No Mow May: Good Idea?

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Busy bee on the grounds of Cossitt library. Photo by Holly Johnson

Saving the honeybees and other pollinators is crucial to the world’s nutritional diet

Recently, a friend was reading the New York Times and saw an article on the No Mow May movement. She contacted me to see what I thought about “No Mow May.” Quite frankly, I responded, I didn’t know much about it, but promised to research it. My friend said that this initiative is really gaining momentum, and she thought that our Granby Conservation Commission should start a community dialogue on the topic.

No Mow May is the newest sustainability initiative for lawn care. Its sole mission is to save millions of honeybees and other pollinators through the growth of natural wildflowers.

Why should we care about bees? From limited research, I have learned that bees are facing catastrophic declines, with honeybees declining more than 60 percent in the United States alone over the past 100 years. In North America, nearly one in four native bee species is imperiled according to the Center for Biological Diversity, partly because of habitat loss, overuse of pesticide, climate change and urbanization. Honeybees, in particular, are crucial to human flourishing. They aid  the production of about 90 percent of the world’s nutritional diet and result in agricultural services estimated at $215 billion worldwide.

The No Mow May initiative is quite simple: it asks participants to do absolutely nothing. Simple, right? Not really.

The movement to stop the destruction of bees first began in Britain with Plantlife’s Every Flower Counts survey in the early 2000s. This was the largest-ever survey focused on the plant life of lawns. From this survey, Plantlife discovered that mowing once every four weeks allowed tall-grass species (such as oxeye daisy, red clover, field scabious, and knapweed) enough time to grow and bloom, while also boosting the nectar production of short-grass species (such as daisies, white clovers, and bird’s-foot trefoil), which produce new, nutrient-rich flowers quickly after being mowed down.

Here in the United States, the No Mow May initiative first took hold in Appleton, Wisconsin, some 200 miles north of Chicago. Following years of discussion, in 2020 Appleton became the first city in the United States to adopt No Mow May, with 435 homes voluntarily registering to take part. In Appleton, they found No Mow May lawns had five times the number of bees and three times the bee species than did mown parks.

By 2021, a dozen communities across Wisconsin had adopted No Mow May. It has also spread to communities in Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois and Montana. Based on its success, the Appleton Common Council recently voted to make No Mow May permanent. Many other municipalities throughout Wisconsin have either already adopted it for 2022 or are considering it.

Here in Granby, we are looking for creative ideas to maintain our quality of life, sustain our fragile environment, support strong property values and promote sustainable practices to maintain everyone’s health. Should we promote this project and encourage residents to voluntarily forgo mowing all or part of their lawn for May? Should the town forgo mowing its properties during May?

With all these questions in mind, the Granby Conservation Commission is asking for your opinion on the No Mow May concept. Do you think it might work here in our rural, agriculturally- friendly town? Would you be willing to voluntarily participate and forgo mowing all or part of your lawn for the month of May?

The Granby Conservation Commission is sponsoring a public session for our commissioners and community to learn more about this rapidly accelerating sustainability initiative, seek possible alternatives to improve our bee population, and seek community input. 

Please join the commission Monday, May 16, 6:30–7:30 p.m. at Granby Public Library to hear from a panel of experts and then to share your thoughts with us. For additional information visit the library’s Calendar of Events page: