Wednesday, May 20, 2015

CCD or Bee ED

Okay, so why do we hate dandelions so much?  (I say we because I think there are at least a few others that share my hostility.)  Mars suggested that perhaps if I understood the “Taraxacum officinal’s” role in the ecology of our planet I might find a reason to feel less bitter towards these malevolent yellow monsters that keep desecrating my lawn.  Maybe, for example, they are like bees.  Bees pollinate plants – everybody loves bees, except when we are under attack by a swarm of them.

Or, more similarly, perhaps clover.

Google-search for the purpose of clover and you will be overrun with adulatory articles about this low-growing herbaceous plant.  It sucks nitrogen from the atmosphere and “fixes’ it on its roots from where it is transferred to the soil; improves soil tilth and creates root channels; provides better forage quality and increased yield (if you like tilth you’ve gotta love forage); and (everybody’s favorite) furnishes pollen and nectar for honeybees and tends to increase the population of beneficial predatory insects.

Plus clover does all these things modestly without calling hardly any attention to itself.

So what about dandelions?  Since they announce their presence so loudly you would think they must have much, much more to contribute.

Here is what I found in online in the “backyard-nature” group:

“The plant can be used to make wine, as a diuretic, and a source of vitamins and minerals. The root can be ground to make dandelion coffee. The head can be battered and fried, and the leaves can be blanched and eaten fresh or cooked. Apparently they're not just useless weeds!”

To which I say, “Meh”.

But (drum roll please) “dandelion nectar and pollen is important to bees, and the nectar is food for the Pearl-bordered Fritillary.”  The what??  (It’s a tiny butterfly, orange with black spots.)

Apparently “honey bees flock to dandelions both in the early spring and in times of dearth when little else is in bloom.”  But, like we Irish and our potatoes, bees cannot live on dandelions alone.  Dandelions do not have some of the amino acids that are needed to produce protein – and all you exercisers know the importance of your post workout protein shakes.  And, even worse, there is what I would call the “Viagra effect”.

“Researchers have found that honey bees fed dandelion pollen alone have low success at raising brood. In fact, some researchers found that that honey bees fail to raise any brood when fed dandelion pollen alone.”

Maybe apian colony collapse disorder (CCD) is really just bee ED.

So, having tasted both dandelion leaves and dandelion wine somewhere back in my past when I most likely didn’t have any choice, and having too much respect for honey bees to give them false hope, or worse – I am now opting to permanently exclude these flamboyant intruders from my property.

Dandelions didn’t bother me that much back when I was working and had less time to deal with such things.  Actually before she went back into the workforce Marsha quietly dispensed of these noxious weeds with a device called a “Killer Cane” – also remembered on the “straight dope” website as “a green tube with a cap at one end and a push pump at the other. You filled it with weed killer and went around the yard pushing the pump down on the crowns of weeds. Great product, you could do the yard in a few minutes, but since it probably used Paraquat or Agent Orange you can't find it anymore.”

 Then we both began working all week and the dandelions fell off of our radar.

In retirement however I now have time for Daily Dandelion Patrol with my trusty fork-tongued weed tool – thirty minutes a day of fresh air, sunshine, and a modicum of exercise.   And my yard is yellow-free for at least twelve hours. 

If I happen to spot a Pearl-bordered Fritillary in search of protein-free nectar I gently carry it to the open field across the street.  It gives me an ecological purpose.

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