‘No Mow May’ Catches On to Save Pollinators

No Mow May - Woman lounges on long grass with flowers

Across the Upper Midwest, some front yards will be looking a little unruly in May this year.

That’s because many cities are observing “No Mow May,” a month-long initiative that discourages herbicide and pesticide use and relaxes weed and mowing ordinances to encourage homeowners not to mow their lawns.

Why No Mow May?

Taking a break from mowing your lawn can be great for the environment and for your wallet. While saving money on mowing, you’ll provide bees with extra plantlife – in the form of tall grass and wild dandelions, violets, and clovers. 

Mowing and herbicides prevent the growth of these native yard species. Despite the appeal of a fresh green lawn, this can be a major problem for native bees, as bees rely on biodiversity for habitat and food sources.

While it may seem ironic for your favorite lawn care providers to write about No Mow May, letting more native species grow in your yard is the perfect start to a bigger project that will keep pollinators coming back year-round.

Bee on a Flower
Photo Credit: phichaklim1 / Pixabay

How No Mow May Started

Now Mow May actually started in the U.K., but researchers at Lawrence University, in Appleton, Wisconsin, decided to bring No Mow May stateside after seeing its impact across the pond. 

In Wisconsin, researchers Israel del Toro and Relena Ribbons discovered “No Mow” lawns housed five times the number of endangered bees and three times as many bee species as lawns that did not participate.

Appleton’s first No Mow May was in 2020. Since then, the project has picked up in popularity across North America. A dozen Wisconsin towns participated in 2021’s No Mow May, as did communities in Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, and Montana.

“No Mow May” has become a hands-on way for homeowners to help declining local bee populations with their own front yards.

Should You Participate in No Mow May?

If your community is participating in No Mow May this year, joining in can be a great way to help native bees while also saving time and money on lawn care, from gas for your lawn mower to fertilizer for your yard

Striking out on your own? Make sure you check local weed ordinances and any potential HOA regulations, and consider talking to the rest of your community about No Mow May. 

In Stevens Point, Wisconsin, for instance, Mayor David Wiza is expected to approve the city’s second annual No Mow May. While discussing the project with the Point/Plover Metro Wire, he encouraged homeowners to “be respectful of the environment, but please be respectful of your neighbors, too.”

Israel del Toro also emphasizes that the friendly buzzing visitors who call your yard home need food and habitat beyond the month of May.

“What you did for one month, that’s cool, that helps,” he recently told The New York Times. “But what are you going to do the rest of the summer, or the rest of the year, to make sure that our pollinators are protected?”

Tips for a Successful No Mow May

  • Put up a sign in your yard to show you’re part of the movement. If your community is participating in No Mow May, you may get one when you register, or you can create your own. You’ll avoid any confusion and may persuade your neighbors to join in!
  • The nonprofit Bee City USA suggests keeping a mowed buffer or region in your yard. This can help avoid conflict with ordinances or neighbors, make sure children have room to play, and keep your unmowed areas looking intentional instead of overwhelming.
  • Every flower counts! Use the extra time you’ll have by not mowing to plant some pollinator-friendly native species in your yard.
  • Mow Less May (if No Mow May won’t work for you): If you can’t go the whole month without mowing, consider reducing how often you mow to help native bees while keeping your lawn looking fresh.
Bee on a Wild Flower Growing on a Lawn
Photo Credit: Giuliamar / Pixabay

More Ways to Help Native Bee Species

After May ends, there are plenty of landscaping projects to turn your yard into a home for native bees all year-round. Consider setting up a pollinator garden, rain garden, or butterfly garden, or even turning part of your yard into a wildflower meadow.

If you’re brainstorming ways to use your yard to save pollinators beyond No Mow May, our landscaping professionals are just a call or click away.

Main Photo Credit: langll / Pixabay

Annie Parnell

Annie Parnell

Originally from the Washington, D.C., area, Annie Parnell is a freelance writer and audio producer based in Richmond, Virginia. She is passionate about gardening, outdoor recreation, sustainability, and all things music and pop culture.