By Shereen Siewert

City officials in Wausau will consider joining a community science initiative that encourages property owners to limit lawn mowing in May, providing resources and protection for bee pollinators that emerge in the spring.

Appleton launched the city’s “No Mow May” program in 2020, with hundreds of households participating. The program aims to provide early-season forage for emerging native pollinators by reducing mowing intensity during a month in which foraging resources can be limited. Appleton officials say the effort resulted in a 35% increase in floral resources, a five-fold increase in wild bee abundances and three-fold increase in wild bee diversity.

Now, the city seeks to expand the initiative to 10 additional cities including Wausau. Residents who participate would register, collect “citizen scientist” materials, then share data such as grass length and flower species blooming in the lawns. The results will be used to help build a list of pollinator biodiversity in the community.

“A post-No Mow May survey revealed that the participants were keen to increase native floral resources in their yards, increase native bee nesting habitat, reduce mowing intensities, and limit herbicide, pesticide, and fertilizer applications to their lawns,” wrote Lawrence University Professor Israel Del Toro, in a peer-reviewed study released after the program’s conclusion in 2020. “The No Mow May initiative educated an engaged community on best practices to improve the conservation of urban pollinators in future years.”

But the program was not without its critics, including members of the Appleton City Council. Throughout the city, complaints about tall grass and weeds skyrocketed, according to the Appleton Post-Crescent. The newspaper reported that the initiative resulted in some bad blood between neighbors, including one who called the program “a ridiculous, moronic idea.

This week, Wausau’s Public Health and Safety Committee will review the initiative, which would require the city to suspend enforcing the mowing code for residents who participate. Failing to mow grass can result in a $98.80 fine. The committee’s decision is subject to full council approval.

See the full packet, including the draft resolution, here.