No Mow May strives to help bees, butterflies

An initiative to aid bees and other pollinators by not mowing has caught on this spring in at least two Maine communities, Rockland and Portland. Photo by David Dahl.

Spreading like dandelion fluff, a “No Mow May” initiative to aid bees and other pollinators is using seed in Maine. 

It began when two Rockland residents despatched Town Councilor Nathan Davis a New York Situations photo essay about how this motion had swept Wisconsin in recent many years. “This is something the folks of Rockland could get driving,” he recalled pondering, and he was appropriate. The council supported the take care of unanimously, and Rockland grew to become Maine’s 1st “No Mow May” local community.

“No Mow May possibly,” launched in 2019 by the United kingdom group Plantlife, seeks to give bees, moths, butterflies and other pollinators far more foraging opportunities in spring when their foodstuff sources are restricted. A analyze in Appleton, Wisconsin found 3 occasions the bee diversity and 5 times the bee abundance on unmown qualities in comparison to nearby mown sites. 

Though not a pollinator crusader, Davis reported he’s “always wished that lawns have been extra wild and organic,” and he hopes this hard work may possibly foster “discourse about human-produced and human-tended landscapes that are not so antiseptic.”

These types of discussion is desperately essential, given that roughly 40 per cent of the world’s pollinators are hugely threatened because of to pesticides, habitat loss, weather adjust and ailments. Pollinator declines imperil not only the majority of human food stuff crops but most purely natural ecosystems — in which 90 per cent of wild flowering crops depend on bees and other pollinators

Reducing pesticide use and mowing significantly less routinely (a local climate benefit in alone) are amongst several ways that Maine people and communities could — in Robert McCloskey’s parlance — “make way for pollinators.”

Deciding on the vegetation pollinators require

“No Mow May” troubles our cultural fixation with turf, the nation’s primary irrigated crop, which spans an region larger sized than Maine and New Hampshire put together. Fairly than keeping monoculture grass that mostly feeds Japanese beetles, what else may we do with our yards, parks and commercial landscapes that could gain bees? 

Commence by taking into consideration ways to present foodstuff, water, shelter and habitat, advised Laurie Bowen, who co-directs University of Maine Cooperative Extension’s Pollinator Welcoming Garden Certification Method. Planting flowers can be advantageous as a food source, but not just any blooms will do

Hybridized bouquets with capabilities like double blooms do not offer you pollinators what they want. Bugs have co-developed for millennia with the crops indigenous to this location and rely on these species for nectar and pollen. In Bowen’s text, “native plants are not engineered to make sure you us but to you should the pollinator.” 

Spring wildflowers are just one particular way to give guidance when food stuff sources for bees are scarce. “We ignore about the woody plants,” Bowen reported. “They’re a pretty important source for pollinators, but they get overlooked.” Early-season bloomers like pussy willow, serviceberry and spicebush, and late-season bloomers like witch hazel, can be particularly valuable. 

Thinking about pollinators’ calendar year-round requirements

A crimson-banded hairstreak butterfly feeds on indigenous mountain mint. Photo courtesy of Mary Anne Borge/the-all-natural-internet.org.

As for shelter, European honeybees favor communal hives, but most of the about 400 bees native to this region are solitary — nesting in plant stems, stone partitions, open up sand or filth, wooden or leaf litter. Several species of moths, butterflies and bees overwinter in leaf litter so vigorous fall cleanup regimes can wipe out hibernating bugs. Do pollinators, neighbors and the local climate a favor by abandoning use of leaf blowers.

Letting some mown locations revert to meadow, with crops like aster and goldenrod, offers pollinators with the double advantage of late-period pollen and nectar and overwintering selections

Mow meadow regions just when per year in early spring, which provides birds accessibility to seeds for the duration of lean wintertime months and results in long run nesting internet sites for indigenous bees in reduce stems. Taller plants and leaf litter can foster tick habitat so consider mowing meadow borders and strolling paths to limit exposure. 

Supporting larger-scale efforts 

Fostering meadows and native plantings on town-owned land is previously underway in Rockland, Davis said. The following move, he extra, may possibly contain switching an ordinance that limits lawn heights. 

Maine communities could start adopting ordinances that encourage inhabitants to landscape with native vegetation, steps presently remaining passed elsewhere. Past year, Somerville, Mass. went a step more, passing an ordinance demanding that the city obtain between 50 and 100 percent indigenous crops relying on the zone the place planting takes place. 

At outstanding options like Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth and Marginal Way in Ogunquit, volunteers have assisted to change invasive species and turf grass with indigenous vegetation.

Up coming up could be altering how public functions departments and the state Division of Transportation deal with roadsides to guidance pollinators, getting cues from a native species guide the DOT commissioned in 2016

Maine took a sizeable phase toward pollinator protection final year, passing a invoice that prohibits most residential use of neonicotinoids, a team of insecticides specially harmful to bees. As far more states adopt related legislation, use of systemic insecticides could drop. 

With bees and other pollinators at threat, a cultural shift may perhaps be underway from very managed and manicured landscaping to more ecological methods. Naturalized configurations maintain innate charm and value to a increasing quantity of folks who, with Davis, “like the notion of just permitting far more things be wild.”

Disclosure: The author serves as a contractual editor for the yearly publication of Wild Seed Undertaking, a Maine-centered nonprofit that encourages native vegetation. Its totally free educational assets are cited in some hyperlinks and resources showcased in this column.