Bumblebees, solitary bees, honey bees, moths and their caterpillars, butterflies, hoverflies and birds all use the dandelion
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.
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!
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”……..
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.
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
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For more information and to help save bumblebees join the Bumblebee Conservation Trust at Stirling University
Interested in Citizen Science and pollinators? The Buzz Club