Lazy Lawn Mowers Providing Habitat For Bees

Supporting your local bees and bugs at home just got easier. With pollinating insects on the decline, homeowners in western Massachusetts are looking to their own backyards as a way to help boost these populations. And you can too!

Pollinators are essential to the foods we eat and healthy ecosystems, and it’s important we protect them by providing habitat and food resources they need to survive. One way to improve habitat in suburban areas is by changing the way you manage your lawn, something we routinely mow every week without giving it a second thought. With new research, scientists are giving lawns new life.

A bee on clover. Photo by Brad Smith, Creative Commons (https://goo.gl/fK1nf5)

Ecologist, Susannah Lerman at the USDA Forest Service and University of Massachusetts and other colleagues found that taking a “lazy lawn mower” approach to your lawn and mowing less frequently could encourage more bee habitat in suburban areas. Mowing every two weeks instead of weekly allows lawn flowers like clover and dandelions to bloom and gives a variety bees time to utilize them.

Lerman’s team, including Joan Milam at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Alix Contosta at the University of New Hampshire and Christofer Bang at Arizona State University, and her research was supported by the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) and Engineering and Education for Sustainability (SEES) program. They discovered that lawns mowed every three weeks had as much as 2.5 times more lawn flowers and lawns mowed every two weeks had the greatest number of bees, though the bee species were less diverse.

Researchers Joan Milam and Laura Hilberg use a sweepnet to sample insects.

There’s other benefits too! Lerman says, “Mowing less frequently is practical, economical and a timesaving alternative to replacing lawns or even planting pollinator gardens.” By helping pollinators, you’re also helping the environment and cashing in on some extra summer R & R.

A bee habitat for solitary bees.

Don’t have a lawn? No worries! You can help in other ways too. Help a local school or community building reduce their mowing or plant a pollinator garden. Reducing your use of pesticides will also help our pollinating critters. Additionally, our native bees enjoy living alone, and bee bundles are the perfect nesting material for solitary bees. Learn how to make one here.

Learn more about this research here.

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