a bee eating dandelions

Do bees eat dandelions?

Yes, a range of bee species eat dandelions including honeybees, bumblebees and solitary bees.

Dandelions have been somewhat demonised as the bane of lawns all across the world. This tiny little weed actually provides a fantastic food source for the wildlife in your garden.

Dandelions, Latin name (Taraxacum officinale) are championed as one of the first flowers to provide a suitable pollen and nectar source for bees in early spring. This has led to campaigns to encourage garden owners to avoid mowing dandelions early in the season to help emerging bees.

So does this have any basis in fact, do bees really eat dandelions as a staple of their diet? Let’s take a closer look at how important dandelions are to bee nutrition.

Do bees really like dandelions?

In short, yes, Bees will collect Dandelion pollen when no other sources of pollen are available. The key takeaway here is that bees will only opt for Dandelion pollen when other sources aren’t available.

During early spring the majority of bees will opt for tree pollen as their initial source of forage where viable.

Trees that produce pollen suitable for bees include:

  • Maples
  • Elms
  • Poplar
  • Willow

It’s been observed that the majority of these tree species do offer pollen in higher concentrations due to the close proximity of flowers across their branches. This means bees can collect considerably more pollen in a shorter time while consuming less energy.

In areas where tree pollen is sparse dandelions may take the place of these more popular species as the first food for bees so should never be discounted.

Dandelions are distinctly lacking in amino acids critical for a bee’s health growth and maintained health, this means that while dandelions are a suitable source of food they do need to be combined with other species to ensure bees receive a nutritionally balanced diet.

Dandelions and bees

To conclude I believe dandelions are a fantastic weed for your garden and provide a viable food source for lots of the insects that populate your wild areas.

The debate as to whether you should opt to grow dandelions for bees is contentious and lacks any significant scientific research to provide a solution.

My advice is to understand the local ecosystem in your area. If there is an obvious lack of ‘first food’ sources for bees then mowing and removing dandelions is best avoided. If you live in an area rich in pollen during early spring then dandelions will likely be skipped in favour of tree pollen more suitable for your bee’s diet.