We often ask people to do something for the environment. Today, we’re asking them to consider doing nothing.

By waiting until at least June to mow their spring lawns, allowing wild plants to take over grassy areas, Mainers can give bees just emerging from hibernation the food they need to do the crucial work of pollination.

It’s called No Mow May, and it started in 2019 in the UK, where 97 percent of wildflower meadows have disappeared since the 1930s, putting populations of pollinating insects in decline, and threatening the natural ecosystem, and agriculture, that depends on pollination.

It quickly spread to the United States. In 2020, Appleton, Wisconsin, became the first city to sponsor No Mow May, with 435 homes signing up to take part that year. In 2021, a dozen other Wisconsin communities joined in, as well as some in other states.

This year, in Maine, Rockland and Lamoine are promoting the initiative, having seen what it can accomplish: A study in Appleton found that unmowed lawns had five times the number of bees and three times the number of bee species as mowed lawns.

That’s a hopeful sign that the bee population can recover. A study by the Center for Biological Diversity found that more than half of bee species are declining, with a quarter in serious peril, because of habitat loss, pesticide use, climate change and urbanization.

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The decline is a threat to all the wild plants and cultivated crops that depend on pollination, including Maine’s wild blueberry industry, which is almost completely dependent on honey bees and native bees.

And all you have to do to help is … nothing. Just let your lawn grow in through the month of May, and longer if you have it in you. If that’s too much, you can pick a portion of your lawn to let go wild.

If you’d like to do more, you can also take other steps to help pollinators by avoiding pesticides, using brush or nest boxes to create habitat, or planting native plant species, as suggested by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension.

Bees will not be the only things that benefit. For one, you’ll save some money on gas and prevent some air pollution in your neighborhood.

Also, you’ll be looking out at a brand-new landscape, one with a welcome pop of color.

As a botanist told Gardens Illustrated, “Avoiding mowing in this way means that instead of a dull monoculture of green concrete, your garden will be thriving and full of interest.

“I don’t think people realize how diverse our lawns can be.”


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