Lawns have a bad reputation for wildlife habitat. But an NSF-funded study in Massachusetts showed that when they’re managed less intensively – -without herbicides and insecticides – -they accomodate a wide range of plants that attract a wide range of bees.
A National Science Foundation-funded study conducted in Springfield, Massachusetts, shows compelling talking points for practitioners to leverage in swaying clients to change lawn management to support pollinator habitat.
Here are bullets from an open source article in the Annals of the Entomological Society of America (see link below).
- Documented 63 plant species in 17 lawns monitored for two years; the majority were not intentionally planted
- The most common lawn flowers were dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) and clover (Trifolium sp.); both are great bee plants
- White clover (Trifolium repens), purple violet (Viola sororia), yellow wood-sorrel (Oxalis stricta), Canadian horseweed (Conyza canadensis), annual fleabane (Erigeron annuus), dwarf cinquefoil (Potentilla canadensis) and Pennsylvania smartweed (Polygonum pensylvanicum) were recorded in at least 60% of all sites for the two years
- Almost 30% of the spontaneous plant species growing in the lawns were native to North America
- Collected 5,331 individual bees representing 111 species, of which 97% were native
- Discovered a large population of the sweat bee Lasioglossum illinoense known in Massachusetts only from a single specimen collected in the late 1920s
- The majority of bees were native to North America (94.6%) and nested in soil (73%); solitary bees comprised 48.6%. Specialist bees that require a single plant comprised just 9.9% and parasitic species 12.6%.
Lawns have been ignored as space to support urban bees, however, the sheer size of the habitat potential, makes them an attractive option if management practices can be cultivated that support biodiversity.
“Suburban lawns in our study provided resources to a surprisingly high number of bees, building on prior research that urban green spaces have an important role to play for urban bee conservation,” authors wrote.
“When lawns are not intensively managed, lawn flowers can serve as wildlife habitat and contribute to networks of urban green spaces,” the authors conclude.
Bee Fauna and Floral Abundance within Lawn-Dominated Suburban Yards in Springfield, MA by S.B. Lerman, J. Milam open source article in the Annals of the Entomological Society of America DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/aesa/saw043 and a press release from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, To Help Bees, Skip Herbicides and Pesticides, Keep Lawns Naturally Diverse–UMass Amherst research finds untreated lawns yield unexpectedly rich bee species mix by Janet Lathrup.
NewTerrain September 15, 2016