Here in Maine the weather has changed and its becoming colder. The days are getting shorter with everything turning color and starting to go dormant for winter. This restricts the pollinators to the fall flowers to get the nutrition they need to get them through the winter.
For many pollinators late summer and fall is not that different from spring and they need all the help they can get to find available stores.
By observing my honeybees, I have discovered that they really are getting lots of use out of the hawkweed on my lawn. At the hive lots of yellow pollen is going in on bees that have faces caked in yellow. It didn’t take long to figure out that it was the hawkweed the bees were working on.
Hawkweed comes in several species but for us here in Maine it is the yellow blossom that looks a little like a dandelion with a long neck and few leaves. They come up in abundance on untreated lawns and are frequently mowed prior to the pollinators benefiting. Just because a flower is in bloom doesn’t mean that it is providing for the bees. Sometimes it may take a week or more for a flower to develop pollen and nectar, so early cutting will often eliminate the food source for the bees.
The most interesting thing about this time of year is that everything is slowing down including the grasses. Many folks are mowing by habit or to maintain that horrible golf course look. By the way, I never see any of my neighbors putting on their “perfect” lawns. Skipping a week or two of mowing this time of year will allow the hawkweed to grow and be used by multiple pollinators. The lawn is not going to get away from you and you get a week or two off; Woo Hoo!
Then, children in tow, you could go out on the lawn and see how many pollinators you can spot on the blossoms that you allowed to grow. You can be proud of your achievement while teaching the children how important it is to respect nature and to work with it instead of against.
One might say that the pollinators can just use something else or that we don’t need that awful weed pollinated anyway. A much larger point to consider is that the pollinators need this late source of pollen and in order to be around next year for what we want pollinated they have to eat.
We are so very busy that it is easy to forget our connection to the earth. We have a tendancy to overlook the abundance we enjoy as a direct result of a clean, healthy environment, teaming with all sorts of busy pollinators. We sometimes feel that there is not much we can do to help but if we mown a lawn nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, we are the gatekeepers of our lawns; we are in charge. The true beauty in the lawn comes from the sun, water, and soil; not chemicals and thrashers.
By letting diversity thrive on the lawn you are embracing a connection to the earth. You are supporting a system that has worked for millions of years. You are also doing your part to embrace the life beneth the soil and the support system Mother Nature intends right in your yard. Your lawn and Mother Nature need your help to ensure that the system is healthy and that it works. There is no time like the present to get started getting in touch with nature. You can embrace a lawn with hawkweed and all the other plants that live there instead of a lawn with billions of identical blades of grass filled with chemicals. You can make a difference; and both you and Mother Nature will feel better because of your efforts.
So take a break from mowing, enjoy your yard and all the creatures that live there. Let the hawkweed grow and you too can feed the bees this fall.