Bumblebees, butterflies, birds & hoverflies all love the dandelion….

July 17, 2011

in Birds, Bumblebees and their ecology, Gardening For Wildlife

Dandelions provide for many different bee species, hoverflies, butterflies, moths, their larvae, beetles and goldfinches. And they tell you the time. What more could you want from a flower?!

The value to pollinators from native British weed species, including dandelions, has now been published by researchers 2016. They found that such weed species were found in the top 5 for nectar and in the top 10 for pollen rewards. Like all living creatures though, they will need a variety of different food resources from different species for all their nutritional requirements. This is just one that is handy in the early part of the year when many other flowers are not flowering at all.

Dandelion clock – time to change our thinking?

There it is, the scourge of many a gardener who dreams of a green ‘grass only’ lawn. Spring TV adverts show off their latest weed killers using the dandelion as their example of a foe that has to be exterminated. The dandelion clock, source of the dreaded pesky, troublesome weed, the dandelion, (Taraxacum officinale), from the French ‘dent de lion’ or lion’s tooth. This article is not to spout about how it used to be considered a valuable culinary and medicinal herb, its rich source of vitamins A, B, complex C and even the sunshine vitamin D. Nor is it about its iron, potassium and zinc mineral content. Not even about  how people use its blanched leaves to add a different flavour to salads and sandwiches, no. What about its drinking qualities, when its used as a tea or drunk as a coffee substitute. No. Nor is it about how its flowers are used to make certain wines. No, this article is not about any of this at all!!

Because, we as a species living in the western world may have found substitutes for those properties mentioned, there are other living species that can and still do make full use of our annoying lawn weed. Enough words, let me introduce the wildlife that uses dandelions…. from solitary bees to caterpillars to birds!

Possibly a Bombus terrestris..it was asleep, head well buried in the dandelion early one damp morning….


Bombus lapidarius, red tailed bumblebee feeding on dandelion

Green veined white butterfly about to land and feed from a dandelion


Holly blue butterfly nipping across for a quick nectar fix from a dandelion!


Orange tip butterfly about to land on a dandelion-note its tongue


Peacock butterfly sunning itself and feeding upon a dandelion

Cuckoo Bumblebee, Bombus vestalis, feeding on a dandelion


Carder bumblebee feeding on a dandelion


Goldfinch about to eat dandelion seeds-note bending dandelion stem


Goldfinch eating dandelion seeds as stem bends under its weight


Goldfinch eating dandelion seeds, more picturesque than using a lawn weed killer?

I was speaking to a friend of mine who regularly mowns her lawn and uses weedkiller for the lawn weeds…..and we eventually got around to talking wildlife….. “Do you like butterflies?”, I asked. “Of course” she said rather indignantly! ” But I must say, there seems to be fewer of them around these days”. “Do you like bumblebees?” ” Yes, its a nice summer sound as they fly past” ..” and you like goldfinches?”, “Yes, I feed them bird seeds in the back garden”……..

Hoverflies drinking nectar from a dandelion

Hoverfly adults feeling upon a dandelion as the peacock butterfly leaves. Their larvae are avid predators of aphids and are useful allies in the war against garden pests.

Solitary bees on dandelion. Nurturing Nature jpg

Solitary bees on dandelion


Screen Shot 2016-03-26 at 10.21.47


Then there are moths and moth caterpillars that use dandelions as their food plant, caterpillar in turn are food for some birds….

A mixture of my own photographs and some I requested… with a special thanks to Roy and Marie who have some fabulous wildlife photographs at their site……  http://www.moorhen.me.uk/index.htm

For more information about :

Food for pollinators: Quantifying the nectar and pollen resources or urban flower meadows

Read more articles about bumblebees.

Read more articles about the bumblebee nest box

For more information and to help save bumblebees join the Bumblebee Conservation Trust at Stirling University

 Butterflies……..   http://www.butterfly-conservation.org/

Garden birds……….http://www.bto.org/volunteer-surveys/gbw

Interested in Citizen Science and pollinators? The Buzz Club


{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Esther Lyons July 17, 2011 at 10:35 am

Dear George you are a font of knowledge. Lovely gubley man!!!xxxE


nurturingnature July 17, 2011 at 10:39 am

Ha! Ha! Thanks..wait till you see my next project..now that will be something……coming soon!! Cheers George


Patricia Cummings July 17, 2011 at 4:01 pm

Everything absolutely fascinating!
Thanks so much for sharing.


nurturingnature July 17, 2011 at 5:13 pm

Thank you Pat, just hope people find it as interesting as I do!!


Lizzie July 18, 2011 at 11:38 am

Are the photos your own George? Those goldfinch ones are beautiful.


nurturingnature July 18, 2011 at 4:50 pm

Alas, all bees, a few butterflies are mine, others are credited to Roy and Maria at the website as stipulated!

Cheers Lizzie, George


Mike B. July 19, 2011 at 1:13 pm

Excellent post! I’m finally coming around to letting my dandelions own some parts of my yard.


nurturingnature July 19, 2011 at 2:12 pm

Thanks Mike, I may have an excellent post, you have an excellent web site and some lovely photos! Its nice to know that there are others out there that care about the garden mini beasts!

I will check out your website from time to time. Cheers George


Mary August 2, 2011 at 10:06 am

Hi George – very informative – and excellently written!


nurturingnature August 2, 2011 at 10:18 am

Thanks Mary glad you found it interesting! cheers George


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: