Gardeners urged to leave one weed alone this summer and says it's essential

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) meadow
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Dandelions, often seen merely as annoying weeds, actually play a crucial role in supporting bee populations and enhancing honey quality. During the winter, it was noted that removing late-blooming ivy could strip birds and insects of vital sustenance.

With summer ushering in a bounty of nectar and pollen, bees continue to show a strong preference for certain plants, with dandelions standing out as particularly significant. Mark Douglas, the resident beekeeper at Cuprinol Garden Shades and founder of Bee1, highlighted to Huffpost the essential role dandelions serve in the diet of bees.

He pointed out that dandelions are some of the first plants to flower in spring, offering an early food source for bees as they come out of their winter hibernation.

"Being one of the first plants to emerge in spring, they provide one of the first sources of food for sleepy, hungry bees after winter," Douglas remarked.

He further explained that the importance of dandelions extends beyond their timing, as they are also highly preferred by bees. This was confirmed through DNA analysis of honey in collaboration with Cardiff University, which helped trace the foraging habits of bees, reports the Express.

"We have undertaken DNA analysis of honey from various sources, allowing us to track what the bees chose to eat while on their foraging flight," Douglas said. "As a result, we have been able to produce a list of bees' favourite foods, and dandelions feature very highly on this list."

This insight has influenced Bee1's creation of a science-based seed mix, designed to cater to bees' preferred diet, with dandelions playing a prominent role. Beyond supporting bee populations, dandelions contribute to the production of superior honey.

Douglas highlighted that dandelion-derived honey possesses strong antimicrobial properties, comparable to the highly regarded Manuka honey. "Honey is antimicrobial, meaning it doesn't go off. We have found that dandelions produce some of the strongest antimicrobial properties of native plant species in the UK," he noted. "Dandelions are the UK's 'Manuka'! ".

For gardeners, allowing dandelions to grow freely offers several benefits in aiding bee populations, enhancing honey quality, and reducing the need for weeding. As such, dandelions represent an easy way to contribute positively to the environment.