Minnesota to Pay Residents $500 to Grow Bee Friendly Flowers

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By Jill Brooke

Here’s some good news.

Minnesota is the first state in the nation to pay residents to plant lawns with bee-friendly wildflowers, clover and native grasses.

The state is also asking residents to stop spraying herbicide and let their lawns re-wild into a more natural state.

As the Star Tribune reported, citizens living in bumblebee zones are eligible for grants up to $500 while people living in zones of secondary and tertiary importance to bees are eligible for $350 and $150 perks.

The goal, says James Wolfin, a researcher at the University of Minnesota,  is to provide “food sources for pollinators of all kinds, but will specifically aim at saving the rusty patched bumblebee, a fat and fuzzy species on the brink of extinction.”

Research has shown that bumblebees are particularly important to the region, as they vibrate at a frequency that unlocks pollen other insects can’t reach.

“A pound of Dutch white clover is about $7 and it grows low enough that people wouldn’t have to change the way they mow their lawns,” he adds. Furthermore, 55 of Minnesota’s 350 bee species depend on white clover.

But to clarify, it’s not as much about mowing as about reducing the number of times one mows. ” Typical Kentucky Bluegrass lawns are mown about once every 10-14 days,” he says. “Bee lawns, which contain Dutch white clover utilize fine fescue grasses which grow more slowly than Kentucky Bluegrass.  This allows a land manager to mow their lawn less frequently, which has been shown to increase the number of blooms present in a lawn area.”

That’s such a sensible solution, isn’t it?

Credit for this innovative project, says Wolfin, goes to Governor Mark Dayton who created a Pollinator Task Force in the State of Minnesota, which was designed to develop policies that would benefit the state’s native pollinator and honey bee populations.

“One of the policies or ideas developed by this group focused around converting lawn areas to pollinator-friendly plantings,” says Wolfin. ” This eventually became the lawns to legumes program.”

Proving it takes a village of like-minded do-gooders, Representative Rick Hansen also strongly supported this policy (and other similar policies) and was instrumental in pushing the policy through the state legislature.

According to Wolfin, there are SO MANY other flower species that can benefit bees.  “For flowers that work specifically within a lawn, I’d suggest self-heal and creeping thyme in addition to Dutch white clover.,” he says.
Hopefully, other states will adopt this fabulous program. In the meantime, wherever you live, flowers that attract bees include pansies, peonies, lavender, zinnias, goldenrod, and marigolds. It’s an easy way to do good while also creating beauty.
When asked how the program has worked over the past year, Wolfin was pleased with the results. “To date, state residents connected to the program have planted over 800,000 square feet of native pollinator-friendly gardens and more than 1,000 pollinator-friendly trees and shrubs,” says Wolfin, who also is an entomologist and the Director of Education at Metro Blooms.
 “So much of the success of this program is due to the efforts of our expert coaches and volunteers who work with grantees to turn their landscaping dreams into a reality.  Just as astounding, residents are spending their own money at nearly twice the rate they are spending the funds provided through Lawns to Legumes. The state of Minnesota has responded to the overwhelming popularity of the program by funding a second phase with nearly $2 million dollars, doubling the amount that was allocated in the pilot project.”
That is indeed good news.

Jill Brooke is a former CNN correspondent, Post columnist and editor-in-chief of Avenue and Travel Savvy magazine. She is an author and the editorial director of FPD.

Photo Credit: Pixabay