Let it grow.

More than 70 US cities have pledged to relax maintenance rules for homeowners during the month of May as part of a move aimed at feeding local bee populations for the upcoming growing season.

called «don’t cut mayo”, the initiative began in the UK and was later adopted by Appleton, Wisconsin, which became the first US city to implement it in 2020. This year, dozens of communities across the US let plants bee-friendly plants grow in your gardens.

“Pissy weeds like clovers and dandelions are like cheeseburgers to bees,” said Israel Del Toro, an assistant professor of biology at Lawrence University and a member of the Appleton city council.

And Appleton has seen the benefits of bees, del Toro said. Since the project began, «No Mow May» lawns in Appleton have shown a five-fold increase in bee abundance and a three-fold increase in bee diversity compared to nearby parks that were mowed regularly.

Bees are essential pollinators. Every year, bees pollinate $15 billion in crops in the US and help farmers produce about one third of all foods consumed by Americans.

But global bee populations are in jeopardy: Factors like habitat loss, overuse of chemical pesticides and herbicides, disease and climate change can negatively affect bees, del Toro said. Worldwide, 35% of pollinating invertebratesmainly bees and butterflies, face extinction.

“If we can do a little bit to help the bees by not mowing the grass and giving them extra food, that can go a long way,” del Toro said.

Without regular mowing, homeowners also reduce the risk of disturbing the soil to ground-nesting bees, such as mining or leafcutter bees, said Relena Ribbons, an assistant professor of geosciences at Lawrence University. .

Cutting less has the added benefit of reducing local air pollution. Since most lawn mowers run on gasoline, can emit significant levels of air pollutants such as nitrous oxides, carbon monoxide, particulate matter, and carbon dioxide.

Angela Vanden Elzen, a librarian and lifelong Appleton resident, said she rarely saw bees in the town growing up. Since she started No Mow May, she’s seen more bees than ever buzzing on Appleton’s lawns and gardens.

“No Mow May provides us with a way to help our ecosystem with little effort,” said Vanden Elzen. “I love sharing the project with my children. It started with the bees and now they have become more tolerant of all creatures, even spiders.”

Vanden Elzen’s 7-year-old daughter, Elora, said she loves participating in No Mow May with her community.

“I’m excited about ‘No Mow May’ because we get to feed the bees,” Elora said. «And I like to see all the bright colors in my front yard and see the bees buzzing in the flowers.»

In other cities, residents have raised concerns about leaving their lawns mowed. Jo Ann Litwin Clinton, Mayor of Orchard Park, New York, raised the issue from attracting ticks and rodents with neglected lawns. Orchard Park citizens are currently debating whether cutting 2-by-2-foot sections is enough to encourage bee populations.

At the University of Minnesota, a group of researchers who study bees called the Bee Squad recommend practicing «Slow Mow Summer,» a method in which homeowners mow infrequently during the summer while keeping the grass moderately tall. Elaine Evans, an extension professor at the University of Minnesota and a Bee Squad researcher, said this strategy can help provide food for bees throughout the season, not just in May.

Matthew Normansell, an Appleton resident who runs Eden Wild Food, a wild food and feeding education business, said «No Mow May» is an important part of the solution.

“It is a first step to raise awareness that our land and property are connected to the environment,” he said. «I don’t think it’s the answer, but it’s the start of an important conversation.»