Conservation

No Mow MayNo Mow May!

If you don’t like mowing or are willing to hold off on yard work for a little bit, you are making a huge impact on wildlife.

An easy way to support the bees and create pollinator-friendly habitat in your backyard is to do nothing! We’re talking about No Mow May, an initiative to limit the mowing and clearing of your yard to promote healthy habitats for pollinators.

Bees are critically important pollinators to our local Southeastern Wisconsin ecosystem, and in the winter they hibernate in our yards: under leaf piles, sticks and branches, and in holes in the ground. If we clear our yards early, we may be eliminating these important pollinators before they have emerged from hibernation. A messy yard with last year’s leaves, stems and rock piles are a wonderful winter home for these essential pollinators. The other important reason to delay the yard cleanup every year is because our lawns naturally grow the resources that bees require to survive: including dandelions, clover, and naturally occurring spring flowers. If all we do is wait to mow our lawns, then bees will be given more time to have the food and resources they need to survive.

Make sure you check your local ordinances on lawn-height requirements and obey our city, village or town laws. If your neighborhood has such an ordinance, contact your representatives and let them know why it’s important to allow time for overwintering pollinators to emerge. Tell them why pollinators are so critically important to our yards and our wellbeing!

Bumble bee in grass

Leave the yard clutter alone and allow time for pollinators to emerge from hibernation, like this bumble bee!

Why help pollinators?

Because we rely on pollinators for the flowers we enjoy throughout the year, and for the basic foods that we eat. One out of every three bites of food that we eat come from pollinated crops, including our favorite fruits like apples, blueberries and cherries. Pollinators are an important part of our local biodiversity – which is the abundance of all living things within an ecosystem. Each species plays a role in maintaining the health of our biodiversity, and if we lose one piece of that puzzle that the whole ecosystem is at risk of collapse. Pollinators are a critically important part of our biodiversity here in Southeastern Wisconsin!

How else can I help?

  1. Limit or eliminate the use of pesticides!
    For many years the traditional American green lawn has been viewed as the norm, but we’re trying to change that. The monoculture nature of the green lawn has little benefit for pollinators and biodiversity. Green lawns require constant maintenance and often will be treated with pesticides. Pesticides, especially neonicotinoids, are the greatest threat to pollinating wildlife including bees, butterflies, birds, and bats.

  2. Get in touch with your local representatives to learn how to change lawn-height requirements in your community for the month of May!
    Many city departments and neighborhood associations have lawn requirements that limit the height of the grass in your yard. Because these rules vary depending on where you live, we recommend you look up the guidance in your area and contact your local officials to let them know how important pollinators are to our gardens. Join other community scientists in advocating for pollinator-friendly habitat and work to change lawn-height requirements in your community.

  3. Plant a pollinator-friendly garden!
    You can create sustainable habitat and food resources for pollinators by planting a variety of native plants for spring, summer, and fall! Below are links to resources you can use to help build a pollinator-friendly habitat in your own backyard.

    1. Wisconsin DNR’s Native Plants for Beginners List
      (spring, summer, and fall bloomers!)
    2. Wisconsin DNR’s list of Native Plant Nurseries
      (list of where to buy native pollinating plants!)
    3. Xerces Great Lakes Region Pollinator Plant Guide

Seeing Results

Auriana relaxing in yard

Join our conservation programs coordinator Auriana Donaldson and take a break this May while helping support our pollinators!

Last year in Appleton, Wisconsin, their No Mow May initiative worked with the city to not enforce long-grass city ordinances. In fact, a study published with data from the Appleton initiative showed that homes participating in No Mow May had more diverse and abundant flora, higher bee richness, and five times higher bee abundances than frequently mowed spaces! These numbers provide us with a roadmap to helping pollinators in this critical spring season and all we need to do is put off the spring cleaning for just a bit longer. Even waiting a few extra weeks or days can allow more time for overwintering pollinators to emerge for the season.

Citation: Del Toro, I., & Ribbons, R. R. (2020). No Mow May lawns have higher pollinator richness and abundances: An engaged community provides floral resources for pollinators. PeerJ, 8, e10021.

Questions about No Mow May? Contact Auriana Donaldson, Conservation Programs Coordinator at aurianag@zoosociety.org.