April showers bring May flowers — and long grass and weeds. May is typically when many people dust off the mower and start spring lawn maintenance. But what if you waited just one more month, which would let early foods for bees grow a bit longer?
Something as simple as letting your yard grow naturally for a single month could help save bees and other pollinators in your area. That’s what the No Mow May movement is all about.
What Is No Mow May?
Plantlife, a British conservation charity, started the No Mow May initiative. In 2020, Israel Del Toro and Relena Ribbons, professors at Lawrence University, worked with the Common Council of Appleton, Wisconsin, to adopt No Mow May there. Studying the effects of No Mow May on bees in Appleton, they found that the 435 homes in the no-mow project had five times the number of bees and three times more bee species than mown areas did.
“So when we leave our weeds — or things we would normally call weeds — to grow, those are like little cheeseburgers for our pollinators, and they’re able to get some cheap calories really, really fast and put on some weight that’ll give them a leg up for the season,” Del Toro told NPR.
They reported spotting an endangered species in a Facebook post a year later.
“The Rusty Patched Bumble Bee (Bombus affinis) was spotted in a downtown Appleton home yesterday July 21, 2021. This species is a federally listed and protected species that has shrunk in habitat over the last decade. It is threatened by habitat loss, disease and climate change. We have never seen this species in Northeast Wisconsin before,” wrote the Appleton Pollinator Project.
Since 2020, many other communities have adopted No Mow May as well.
How to Participate in No Mow May
Joining the initiative couldn’t be simpler: Just avoid cutting your lawn in May.
“If you create the habitat, they’ll come,” Matthew Shepherd, director of outreach and education for the Xerces Society spearheading the effort through Bee City USA, told Fox Weather. “There’s a kind of societal or cultural pressure to have an immaculate, unblemished, consistent and even green lawn. But that doesn’t happen naturally.”
Of course, you should refer to your city and HOA for rules that might restrict you from participating. Talk to your neighbors, as well. Finally, consider contacting your community leaders about getting involved with the No Mow May initiative.
You can download and print yard signs from several organizations, including the following:
- Bee City USA Printable No Mow May Signs.
- Xerces Society No Mow May Printable Yard Signs.
- U.S. Forest Service Lawn Signs to Promote Lawns as Bee Habitat.
Then, think beyond No Mow May. There are many other easy ways to help the bees in your backyard.