A growing initiative encourages the public to delay spring mowing to allow plants to bloom, providing habitat and food sources for early-season pollinators.
The No Mow May movement was first popularized by Plantlife, a conservation charity in the United Kingdom. It then spread to about 435 lawns in Appleton, Wisconsin, in 2020 after the city suspended its weed ordinance, according to Bee City USA, an initiative of the Xerces Society. By 2022, No Mow May saw interest across the U.S.
The spring season presents challenges for bees and other early-spring pollinators that may have difficulty finding sufficient habitat and food sources, especially in urban and suburban areas. Delaying or reducing the frequency of spring mowing, No Mow May proponents argue, can allow for more growth of valuable pollinator food sources like dandelion, clover, creeping charlie and violet at a time of year when many other flowers are not yet blooming.
Meta-analyses of European and North American studies show that less frequently mowed lawns saw a greater abundance and diversity of butterfly and bee species. Areas mowed more frequently had a significant negative effect on plant diversity and insect diversity, according to the Xerces Society.
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In addition to conservation benefits, the British Ecological Society found reducing mowing frequency from 15 to 10 times per year can yield potential cost savings of up to 36% for park managers. Minneapolis park users support the change, including 95% who support less mowing in a study led by the Natural Resources Science and Management Program at the University of Minnesota.
The Horticulture and Home Pest Extension and Outreach Service at Iowa State University cautions prospective No Mow May participants that it will take a lot of time to get participating lawns back under control. Most local municipalities will issue citations for unkempt lawns, and a lack of mowing will encourage the growth of more weedy and invasive plants.
“While not mowing in May isn’t right for everyone or every region, the campaign can be a good tool for getting new people involved in pollinator conservation,” said Bee City USA.
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