Usefulness of ‘No Mow May’ to pollinators up for debate

University of Minnesota research finds “No Mow May” inefficient
Published: May. 9, 2023 at 12:21 PM EDT
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SUPERIOR, Wis. (KBJR/Gray News) - The snow is gone, and your yard might be calling your name, or maybe not if you’re like Superior city councilor Ruth Ludwig.

“We passed a resolution last March to begin the “No Mow May” initiative,” said Ludwig. “A year later, here we are continuing it.”

Ludwig, like many others across the nation, is attempting to create a more suitable habitat for pollinators by letting her grass grow for the month.

“When we plant plants, we are more conscious about the native plants and how that effects the native pollinators,” said Ludwig.

The popularity of “No Mow May” took off in 2020 when a study by a university in Wisconsin backed up the trend with data.

But the journal that published the paper has since retracted that study.

“I think on a scale of one to 10, on how much ‘No Mow May’ is actually helping pollinators, I am going to punt and just say we don’t know,” said Jon Trappe, an extension turf educator with the University of Minnesota.

In the month of May, cool season grasses, which is the average grass many Wisconsin yards have, grow excessively.

Come June, cutting your grass can actually stress your yard more.

“From a turf health standpoint, you’re effectively removing a large portion of that plant’s growth,” said Trappe.

However, researchers say reducing how often you mow and increasing the height of your grass brings positive environmental impacts, as well as adding bee lawn plants to your yard.

“White clover, selfheal and thyme are all great plants that can tolerate that mowing,” said Trappe.

It’s those small actions that can make all the difference.

“We think about what we are doing before we cut the lawn, or cut down a tree, and how it’s effecting the environment as a whole,” said Ludwig.