Does No Mow May Really Help Pollinators?

Updated: Apr. 04, 2024

No Mow May has been gaining ground. Here’s what you should know before letting your lawn grow wild—including the benefits and drawbacks.

What Is No Mow May?

High angle view of large meadow with dandelionsthe_burtons/Getty Images
The basic idea of No Mow May is waiting to mow your lawn to help emerging pollinators.

You’ve probably heard about No Mow May on social media or seen yard signs signifying participation and might want to give it a go. A growing trend on the garden and landscaping scene, it encourages delaying the first mow of the season to temporarily create a more biodiverse and hospitable habitat for pollinators awakening after winter—bees in particular.

Despite its admirable goal and seemingly simple execution, No Mow May might not be the best approach for everyone. Before foregoing the first mow, consider the following factors and some less controversial options.

Learn how to grow a pollinator garden.

Pros and Cons of No Mow May

Pollinators no mow mayR LOLLI MORROW/GETTY IMAGES
Canadian tiger swallowtail butterfly on dandelions

One advantage of this viral movement has been increased recognition of certain insects and their needs. “No Mow May has helped with awareness, to the point that some people now think National Pollinator Month is May and not June due to the public attention it has received,” says Birds & Blooms horticulture expert Melinda Myers.

And since it’s as easy as leaving your mower in storage for an extra month, it’s a low-commitment entry into the world of caring for pollinators. But it does have some downsides.

The pollinators that revel in your lush, unmowed lawn will likely return later, only to find a harsh surprise once their food sources have been sheared away. Or worse yet, bugs and critters who make their homes in uncut lawns may not survive a big chop at the end.

Then there’s the unkempt look. Some people want to help but prefer a well-maintained green space. Fortunately, other pollinator-friendly practices could help avoid these outcomes and better fit your style.

Follow these tips for growing a healthy lawn.

Do Some Research Before You Participate

honeybee on clover no mow mayPERBOGE/GETTY IMAGES
Honeybee on clover flower

If you do plan to pause mowing, there are some important factors to investigate beforehand. The first is timing. No Mow May started in the United Kingdom, so even though it’s a catchy slogan, May might not be the best month for every region. The objective is to allow growth of flowering pollen sources, such as dandelion and clover. You’ll want to avoid mowing when they are in peak bloom.

If your lawn is treated for weeds, hold off on that too. “I have heard from lawn care companies that some customers who have their lawns treated regularly participated in No Mow, only to realize the treatments had already eradicated the pollinator plants,” Melinda says.

Furthermore, local ordinances and homeowners association rules vary, so determine what is allowed in your area before proceeding. If your city has a limit on grass height, try talking to the city council about exemptions. Encourage them to consider the merits.

Go lawn free: plant a prairie garden.

Share the Message With No Mow May Signs

No Mow May sign village green, Middle Woodford, Woodford Valley, Wiltshire, England, UKGeography Photos/Getty Images
Share your intentions with a No Mow May sign 

If your area supports the movement, see if they offer yard signs to help educate and engage your neighbors. A sign could also quell any disapproval of the less-than-tidy look!

Finally, keep in mind that it could be difficult and detrimental to tackle the immense growth at the end of the month. Lower the height of your grass slowly over several mows. This avoids sending it into shock and gives pollinators a chance to realize it’s being cut back.

Here’s what you need to know about native plants.

No Mow May Alternatives Abound

A lightning bug perched on a blade of grass, its abdomen lit in bright yellow light.James Jordan Photography/Getty Images
Cut back on pesticide use to help insects like fireflies

If you want to try a more intentional or long-term tactic, there are options for every level of commitment. Ease into it by decreasing your mowing frequency with a “Less Mow May.” You can also try reducing the use of chemicals and pesticides harmful to bees and their food sources.

Try pocket planting, which, as the name implies, is the practice of creating smaller areas with specific vegetation. This approach also works well in yards with limited space and municipal restrictions.

If you have the room and freedom and are ready to put in more effort, consider meadowscaping. This essentially rewilds your urban yard into an ecologically beneficial meadow. Once established, it can be very low maintenance.

Whether you nix mowing or take another pollinator-friendly path, discussing details with your local extension office is always a good first step. No matter the size or commitment, any amount of space or time you can offer pollinators will help.

About the Expert

Melinda Myers is the official garden expert for Birds & Blooms. She is a TV/radio host, author and columnist who has written more than 20 gardening books. Melinda earned a master’s degree in horticulture from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.


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