a bee eating dandelions

Do bees eat dandelions?

Last updated on September 1st, 2023 at 10:57 am

Yes, many bee species eat dandelions, including honeybees, bumblebees and solitary bees.

Dandelions have been somewhat demonised as the bane of lawns worldwide. This tiny little weed 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 encouraging garden owners to avoid mowing dandelions early in the season to help emerging bees.

*Additional reading – Don’t miss our guide on what bees eat for a closer look at their diet.

So, does this have any basis? Do bees eat dandelions as a diet staple? Let’s look at how important dandelions are to bee nutrition.

a honeybee using it's proboscis to get nectar from a dandelion

Do bees really like dandelions?

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

During early spring, most 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 most of these tree species offer pollen in higher concentrations due to the close proximity of flowers across their branches. This means bees can collect considerably more pollen quickly while consuming less energy.

In areas where tree pollen is sparse, dandelions may replace these more popular species as the first food for bees, so they 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 food source, they need to be combined with other species to ensure bees receive a nutritionally balanced diet.

a honeybee covered in dandelion pollen

Dandelions and bees

To conclude, dandelions are a fantastic weed for your garden and provide a viable food source for many insects that populate your wild areas.

The debate on whether you should 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 a lack of ‘first food’ sources for bees, mowing and removing dandelions is best avoided.

If you live in an area rich in pollen during early spring, dandelions will likely be skipped in favour of tree pollen more suitable for your bee’s diet.

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