No mow ‘junk food’ for bees

Canadian conservationists are trying to change the message behind No Mow May, a campaign to support pollinators such as bees, because it doesn’t apply well here.

No Mow May was conceived by the botanical charity Plantlife in Europe in 2019, and it hasn’t traveled well across the ocean, said PEI biologist Kate MacQuarrie.

“I’m not a huge fan of the reason it’s being promoted, which is primarily for promoting dandelions,” said MacQuarrie.

“Dandelions [are] really junk food for bees. It’s abundant but not very nutritious.”

The problem is dandelions are not native plants, she said. They are native to Europe, so the message works there, but bees and other pollinators in Canada have evolved to die on other species.

Let it go wild

What really is required, said MacQuarrie, is support for native plants. That’s not just in May, but all year round.

It’s not a lot of work, she said. All you really need to do is pick out a corner of your property, and ignore it.

“If you want to support wildlife and pollinators in particular, let some of them go wild,” she said.

“That’s a fantastic thing to do.”

The Nature Conservancy of Canada is changing its message about No Mow May, to encourage more of a year-round approach.

Pussy willows on branch
Trees, such as willow and red maple, can also provide an early spring meal for pollinators. (David Horemans/CBC)

“If somebody wants to do No Mow May that’s totally fine. It helps pollinators for a one-month period,” said conservancy spokesperson Andrew Holland.

“Helping pollinators year-round is a better approach.”

The Macphail Woods Forestry Project is a great PEI resource for information about native flowers and plants, he said, if gardeners would prefer to take a more proactive approach to a wild plot on their property.

People have latched onto No Mow May because they are looking for ways to act locally to help nature, said Holland, and he hopes they will progress from a one-month to a full-year approach.

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