Bio professor promotes “NoMowMay” for healthier bees

A resolution has come before the Appleton city government requesting that the city’s 8-inch height limit on grass be relaxed from May 1 to June 14. This “NoMowMay” resolution would not mandate that everyone in the city grow their lawn out, but it would allow those who choose to let their grass grow longer do so without paying fines. An online petition has circulated in hopes of getting signatures to persuade Appleton officials to sign the resolution.

By letting lawns grow out for a month, NoMow supporters hope to provide food and stability for local bees and other pollinating insects. Uncut lawns could house flowering plants that provide a food source for bees, and reduced lawnmower usage could help preserve the integrity of underground bee nests. The month of May was chosen because spring is an important time for pollinators with all its freshly bloomed flowers.

As for why healthy bees are good for the city, Lawrence’s Assistant Professor of Biology Israel Del Toro, an outspoken advocate for NoMowMay, explained in an interview that thriving bee populations can lead to visible benefits such as higher quality local produce. He suggested that healthy bee populations can improve the quality of all plants in their ecosystem.

While the benefits to plant life are important to the NoMow cause, according to Del Toro the resolution is about a bigger pattern in environmentally conscious lawmaking: “The goal here is create the foundation for an environmentally conscious and sustainable community. By doing something as little as NoMowMay, we educate our community about the value of the little things that we depend on, like our pollinators.”

According to Del Toro, Appleton’s history with environmental policies is relatively weak, and he fears the consequences. 

“Just like most American cities, we pride ourselves on our perfectly manicured lawns, we spend a lot of money and time mowing, fertilizing and overusing pesticides and herbicides on our lawns,” Del Toro said. “These factors all have negative consequences on our diverse community of pollinators.”

The resolution is inspired by a similar project from the U.K. which advocated for people to let their lawns grow out in May to help the environment and enjoy more activity of butterflies, wildflowers and bees in their yards.

For those worried about getting stung by bees, of the 100+ bee species in Appleton, only a handful sting. The most prevalent bee species in the city do not sting, Del Toro said.

The resolution went before Appleton City Council once already and got rejected. Del Toro hopes that with the help of a petition to show community interest, the resolution will pass on its second attempt. Issues raised about the initial resolution included worries about the extra grass clippings the initiative would produce and how the un-mowed lawns would look. Del Toro encourages citizens to engage with the council in order to help the resolution pass. 

“Talk to your city reps and distribute our petition widely,” Del Toro said. “On March 9, the city will reconsider the petition to support NoMowMay and send it to the council for a final vote. We want to go to these hearings with as much input from our supportive community [as possible]!