It’s time to revisit what we think of this cheerful springtime flower! Historically, dandelions have been used medicinally and as a food source. Remember the stories about Utah pioneers finding and consuming them gratefully? Have you had a fancy salad with dandelion greens? Yum!
These days, dandelions are often thought of as weeds, which folks try to remove from their lawns and gardens. They even make dandelion-removing tools like this one, and lawn sprays to get rid of dandelions.
Photo from www.theavantgardenshop.com
Experienced Utah beekeepers know that dandelions are an important marker flower in the early spring.
Early spring is a pretty critical time for honeybees. Their winter honey and pollen storage is usually about gone. When the weather warms up a bit, the bees gear up for production. This means the queen bee starts laying more eggs, creating more mouths to feed. It is a delicate balance between ensuring enough food, while still getting ready to work, and hoping there will not be another large cold spell which will cause a honey shortage. Beekeepers need to watch honey stores in their hives closely to prevent them from starving. When beekeepers see dandelions blooming, they know nectar and pollen are available for their bees and can heave a big sigh of relief. Dandelions are a sign that bees can fly out and collect, and that colonies won’t starve. Probably.
Dandelions are also a sign that beekeepers can move bees to higher elevations. These beekeeping location can be great honey-producing areas in summer, but harsh for over-wintering bees. In the early summer, beekeepers follow the dandelion bloom and move their hives accordingly. For example, a beekeeper wintering bees on the Wasatch Front can move bees up to Heber once dandelions are in bloom and then again to Kamas a few weeks later as blooms occur there.
Occasionally, when the weather is just right, we harvest some of the dandelion honey. It is one of my favorites. You can just taste a hint of dandelion flower flavor in the honey.
Hopefully you will fall in love with this cheerful flower omen too!
So go ahead, blow!