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No Mow May

Have you ever heard of No Mow May? Some cities around the nation are beginning to change ordinances to allow homeowners to refrain from mowing their lawns during the month of May. The objective is to provide better habitat and flowers, including dandelions, for the bees and other pollinators during the early growing season.

No Mow May was first implemented in Europe but was first adapted here in the United States in Appleton, Wisconsin. It is now spreading to other cities. By creating needed habitat and forage for bees and other early season pollinators, an increase in the abundance and diversity of animals, particularly bees and other pollinators is expected. Early studies have been encouraging. Perhaps it is time to get away from the ubiquitous Kentucky bluegrass monocultures in our yards and add some legumes and other broadleaves to the mix. That could reduce our use of insecticides, fertilizer, and also save on water bills.

The news of No Mow May led to some interesting discussion between my wife Mary and me. Both of us grew up in the 1960s. Our recollections are that seeing bees, and particularly butterflies and moths, was commonplace back then. These days, however, seeing a bee or butterfly is much less common, maybe even rare, depending on the species. What has happened to all those insects, the bumblebees, Admirals, Painted Ladies, Mourning Cloaks?

Widespread use of insecticides and loss of habitat are often cited as major factors in the decline of many insects. Climate change is also a factor, and the effects of earlier and warmer springs is often mentioned. However, for many butterflies and perhaps other insects as well, evidence points to autumn as perhaps a more important season. Autumn warmings may put added stress on the butterflies and adversely affect development and their preparation for the winter dormant period. Warmer autumns may also be harmful to some of the butterfly’s host plants and perhaps extend the active period of some insect predators.

Insects, particularly the bees, butterflies, and other pollinators could certainly use a little help. No Mow May looks to be an easy way to help in that effort. So, consider adapting No Mow May.

Chuck Lura has a broad knowledge of “Natural North Dakota” and loves sharing that knowledge with others. Since 2005 he has written a weekly column, “Naturalist at Large,” for North Dakota’s newest newspaper, the Lake Metigoshe Mirror. His columns also appear under “The Naturalist” in several other weekly newspapers across North Dakota.
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