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Let It Grow! Western NC No Mow campaign says let the lawn go to benefit pollinators


Curb the mower and let your lawn grow. That's the message behind the No Mow May campaign now underway.

The concept of letting wildflowers and other plants grow is designed to create important habitat for bees, butterflies, and other pollinators. The catchy campaign started in the United Kingdom and quickly spread across the globe. To get the buzz on the local No Mow movement, BPR’s Helen Chickering checked in with WNC pollinator expert, Phyllis Stiles, founder ofBee City USA.

PS: Well, it's truly a grassroots effort, pun intended. No Mow May is a catchy way to describe it. But whatever month springtime is for your area, we want you to reduce your mowing if that's something that you'd like to do. And then start to notice what's showing up in your yard, what flowers and what pollinators are showing up.

HC: If you are no mowing here in Western North Carolina, what flowers and pollinators might pop up in your lawn?

PS: We're going to see a lot of violets and dandelions blooming. We might see Selfheal, Henbit and Clover and all those things have nectar and pollen. Pollen might not be as good as our native plants produce, but it's better than nothing. The springtime is when so many bees and other critters are emerging. If they're a bee — and we have at least 500 species of bees that are native to North Carolina—they must have pollen in order to feed their young. It's their only source of protein. And so they are hustling to get all the pollen they need to feed their young in the spring and your lawn can help with that if you just let the flowers grow and then after spring, go ahead and mow it if you want to, that would be a huge help.

HC: I feel like it is safe to say Western North Carolina is a very pollinator supportive region, but along with local lawn maintenance rules and regulations, not everybody may be comfortable with that let it grow mentality,

PS: Right. There are no mow options for the folks out there who really love to keep their yard tidy. You can raise your mower blade, mow less frequently, or choose to let just a portion of your lawn go wild. You can mow paths for people to walk through, or mow just the edge next to the sidewalk. You can also let neighbors know your intention by putting up a sign. You can make your own or you can download one from the Bee City USA website. Attach it to a stick and put it out in your yard, letting everyone know you're trying to help the pollinators by feeding them when they need it the most. It all helps!

HC: Anything else you want to add about pollinators? And No Mow May?

PS: It will take much more than No Mow May to address the loss of our pollinating insects.Research has shownup to 40% of pollinator species on earth are at risk of extinction in the coming years as a result of environmental stressors including habitat loss, exposure to pesticides, diseases and pathogens, and climate change which is terrifying because we rely on them so much. About 90% of our wildflowers can't reproduce without the help of a pollinator, so they're pretty vital for life on earth.

The hopeful part of all of that is that we have woken up. There's hardly a day that passes that you don't hear about somebody locally or nationally doing somethinggood for pollinators — planting apollinator garden, planting native plants, avoiding pesticides. It's more and more common to see milkweed growing in people's yards for the monarch butterflies and the bees. So when it comes to not mowing, just as many weeks as you can stand. If it's just two, three, four weeks – it’s all helpful, and you'll get rewarded. You'll see those pollinators out there on your lawn where they wouldn't be if you had mowed it.

Helen Chickering is a host and reporter on Blue Ridge Public Radio. She joined the station in November 2014.