MAR 16, 2018 5:43 AM PDT

Want to save the bees? Stop cutting your lawn

Want to save the bees? Stop cutting your lawn.

According to a new study published in Biological Conservation, suburban residents can help out declining bee populations by taking a break from their lawn-mowing duties, choosing to mow every other week, or once a month, instead of weekly. Ecologist Susannah Lerman at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the USDA Forest Service says that adopting such a “lazy lawn mower” strategy can provide bees, butterflies, and other pollinators with crucial habitat, as it allows lawn flowers to bloom. Plus, she adds, "Mowing less frequently is practical, economical and a timesaving alternative to replacing lawns or even planting pollinator gardens."

New research suggests that if you let your grass grow, the bees will come! Photo: Updatedhome.com

Lerman and her team looked at 16 different homes in Springfield, MA over two years. The homeowners were split into groups with distinct mowing schedules: mow every week, every two weeks, or every three weeks. The scientists then sampled each lawn to see the response from bees and other pollinators, measuring bee abundance, richness, and evenness.

The researchers found that the lawns that were on the every-three-weeks schedule had 2.5 times more lawn flowers than the other lawns. And while the lawns on the every-two-weeks schedule had the greatest number of bees, they also had the lowest diversity of lawn flowers. Overall, the team observed a total of 4,587 bees within 93 different species.

“We suggest these patterns were driven by a combination of more abundant floral resources (compared with 1-week yards), easier access to lawn flowers due to shorter grass and a more drastic impact on grass biomass and floral resources (compared with 3-week yards), and the dominance of a few generalist bees overwhelming our samples, thus driving richness and evenness,” write the authors.

In the study, lawn flowers refer to species such as clover and dandelions that grow in the grass. These species are considered weeds and homeowners often attempt to eradicate for them aesthetic purposes. But interestingly enough, pollinators love lawn flowers just as much as ornamental flowers and keeping them for longer could provide a great opportunity for creating a more biodiverse and thriving ecosystem in your own backyard.

Bee populations have been on the steady decline around the world, in part because of habitat loss and widespread use of pesticides called neonicotinoids. That’s a concern for us, because if bees go extinct, 75% of our crops would suffer in productivity. Though the subset in this study was small and more investigation is needed in order to know if its findings are consistent, the “lazy lawn mower” method suggests an easy way that the ordinary person can make a difference in the fight to save bees. Co-author Joan Milam exclaimed, "I was amazed at the high level of bee diversity and abundance we documented in these lawns, and it speaks to the value of the untreated lawn to support wildlife."

Sources: Science Daily, Biological Conservation

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
MAY 10, 2021
Plants & Animals
Sharks Can Use Earth's Magnetic Field to Navigate
MAY 10, 2021
Sharks Can Use Earth's Magnetic Field to Navigate
How do sharks make transatlantic journeys without losing their way? New research published this week in Current Biology ...
MAY 18, 2021
Plants & Animals
Insects, Algae Might be the Way Out of a Future Food Crisis
MAY 18, 2021
Insects, Algae Might be the Way Out of a Future Food Crisis
It's estimated that two billion people don't have access to reliable sources of nutritious food - they are food insecure ...
MAY 20, 2021
Earth & The Environment
New hope springs from Africa's tropical rainforests
MAY 20, 2021
New hope springs from Africa's tropical rainforests
African tropical rainforests fared surprisingly well despite extreme drought and heat from the most recent El Niñ ...
JUN 02, 2021
Earth & The Environment
Revisiting the Sahara's enigmatic past
JUN 02, 2021
Revisiting the Sahara's enigmatic past
As hard as it is to imagine, the rolling dunes that we picture now when we think of the Sahara used to be quite differen ...
JUN 11, 2021
Earth & The Environment
We urgently need to reconsider the under-ice landscapes of glaciers
JUN 11, 2021
We urgently need to reconsider the under-ice landscapes of glaciers
An overlooked aspect of glacial melt could be key to improving sea-level rise models. We often think of glacial melt as ...
JUL 15, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Modern Slavery in Greece Spotted from Space
JUL 15, 2021
Modern Slavery in Greece Spotted from Space
Migrant settlements being exploited for work have been spotted with satellite imagery by researchers led by the Universi ...
Loading Comments...