Homeowners in Minnesota can benefit financially if they forgo the grass and instead grow a lawn for bees.
A new spending program approved by lawmakers in 2019 called Lawns to Legumes sets aside $900,000 annually to pay homeowners who replace traditional lawns with bee-friendly wildflowers, clover and native grasses. It’s part of a larger effort to help the state’s declining bee population.
Although the wildflowers and native grasses will benefit all species of bees, the hope is that unmanicured lawns will specifically attract and help the rusty patched bumblebee. Once abundant across a wide swath of North America, the bee species (Bombus affinis) was formally listed as endangered in March 2017. The fuzzy, striped critters have suffered an 87% decline in population since the mid-1990s due to factors such as climate change, pesticide exposure, habitat loss, population fragmentation and diseases transmitted from infected commercial domesticated honeybees.
The program will cover up to $350 of the cost for homeowners who convert their lawns. The grants may cover more in areas targeted as “high potential” to support rusty patched bees.
If you are not eligible or you don’t live in Minnesota, you can make your yard more attractive to bees by forgoing a chemical lawn service (which can kill pollinators), growing lots of different flowering plants and leaving a few small spots of bare soil for bees to nest.
If you can’t give up your whole lawn to clover and wildflowers because of pesky homeowner associations or other aesthetic reasons, at least try sneaking in a small undisturbed corner with tall grasses, sticks and general chaos. The bees will be happy and should move right in.
For more information on the Lawn to Bees program, do a google search “BWSR Lawns to Bees.”