Minnesota will pay homeowners to transform lawns into bee gardens
The state recently passed legislation to pay 75 percent of the conversion costs in a one-year program.
Minnesota is the first state that will pay homeowners to transform their lawns into bee-friendly habitats filled with wildflowers, clover, and other native plants.
That's because the state legislature has passed a bill – that was signed into law the beginning of June 2019 — to pay homeowners up to 75 percent of the expenses involved in each lawn conversion and up to 90 percent in areas that can support rusty patched bees according to the Star Tribune.
The rusty patched bumble bee, Bombus affinis, has been labeled as an endangered species and is on the brink of extinction. Minnesota is one of the last places where this species lives. This program can breathe new life to these pollinators.
Research at the University of Minnesota Bee Lab has shown that bumblebees are very important to agriculture in the region. We need pollinators to produce the foods we all love and need like almonds, blueberries, cherries, and a host of other fruits and vegetables.
Minnesota is home to 23 of the 45 bee species in North America. Sadly, one out of three species is now in decline. The state is trying to turn this around.
The loss of the natural prairie and other wild habitat has made flowering lawns in the cities and suburbs vitally important according to a University of Minnesota graduate student who is researching bee diversity and habitat.
His work has centered on bee lawns, lawns that have been seeded with small flowers like white clover and dandelions that have proved to be excellent food sources for bees.
“A pound of Dutch white clover is [costs] about $7 and it grows low enough that people wouldn’t even have to change the way they mow their lawn,” Wolfin said. “So just by not treating white clover like a weed and letting it grow in a yard provides a really powerful resource for nearly 20 percent of the bee species in the state.”
People involved in the bee-related industry are thrilled by the new legislation. "It's just another step to raise awareness of the importance of maintaining a healthy bee population," Travis Bolton, who along with his wife Chiara runs Bolton Bees told KSTP News.
The Bolton's company partners with solar power gardens by planting native grasses and flowers that are bee friendly instead of just putting grass or gravel underneath the installations. Then they place hives in the location that produce location-specific solar honey that are packed in custom jars for the solar companies.
Bolton stressed that since bees often fly in a three-mile (4.82 kilometers) radius, "the more pollinator-friendly environments out there, the better." He added, "Anything that gets more people to change that mindset of what a perfect lawn should be will have a big impact on every beekeeper in the state."
The legislation allocated $900,000 for one year of grants to interested homeowners; earlier versions provided funding for three years. But it has not yet been announced by the state Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR), the agency that will run the program how homeowners can apply for the grants.
State Representative Kelly Morrison, who introduced this groundbreaking legislation, told the Star Tribune that she hopes the program will be ready by spring 2020.
Hopefully, the new law will have a significant enough impact on the viability of these fragile pollinators that the state will continue the funding for many years to come so that the bees and the agriculture they support will thrive.