By Kelly Schmitz & Emily Krause
A movement that started in Appleton has recently been sweeping the state of Wisconsin and its neighbors year by year.
In 2020, in order to boost the local bee population, Appleton was the first city to adopt a campaign titled “No-Mow May” and encourage its residents to put away the mower and add inches to their lawns. This campaign requires cities to temporarily wave local ordinances that require homeowners to keep a well-manicured lawn and allows them to have the option to opt-out of mowing through the month of May. By letting the natural fauna take the place of freshly manicured lawns, the local bee population coming out of hibernation will have a larger selection of pollen and nectar to help them thrive.
A study as far back as 2014 has shown a steady decline in the nation’s pollinators. This decline is such a threat that the United Nations has declared this a threat to the global food supply. Both wild bees and managed honeybees play a crucial role in ensuring the health of global food crops, so ensuring their health is ensuring the health of the global food supply chain. “I am really excited to be a part of something so simple that helps in a number of ways,” Brown County resident Heidi Feldhaus stated.
Although No-Mow May is a great program for helping local pollinators, many residents in locations that have enacted this initiative have submitted formal complaints of “messy looking lawns.” According to WPR.com, Appleton had noticed a positive correlation between No-Mow May and a rise in complaints in the city. Israel Del Toro, a biology professor at Lawrence University, had stated that there is room for compromise. Residents do not only have the option to let their lawns become completely over-grown in order to help local pollinators – they can focus on only planting native plants and flowers, mow less often, or allow overgrowth in only certain areas of their lawn. Reducing the use of pesticides, fertilizers, and herbicides will also help the local pollinators thrive.
If an individual is interested in this movement but does not have a lawn, they can help others with lawns by setting up “bee baths” or “bee hotels.” Bee baths are an oasis for bees after they have spent a long day pollinating. A shallow birdbath or bowl will suffice with pebbles or rocks placed in the center, so it breaks the water tension. The bees will land on the stones and drink the water. Bee hotels, also called nests or houses, can be made for solitary bees to make their nests. These are the bees that live alone and do not live in hives with others. These lay their eggs in small holes. A hotel can be made by simply drilling holes in a wooden block or filling a box with bamboo reeds that have a hollow center. You can tell a bee is using the hotel by checking to see if a mud “door” has been placed over the hole. If a mud “door” has been placed over the hole, this means a female bee has laid an egg inside. Once the egg hatches, the mud “door” will be broken by the newly hatched bee and ready for another bee to lay an egg inside, serving as a permanent hotel structure.
If residents do plan to participate in No-Mow-May, it is suggested that once it is time to mow down the overgrown grass to raise the blades on the mower. By doing this way, no damage will be done to the blades.
Following the success of No-Mow May, more than 25 U.S. cities are following in Appleton’s footsteps by suggesting residents to forgo mowing their lawns in the month of May. There is no sign of slowing down in the popularity of this movement either.