When we think of a well kept lawn, we tend to think of a uniform square of grass without any other type of plant in it. Homeowners usually strive to get rid of any broad leafs or other weeds, and the lawn is kept military short so no flower dares raise its head and spoil the appearance of the lawn. Minnesota is trying to change that with an innovative new idea, paying lawn owners to get rid of grass and grow meadow instead.
They are offering grants of up to $500 to people who are willing to grow native wildflowers for a lawn in place of grass. This includes replacing grass with clover, a low growing plant that will allow the homeowner to continue mowing as usual, without harming the flowers.
Protecting bees before it’s too late
Why is Minnesota paying lawn owners to get rid of grass and too short lawns? To save the bees. In particular, the aim is to save the rusty patched bumble bee, which has been driven to the brink of extinction due to pesticides, disease, and habitat loss.
Minnessota set aside $900,000 in funds for this project, which will be used over the course of one year. The program will cover up to 90% of the cost of a project in areas most useful to saving the rusty patched bumble bee, and 75% in outlying areas.1
This is a huge step for saving our bees. Bumblebees play a critical role in agriculture, as well as in conservation of plant species. They have the unique ability to buzz in a key similar to that of the musical note, “C” which allows them to access pollen other pollinators can’t. Without the bumblebees, that also means these plants may struggle to spread their seed, and could eventually even die out.
The cost of losing bees
Bumblebees are virtually the only pollinators of tomatoes, and are also essential for pollinating crops such as blueberries, cranberries, and yes clover. If they were to go extinct, we may lose these crops or suffer a severe loss of productivity. It is estimated that the value of pollination conducted by bumblebees is about $3 billion a year.2
Although they are important to human agriculture, they are also a keystone species for many others, pollinating much of the food for wildlife ranging from tiny songbirds to huge grizzly bears. Food these animals need to survive.
Without these tiny bees, whole food chains could collapse. Luckily, Minnesota is helping support homeowners who want to help protect these bees, by paying for them to transform their lawns into meadows. This simple swap could grow the habitat of bumblebees enormously, as well as giving them food untainted by pesticides.
How you can apply
This program is expected to become available sometime in the spring. If you live in Minnesota, contact The state Board of Water and Soil Resources for more information about how and when to apply.3
Don’t live in Minnesota? Here’s our tips on how to put in a bee garden to help these extraordinary animals survive.