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The Myth of No Mow May

This time last year, I posted about why I’m not a fan of #NoMowMay.  You can read it here (https://www.pei-untamed.com/post/early-spring-greens-dominant-dandelions), but the short story is – despite what many people think – Dandelions just aren’t great food for our native bees.

 

That post sparked quite an outcry, and my inbox filled up with photos of Dandelion honey, criticism that I was promoting pesticides, comments about how “nature knows best”, and fears that our pollinators have no other food in early spring.  With such high interest and extensive misinformation around this topic, it merits a further look this year. 


Photo 1: A male Trembling Aspen (Populus tremuloides) catkin with its purple-red pollen sacs.

First, the Honeybee issue.  I love honey, and I appreciate Honeybees. I also love cheese and appreciate Cows. But I don’t advocate planting Cow-friendly gardens or leaving corners of your property as Cattle pasture. Honeybees are not native to North America; they were imported from Europe to pollinate our crops. They are raised and kept in an agricultural setting and – like Cows – are livestock.

 

Unfortunately, European Honeybees get all the love, and many people don’t realize PEI is home to dozens of species of native bees, many of them rare.  While Dandelion honey is lovely, it has nothing to do with our native bees for whom Dandelions are nutritionally poor junk food.  I’d love to see more awareness of our native bees, more concern about their decline, and more citizen action to help them, rather than the annual focus on Honeybees and Dandelions. 


Photo 2: A Red Maple (Acer rubrum) flower with its pollen sacs stuck out into the air.

While we don’t need to leave Dandelions for the bees, this is not a binary system with the only other option being pesticides. I’m not anti-Dandelion, and my original article didn’t encourage people to get rid of them, nor did it mention pesticides at all (I also included my favourite Dandelion recipes: https://www.pei-untamed.com/post/recipes-for-common-dandelion-taraxacum-officinale).  Instead, I recommended native-bee-friendly actions such planting early-flowering native trees and shrubs, allowing some of your land to be wild, not raking your lawn in fall, and waiting until daytime temperatures are consistently above 10C (50F) in spring before starting your yard and garden clean up.   


Photo 3: The delicate red female flower of Beaked Hazelut (Corylus cornuta) with pollen-filled male catkins behind.

Nature may know best, but it didn’t bring Dandelions or Honeybees to North America – people did. Dandelions are not nature’s way of feeding our native pollinators; flowering native plants are.  Our spring pollinators have lots of options on the menu, including the flowers pictured here. Too often, we overlook the many delicate flowers adorning our native trees and shrubs. Just like bees, our attention is grabbed by showy Dandelions, and we get pulled away from the nutritionally superior native blooms. 


Photo 4: A cluster of pollen-heavy male catkins on Green Alder (Alnus alnobetula).

Poplar (Populus tremuloides, Photo 1), Red Maple (Acer rubrum, Photo 2), Hazelnut (Corylus cornuta, Photo 3), Alder (Alnus alnobetula, Photo 4), and Willow (Salix sp. Photo 5), are all common across PEI and flowering now - all of these photos were taken in the past few days. Wind-pollinated species like these produce huge quantities of pollen which support native bees and other pollinators.  If you look closely at any of these flowers on a warm spring day, you’ll see them abuzz with hungry insects getting a balanced ration of high-quality protein and nutrients – something Dandelions lack.


Photo 5: The pollen-filled male flowers of a Willow (Salix sp).

I think No Mow May started out with the right intentions but became simplified into the message that we need to leave Dandelions for the bees. Not only is that not a helpful thing to do, it distracts us from better conservation actions. Mow or don’t mow as you see fit.  But know that it’s the native flowers like those shown here – not Dandelions – that are truly important to the early pollinators on PEI untamed

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2 comentarios


Mmmm. I have tried No Mow May, 'found it in serious conflict with my "clover-lawn" regime, as it is good to mow (I use a manual mower) in May especially to encourage wild white clover, or to establish Dutch white clover by over-seeding. Then you have lots of clover flowers later on (as well as a natural source of nitrogen) and the clover masks weeds, making a nice blend, which indeed can include dandelion and other flowering weeds. Then when the clover starts flowering and a lot of it is pollinated, mowing stimulates more flowers... I do keep some patches of un-mowed dandelion here and there also. Some info on clover in lawns here: https://versicolor.ca/lawnsoldsite/secC4.html#subtitle2

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Very well said...build a mason bee box! Bryan

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