Helping our pollinators: what comes after ‘No Mow May’


In our beekeeping business, we try to follow the most recent science and the latest best practices to maintain the health of our honeybee colonies and other pollinators.

“No Mow May” is a concept that encourages homeowners to avoid mowing plants that provide nectar and pollen for many pollinators during the month of May when spring flowers are blooming on lawns. Pollinators include bees, butterflies, birds (including hummingbirds), moths, beetles, and more. No Mow May is a catchy concept that brings attention to pollinators’ need for forage. That need becomes more urgent in subsequent summer months.

By now, we all recognize the critical importance of pollinators for much of our food supply.

There is usually a lot of forage available during late April, May, and June, barring severe weather events like drought, freezes, and torrential downpours (The hard freeze on May 18, 2023 devastated the food sources for pollinators for weeks. The summer-long drought created a “dearth” of food resources in 2022 that proved difficult for pollinators.)

Spring pollinator food sources include flowering trees like maples, locust, basswood, and fruit trees; woody shrubs like serviceberry and sumac; and low growing plants like dandelions and planted flowers.

Some homeowners dislike the “No Mow May” idea because they dislike the “unkempt” appearance of a lawn that is not mown. By the third week of May, most of the lawn flowers have gone, so mowing can resume with suggested modifications noted below.

As the season progresses, food for pollinators can become scarce since there are often fewer plants blooming later in the summer. When the weather is hot and dry, flowers may have little nectar and pollen. Plus, a closely cropped area of grass is a food desert for pollinators. With that in mind, there are several things we can do to help pollinators throughout the entire summer season.

These ideas help pollinators and require less work and less expense – a win-win!

  1. Do not use pesticides, especially insecticides and fungicides, on flowering trees or lawn and garden plants, especially when they are blooming. Even some “organic” pesticides are harmful to pollinators, so read the label before buying. Many insecticides are powerful poisons. Some are so potent that one teaspoon can kill 1.5 billion bees. Some insecticides do not break down right away; they can build up in soil and water, harming pollinators for months or years after they are applied. They also end up in our food chain.
  2. Recognize that many commercial name-brand “turf builder” fertilizer products contain insecticides. If you need fertilizers that have no pesticides, our own Lawes Ag Service in Brandon has both mineral and organic kinds.
  3. Mow your lawn but mow a little less frequently. Research at UMass Amherst on this very subject found that mowing every two weeks was more helpful to pollinators than mowing every week and better than mowing every three weeks. Biweekly mowing will help pollinators without leaving an “unkempt” yard to which many homeowners today object. This also prevents tall grass that can be home to ticks.
  4. Increase the mower deck height to about three inches to allow low-growing flowering plants like white clover to bloom even with mowing. Many pollinators love white clover and, as a legume, its roots enrich soil by fixing nitrogen from the air.
  5. Avoid mowing along the edges of yards or woods to allow taller plants to flower there. If they must be mown, wait until after the first frost in the fall.
  6. A grass lawn is a desert to pollinators. Don’t worry about a having few flowering plants that some people call “weeds!”
  7. Grow pollinator gardens and save the trees and shrubs that help pollinators. Here are a couple of useful resources on plants that provide food for pollinators:

Fred Putnam, Jr. is the owner of Country Blossoms Honey in Brandon

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