As prolific pollinators, bees are crucial to a healthy ecosystem. But their numbers are declining around the world because of agriculture and urban development. Now, researchers have discovered that lazy lawnmowers—people who mow their lawns once every 2 weeks—have more bees than people who mow their lawns every single week.
To find out which yards yielded “peak bee,” researchers recruited 16 lucky suburban homeowners in Springfield, Massachusetts. The researchers mowed their lawns every week—or once every 2 or 3 weeks—for two summers. The researchers used insect nets and pan traps—plastic cups filled with soapy water and placed near lawn flowers—to trap bees. The team also collected data on the number and types of lawn flowers that sprouted between mowing days.
Lawns cut every 2 weeks supported 30% more bees than the other lawns, the team reports this month in Biological Conservation. The 2-week lawns had more flowers than the 1-week lawns, explaining the higher number of bees. But researchers suspect that the 3-week lawns, which had even more flowers, were less attractive, because the taller grass might have made it more difficult for the bees to reach the flowers.
In total, the researchers counted 93 species of bees, accounting for about a quarter of all bee species in Massachusetts. The researchers say this demonstrates that urban environments, if managed properly, can provide suitable habitat for high diversity and abundance of bees.