Column: Mow less to feed pollinators more

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Commentary by Meredith McCutcheon

Sometimes, helping the world feels like it takes a lot of time and effort. But did you know there is a way to help the environment by doing nothing? People and communities around the nation are adopting a new initiative to help pollinators called No Mow May, where they wait until after May to mow their yards.

The principle behind No Mow May is that the less you mow your yard, the more food there is for pollinators such as bees and butterflies. This is especially beneficial in May, when pollinators rely on spring wildflowers for food after a long winter that has depleted their stores. In Appleton, Wis., in 2020, 435 property owners participated in the first U.S. No Mow May, and researchers found that their yards had five times more bees than yards that did not participate.

The initiative is not only simple but also timely. Bee populations have plummeted worldwide the past 16 years in what has been named “colony collapse disorder.” Starting in 2006, many beekeepers began noticing upward of 60 to 90 percent of their bees dying every winter. Fortunately, these losses have slowed in the last five years for unknown reasons, but bees remain vulnerable. Similarly, butterfly populations have declined upward of 80 percent in the last 50 years.

The loss of pollinators may have a large impact on food security in the future. In addition to flowers and trees, more than three out of four food crops across the globe depend, at least in part, on pollinators.

If you would like to help pollinators by doing less, you don’t have to restrict yourself to May. Reduce the amount you mow your lawn throughout the summer — ideally to once or twice a month. It also helps to stop treating your lawn with chemicals and spraying insecticides.

Of course, if you are a member of a homeowners’ association, you may need to start by convincing your neighbors. If your HOA is worried, there are cute yard signs available online that say things like, “Pardon the weeds, we are feeding the bees!” The facts about pollinators and the environment can help. Check out the Carmel Green Initiative website or Google No Mow May to get started. If you can convince the whole neighborhood, no one yard will stand out, and you’ll multiply your impact.

Meredith McCutcheon is a member of the Carmel Green Initiative. Contact the group at carmelgreen.org.

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