambers on East Main Street, in the medians downtown, on the grounds of Southern Oregon University and in many yards around town.
Dandelions are an important food source for our honeybees, native bees, and other pollinators. Dandelion flowers provide excellent forage for the bees —yellow, flat, with lots of pollen — especially in early spring when honey and native bees are first emerging. (Dandelion leaves, flowers, and roots are a great spring edible for people, too!)
Most have heard by now that one out of three bites of our food is the direct result of the work performed by honey bees and native bees. The bees that do the foraging live only a short time, generally three to four weeks. If the bees do not find enough food (nectar and pollen), they can’t raise the babies that will become the next generation. Just like any creature, bees need good forage all year long: trees, shrubs, vegetables, herbs, and flowers blooming spring to fall. And they need a lot of flowers: it takes 2 million flower visits to make one pound of honey, and the average worker bee makes only about 1/12 teaspoon of honey in its lifetime!
I hope more homeowners and businesses will allow dandelions and other “weeds” to bloom. Letting these important bee foods grow and bloom not only eliminates a spring-time chore, it also gives us one more reason not to use pesticides that are harmful to pollinators and people.
Speaking of pesticides — would you like to know more about how pesticides affect people, pollinators, and the planet? Please come to the day-long conference of that same name at SOU’s Stevenson Union on April 16. More than 20 national and regional experts will share not just their knowledge about the effects of pesticides on people and pollinators but, more importantly, inspire us with examples of how people all around the country are creating new and better paradigms for the care of their cities, parks, schools, gardens, orchards and vineyards, creating a safer and healthier world for all of us. With a keynote address, six panels, four workshops and short films at lunch, there will be a topic of interest for everyone.
The Bee Social Hour, a fundraiser for the conference, is the evening before in SOU’s Hannon Library, with wine and refreshments prepared by Chef Al Chase and music performed by Daniel Verner. Phyllis Stiles, founder and director of the national Bee City USA, will be our special guest! Talent, Ashland and Phoenix are, respectively, the second, fifth and ninth Bee City USAs in the country.
Please visit PollinatorProjectRogueValley.org for details and to register. At only $10, this important conference is a great opportunity to learn more about a very important subject for all of us: people, pollinators, and the planet!
Kristina Lefever is a board member of the Rogue Valley Pollinator Project. Email your Community Contributor column of 500 to 600 words to firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions? Call 541-631-1313.