No Mow May is an initiative that encourages gardeners and homeowners to let their lawns grow wild in the interest of boosting biodiversity and supporting important pollinator populations, which are in decline. It originally began in the UK, but in the spring of 2020, caught on in Appleton, Wisconsin—the first city in the US to participate in the effort. This year, at least 25 more Wisconsin cities are joining in.
One Appleton participant, Joan Ribbons, is committed to not mowing her lawn the entire month of May for the third year in a row.
“I chose to participate because I’m an environmentalist and [I’ve] been aware of the plight of the bees because I’m a beekeeper too,” she says.
Cities such as Green Bay, De Pere, Oshkosh, and the Village of Egg Harbor are in on the movement and have agreed not to fine participating residents through May.
According to Lawrence University Assistant Professor of Biology Israel Del Toro, the first year that Appleton participated in No Mow May, they “found a five-fold increase in abundance of bees in Now Mow May lawns relative to mowed areas.”
In fact, “the rust patched bumblebee made it into town,” he says. “That’s a threatened and endangered species that we can now provide food and forage for.”
Despite these promising results, “Not everybody’s totally comfortable with the idea of letting their lawns grow to a couple-feet high over the month.” For residents who would rather not let their lawns grow wild, there are alternatives such as planting native plants and eliminating or reducing chemical usage.
“For the whole month, you can just let things come to flower, dandelions, clover, mint,” he adds. “All of those things are great foraging resources for our bees.”
For participants who want to make a serious commitment to supporting pollinators though, the spirit behind No Mow May can extend beyond one month. Instead of ditching the lawnmower for May and May only, perhaps people can consider mowing less or even leaving a designated patch or two in the yard to grow long throughout the spring and summer season.