A green lawn with purple violets blooming and a brown house in the background.

No Mow, Slow Mow 2024: FAQs

Is your community buzzing about No Mow May? It’s a catchy name for a movement that aims far beyond not mowing yards for a few weeks. It’s a chance for gardeners to consider how they can better support pollinators  — from mowing less to creating meadows. It can also be a gateway to improving local weed and lawn ordinances to accommodate pollinator gardens and native landscaping year-round!

Mowing less will not single-handedly “save the bees,” but this can be a fun way to get your community talking about pollinator conservation.

Why focus on lawns for pollinator habitat?

When we think of habitat loss, we tend to imagine bulldozers and rutted dirt, but acres of manicured lawn are as much a loss of habitat as any development site. Lawns cover 40 million acres, or 2%, of land in the US, making them the single largest irrigated crop we grow. If we allow flowers to bloom in lawns, we can increase habitat dramatically.

You don’t need to go a full month without mowing to help bees. Studies show that mowing every two or three weeks instead of weekly can increase bee species abundance and species diversity (ie, more bees and more types of bees).

I’ve heard about No Mow April, No Mow May, even Low Mow Spring. So, which is it?

The start of the growing season is a critical time for hungry, newly emerged native bees. Floral resources may be hard to find. The ideal month to reduce mowing depends on when you start seeing native bees emerging in your area. Often, it’s when fruit trees and willows are blooming. By allowing lawns to grow longer, and letting flowers bloom, you can provide nectar and pollen to help your bee neighbors thrive.

There are no rules for participation and every region has different needs. We have seen variations ranging from No Mow March to Slow Mow Summer. There is no one in charge of this movement, so do what works best for you.

A green lawn with scattered yellow, purple and white flowers.
Tall grass in the lawn is one sign that pollinators have likely emerged. Hold back on mowing to provide forage through the wildflowers that sprout with the grass. (Photo: Karin Jokela.)

Who created Now Mow May?

No Mow May was first popularized by Plantlife, an organization based in the United Kingdom, but is now gaining traction across North America. In 2020, residents of Appleton, Wisconsin, an affiliate of Bee City USA, became energized about No Mow May and they convinced their City Council to suspend their weed ordinance for the month of May. Over 435 registered property owners participated that year. Empowered by their success in 2020, the Appleton Bee City committee spread the word and attracted even more participants in 2021, and in 2022 it spread to communities across the country.

So, letting my lawn grow will be great for bees!

It won’t be great, but it will be better than nothing. Letting your lawn grow and having Dutch clover, dandelions, and other weeds flowering will mean there is something for bees to forage on, but many weeds are non-native, and don’t support a wide range of native bees — and bee conservation shouldn’t revolve around weeds. There are better plants to grow to support native bees. To be honest, it would be better if you rip up your lawn and replace it with a little meadow or prairie. But reducing the intensity of lawn maintenance is a starting point for changing our neighborhoods into places that will support bees and other wildlife. 

A garden with pink, purple and yellow flowers in front of a brown house.
A garden full of native plants will provide a home for a wide variety of bee species. It does not need to be big to have an impact and contribute to transforming our neighborhoods and urban landscapes. (Photo: Emily May.)

What if there are no flowers in my lawn?

If you only have grass (no clovers, violets, dandelions, etc.), not mowing will not provide any new floral resources for bees. You could plant some native, spring-blooming flowers instead—but remember, you won’t get much bloom this year. The benefit from those will be in the years ahead.

What if I hate the look of a tall lawn?

Don’t participate if you don’t want to! There are many other things you can do to help feed the bees: plant native plants in pots, shrink your lawn and add a large native plant border, plant native shrubs and trees, or replace your lawn entirely!

What if there are noxious weeds in my lawn?

Not all weeds are noxious, some “weeds” are even native! But if you do have noxious/invasive weeds, remove them as you would any other time of the year. Contact your local extension service for advice on management.

My grass will get too tall. My mower can’t handle it!

You don’t need to go a full month without mowing. Mowing every two or three weeks can increase flower blooms and provide food for hungry bees. When you are ready to cut your lawn, set your mower to its highest setting.

What will my neighbors think?

Let your neighbors know you are letting your yard get a bit wild for a good reason. Mow a tidy border near sidewalks and paths, and consider putting up a pollinator habitat sign (handmade is great!). We also provide free printable No Mow April, No Mow May, and Low Mow Spring yard signs.

Don’t be afraid to talk to your neighbors about what you are doing, too!

Green, yellow and blue yard sign saying "No Mow May".
Print up a free No Mow May, No Mow April, or Low Mow Spring yard sign.

Do I need to register or report in order to participate?

Though no organization officially oversees No Mow May, many Bee City USA and Bee Campus USA affiliates choose to participate. Some cities and homeowners’ associations (HOAs) may have rules against longer grass or even natural yards, or may require No Mow participants to register.

Will I get in trouble if I don’t mow?

We encourage you to check your local ordinances and if you encounter barriers, advocate for reforms to allow for more pollinator-friendly yards. Some states now have laws preventing HOAs from banning certain types of natural habitat. No one should be outlawed for helping pollinators!

Engage with your city council, health department, or other local officials. Tell them what you are doing and why, and begin a conversation about how they can support natural landscapes in their community. This fact sheet from Penn State can help arm you with facts to overcome the common myths that have led to overly restrictive weed ordinances.

Remember to keep things friendly: changing policies can take time and building positive relationships will help further your efforts.

What are other ways I can help native pollinators?

There are many ways we can help our native pollinators thrive during this important time of the year, no matter where you live or work. We can:

🍂 Hold off on spring cleanups until fruit trees have stopped blooming: leaving dead stems and leaves protects bees, butterflies, and moths that may still be in their nests.

🌸 Grow/buy/share/advocate for planting native plants (such as currants, crab apples, and willows) that bloom early in the growing season: help feed newly emerging pollinators.

🖐️ Avoid using pesticides: hand-weed, keep plants healthy by fertilizing as needed and not over- or under- watering, and tolerate minor (aesthetic) plant damage.

📣 Put up a habitat sign (handmade is great!): educate our communities as to why a wilder-looking park, lawn, or garden helps feed the bees.

Learn More
Small clusters of purple flowers with green elliptic leaves and thin grass blades.
Self-heal. (Credit Matthew Shepherd)

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