Thursday, May 4, 2023

No Mow May: Philanthropy or Lethargy?

The other day I drove by a house with a small sign out front that said: “NO MOW MAY.” In smaller print it said, “Pardon the weeds — We’re feeding the bees.”

I immediately thought: What a brilliant concept! For almost four decades we owned homes that needed to have the lawn mowed every week — sometimes twice per week during rainy periods. All those years I desperately tried to think of excuses to avoid mowing. I knew the neighbors would freak out if I just let the lawn run wild and turn into a weedy mess. So, I grudgingly went out there week after week and mowed.
If only I had realized that I could’ve played the “saving the environment” card! I would have been able to spend Saturday afternoons snoozing on the couch rather than pushing a noisy mower back and forth in the yard.

I had never heard of “No Mow May,” so at first I assumed this particular homeowner just made it up to keep his neighbors from complaining when he went all month without mowing the lawn. But it turns out “No Mow May” is a real thing. 

“No Mow May” began in 2019 in Great Britain, when a group of scientists proposed that people should let the weeds in their lawns grow and bloom. The idea was that overgrown lawns would produce essential pollen for bees, which were just emerging from hibernation. 

After that first year in the U.K., researchers claimed the massive increase in floral diversity was very beneficial to bees, at a time when they needed it most. The researchers also reported a fivefold increase in the number of bees in no-mow lawns compared with other yards that were mowed as usual. They did not offer any statistics about plummeting home prices in the now-seedy neighborhoods, nor how many people got stung by bees.

The following year, residents of Appleton, Wisconsin, organized their own No Mow May. Since then, No Mow May has been described as a “movement” with a “life of its own.” Every year supporters flood social media with passionate hype about how much they are doing (or not doing?) to save the planet. 
Well, that could be true. Or… maybe it’s just a bunch of guys who don’t want to mow the lawn, who stumbled onto a brilliant way to cloak their laziness as environmental philanthropy. 

A different news article noted that un-mowed lawns are also a breeding ground for ticks. I know the pollinating activity of bees is really good for the environment, but I’m not sure ticks offer any major benefit to the planet.

After I wrote the previous sentence, I checked online and discovered that ticks are in fact a crucial link in the food chain, and are a favorite food source for chickens and turkeys. Fine, but is it too much to ask that they stop spreading Lyme Disease and a dozen other nasty illnesses?

Anyway, I’m not sure what to think about No Mow May. It may be a wonderful thing for the environment, or it may be a bunch of dudes laughing all the way to the sports bar on a Saturday afternoon while their lawn mowers remain untouched inside the tool shed. 

Since we sold our house and moved into a condo a couple of years ago, lawn mowing thankfully is no longer a part of my life. However, if the landscaping firm responsible for the upkeep of our complex decides to skip the month of May, I’m certain it will have nothing to do with environmental philanthropy. And I will make my feelings known at the next Homeowners Association meeting. Especially if I get stung by a bee. 

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