Stop Mowing Your Lawn So Much

ENVIRONMENT

Researchers have discovered that people who mow their lawns once every two weeks have more pollinating bees than people who mow their lawns every week. (Science)

Don’t have a lawn? You can still welcome bees with a simple-to-build bee hotel!

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers Toolkit.

Mow, mow, mow, your lawn
every other week.
Help the pollinators make
life a lot less bleak!
Photograph by Ratworks Media, courtesy Pexels. Public domain

Discussion Ideas

  • One of our colleagues here at Nat Geo called this research a “Goldilocks” study. Why? Read the short Science article for some help.
    • In the most famous version of the fairy tale “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”, Goldilocks breaks into the home of a family of bears and tries three versions of different amenities (porridge, chairs, beds) before deciding on one that is “just right.”
    • In this study, researchers tried three versions of lawn-mowing schedules before finding one that was “just right” to attract helpful bees.

 

  • Why do researchers think the bees preferred lawns that were mowed every other week, instead of those that were mowed every week?
    • Flowers! Between mowing, lawns sometimes bloom with “lawn flowers” like dandelions and clover. (Yes, lawn flowers may be more commonly known as “weeds.”) The two-week lawns had about 30% more lawn flowers than the one-week lawns.

 

  • The three-week lawns had even more flowers than the two-week lawns. Why do researchers think bees still found the two-week lawn “just right”?
    • Scientists think bees found the three-week lawns “less attractive, because the taller grass might have made it more difficult for the bees to reach the flowers.”
      • The Goldilocks bees:
        • One week? Too few flowers.
        • Three weeks? Grass too tall.
        • Two weeks? JUST RIGHT.

 

  • Does your family, community, or school have lawns that needs mowing? Mimic the research to see when bees are most active in your neighborhood! (This might be a good springtime Nat Geo Inquiry project!)
    • Find two or more lawns of similar size, or two or three sections of the same lawn.
    • Keep one lawn on its current mowing schedule. (This is your control lawn.)
    • Change the mowing schedule of the other lawn or lawns—mow more often or less often.
    • Keep track of the number and type of lawn flowers that bloom between mowing days. If you have a smart phone, use an app like iNaturalist to help you identify your flowers.
    • Monitor your lawns as often as you can, keeping track of the bees and other insects you find. Use tools like a net or an inexpensive aspirator to help trap and release insects. (We love this photo of a student using an aspirator to collect insects in Alaska!) If you have a smart phone, use an app like iNaturalist to help document the insects you find.
    • What flowers seem to attract the most insects?
    • What time of day seems to attract the most insects?
    • When were insects most active—days before mowing or after mowing?
    • What lawn (or section of lawn) attracted the most insects?

 

TEACHERS TOOLKIT

Science: Bees love the lawns of lazy homeowners

Nat Geo: Build Your Own Bee Hotel

(extra credit!) Biological Conservation: To mow or to mow less: Lawn mowing frequency affects bee abundance and diversity in suburban yards

One response to “Stop Mowing Your Lawn So Much

  1. Pingback: Stop Mowing Your Lawn So Much | Global Education Express·

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