No Mow May keeps bees busy, gives residents a rest from lawn care

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Poster depicting flowers and a bee with the text “No Mow May. Pardon our weeds, we’re feeding the bees!”

East Lansing Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission and the Commission on the Environment

No Mow May graphic created by the Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission and the Commission on the Environment.

Two East Lansing commissions are developing a proposal that would encourage city residents to refrain from mowing during May.

The proposal, entitled No Mow May, aims to “create habitat and provide resources for hungry, early-season pollinator populations, such as native bees,” according to the initiative’s proposal draft.

“A majority of our food crops and plant-based products require pollination by animals, and so by helping them, we are helping ourselves,” Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission chair Adam DeLay said. “Pollinators help to provide clean air, maintain existing populations of plants and flowers, and more. The benefits to our community are therefore numerous.”

The initiative supports East Lansing’s status as a pollinator-friendly community, which has acknowledged the significance of pollinators in local agriculture, ecosystems and economies since 2016.

“I’ll definitely participate,” East Lansing resident Drew DeFord said. “I wish we’d been doing this for a while. The lack of insects in recent years has been noticeable, which is worrying, and gas-powered lawn mowers are terrible for pollution as well.”

The initiative is scheduled to be presented for approval at the April 4th City Council meeting. The project is a collaborative effort between the Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission and the Commission on the Environment, according to Director of Parks, Recreation and Arts Catherine DeShambo.

Though No Mow May is a new proposal for East Lansing, the project began in 2022 with UK-based environmental group Plantlife. Some city residents have experience participating in the movement and practicing environmentally-conscious lawn care.

Homemade No Mow May sign with a violation sticker

Sue Nowak

East Lansing resident Sue Nowak received a violation last May for participating in her own No Mow May project.

“I did [No Mow May] last year,” East Lansing resident Sue Nowak said. “I made a sign saying I was participating in No Mow May. It worked up to a point. The PACE officer came and gave me a warning May 23. He said I had one week, which put it at May 30, to mow my lawn. I mowed it on May 30. I proudly displayed it.”

“In my yard, we’ve been trying to let the natural clover take over,” DeFord said. “I’d let it go totally wild, personally, but I live in a neighborhood with a HOA.”

“I already do this,” East Lansing resident Ryan Todd said. “We have a lot of really pretty violets that pop up through our grass. Like [DeFord], we’re allowing our big patches of clover to flourish. Further, after the city performs its sidewalk repairs we’ll be killing the grass in our easement to seed it with native wildflowers.”

Infographic describing seven ways to participate in No Mow May

Justice Seay

East Lansing residents can choose between a variety of measures to take when participating in No Mow May.

While its namesake encourages residents to halt lawn mowing throughout May, the proposal’s draft offers alternative measures residents may take to support the initiative. This list includes: reducing the number of times one mows, planting pollinator-friendly plants, forgoing herbicide and pesticide lawn treatments, or mowing only specific areas of one’s lawn, such as play areas, walking paths and pavement edges.

“I understand the worry that residents may have about being judged for a shaggy looking lawn,” DeLay said. “That’s why the city has been making efforts to educate the community, such as by providing yard signs regarding No Mow May that residents can place in their lawn.”

If the current resolution is approved, the city would suspend its enforcement of Article III – Property Maintenance Code, Section 6-175, Chapter 3, 302.4, which states that exterior plant growth may not exceed six inches. However, the suspension would not apply to overgrowth affecting public safety, noxious weeds, or invasive plant species.

Participation in No Mow May would not be required, and the level at which one participates would be left to the discretion of the resident. Those who opt to participate will have the option to register and receive a yard sign displaying their support for the initiative.

“This initiative will support East Lansing’s efforts to be a more pollinator-friendly community by providing nectar and pollen to help bees flourish,” DeLay said. “May is a critical month for pollinators as they wake up from winter, and dandelions are the first food for bees emerging in the spring. By providing ecosystems for them, we can support the critical role they play.”

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