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Redesigning Green Spaces Into More Diverse Bee Spaces

What do green lawns and concrete have in common? While one is arguably more aesthetically pleasing, both have the effect of reducing biodiversity in outdoor spaces. To address nutrient-leaching and reduced-pollinator activity, researchers across the country are working with citizens to understand and adopt alternatives.

“A flowering lawn combines turf grass but then integrates low growing flowers so those can provide forage resources, nectar and pollen for honey bees and native bee pollinators. So it’s a way of increasing biodiversity while still getting a lot of the same benefits that lawns provide,” said Hannah Ramer, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Minnesota. She recently presented research at a conference in Salt Lake City on the success of flowering lawns in Minnesota parks.

“People were overwhelmingly supportive, 97 percent of people supported flowering lawns in parks,” she said.  

Ramer says flowering or other forms of alternative lawns can provide aesthetic value while also helping ecosystems retain much needed soil and water resources. In Moab, an effort known as Bee Inspired Gardens is encouraging more native and flowering plants.

“We have over 900 native bee species in our state,” said Roslynn Brain-McCann, an associate professor in Sustainable Communities Extension at Utah State University. She says more than half a dozen bee hotels have been created by community members at Moab's Bee Inspired Gardensto support the unique bee populations found only in Utah. The bee hotels were made possible through a partnership with Moab's Resiliency Hub and USU Extension Sustainability and a donation from USU Regional Campuses. 

“The USDA bee lab (U.S. Department of Agriculture) recently did a workshop down here and said that the southern half of Utah has more bee diversity than the entire eastern U.S., east of the Mississippi,” she said.

Brain-McCann and Ramer say community outreach and engagement are necessary components for changing the outlook on traditional landscapes and promoting bee-friendly environments.

See here for more information on Flowering Bee Lawns from the University of Minnesota Bee Lab.

And to read about the 900+ bee species native to Utah, see here.