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  • Writer's pictureChelle Hartzer

Pollinators, Pests, and Pastures, Oh My (AKA: Not being lazy)

It’s halfway through May and that means the grass is getting longer and the weeds are coming in. Literally in many cases because May is “No Mow May”. This is apparently the month that you should not mow your lawn and let it just do its thing. You would think that whoever came up with this is brilliant to explain away their laziness in this way. It does have another purpose.

Taking it to the extreme.... can't understand why pests would be here...

The purpose it was intended for was to help early season pollinators. Not mowing allows the wildflowers (what many people will see as weeds) to grow and thereby have a nectar and pollen source. It allows the grasses to be longer and more protective and offer more shelter.

What does this have to do with pest control because we obviously love our little pollinators and want to protect them, right? Right. Unfortunately, these now overgrown areas can also increase pest numbers around structures. That new heavy cover of vegetation is attractive to mice. The increase in moisture it’s now holding is great for cockroaches and flies. The increase in flowers is great for wasps. (Yes, wasps are pollinators too, but we will get into that on another episode.) The longer grasses that grow up against the structure can even encourage ants and termites.

Cut this back!

No, I am not saying we should tell people to give up on No Mow May. I wish I could do that but the homeowners association goon squad would start fining me. The trick is to make sure there is still some room between the structure and the plants. If it is vegetation free, that’s even better, but keeping that 1-2 foot border around the site will help keep the pollinators and pests in the area you want them.

If it is necessary to do some treatment around a participating site, it should be no more than a pinstream application around the base of the structure, doors, and any other lower entry points. Remind folks that this is a side effect of a no-mow and they will have more insects in the area, including those important pollinators. It may also be good to mention that pollinators are not just bees. Wasps, flies, moths, and more are great pollinators.

Side tip – keep a list of these no-mow properties. Come fall when they are complaining about cicada killers, ground wasps, carpenter bees, and more, you can remind them of why they are there and offer treatment.

It’s also important to remember when May is over and all that overgrowth gets mowed back, all the insects and other arthropods occupying that space will move to “safety”. That safety is likely the shrubs, trees, and structures that offer some protection. Because there are more insects out there, the chance of them getting in is increased. For these sites, you may want to recommend they call you before they mow a for additional treatment. Outside, treat the same areas that were treated before with that pinstream application. Also, add in an inside treatment that targets the doors and windowsills that the insects would use to gain entry. This way they will be knocked down quickly when they reach entry points.

No Mow May is a great idea, I’m all for protecting all of our pollinators. It has its drawbacks. Along with those pollinators come all the other arthropods, including pests, that also like that habitat. It’s unlikely that we will know folks are participating before they start, so it will be a bit of a reaction. But that prevention can start up again in April just before they take out the habitat.

Remember it’s not just May that can cause issues, there are plenty of things during the entire year that can cause additional pest problems. We can help you prepare for that and prevent it, contact us!

Lagniappe - there are other downsides to this process.

Urban pest consulting

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