A bubble bee gets nectar from a yellow goldenrod.
A bee hangs onto a stem of goldenrod as it collects pollen, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020, in Havertown, Pa. Credit: Jacqueline Larma / AP

The month of May is almost upon us, and a handful of municipalities are encouraging Mainers to abstain from mowing their lawns next month to help support native pollinators.

The initiative is aimed at helping pollinators, such as bees, have access to early supplies of pollen and nectar in order to support a healthy ecosystem.

Refraining from mowing your lawn for an entire month may sound daunting. It brings worries of ticks and other creepy-crawlies that you don’t particularly want to share your yard with.

Don’t worry. Even if you do choose to cut your grass this May, there are still ways to help out pollinators.

Key pollinators

Maine’s key pollinators are bees, butterflies, moths, flies, beetles and hummingbirds, according to the University of Maine’s Cooperative Extension. There are five native types of bees that pollinate in Maine; leafcutting bees, mason bees, sand or mining bees, sweat bees and bumblebees.

These five types of bees act differently than honey bees that are introduced to an area, according to the Maine Organic Farmers Association. They typically start emerging and seeking out food in early spring, and they travel fast, allowing them to pollinate more plants than their honey bee counterparts.

While you can plant simple garden crops, having a diverse array of native flowers and other plants can help support a wide variety of pollinators.

Asters

A Red Admiral butterfly, Vanessa atalanta, searches out the nectar on flowers of a New England Aster, Symphyotrichum novae-angliae “Sayer’s Croft”, at the Royal Horticultural Society Garden Wisley, in the village of Wisley, near Woking, England, Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017. Credit: Matt Dunham / AP

Asters are perennial flowering plants that can support bees, and attract other insects that are crucial to the food chain. They do best in full sun, planted in well-draining loamy soil.

Bee balm

Purple bee balm flowers are seen alongside cannas and native cup flowers in this file photo. Credit: Kathy Van Mullekom / Tribune Content Agency

Bee balm flowers are a part of the mint family, and are also known as bergamot. Bee balm does best in full sun, planted in rich soil that can be kept moist.

Forget-Me-Nots

Forget-Me-Nots bloom in a garden in Houlton on Wednesday, June 5, 2019. Credit: Courtesy of Jen Lynds

The iconic forget-me-nots can be found almost everywhere in Maine, and are a pretty — and helpful — addition to your flower garden. They can be grown in partially shaded areas, with well-draining, moist soil.

Marigold

A Nepalese woman collects marigold flowers to make garlands to sell for the upcoming Tihar festival on the outskirts of Kathmandu, Nepal, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021. Credit: Niranjan Shrestha / AP

Marigold flowers are known for their bright orange and yellow colors, and once picked, they can be dried and strung into necklaces or other decorative items. Some varieties can grow up to four feet tall! They do best in full sun, and can thrive in just about any soil that can hold a decent amount of moisture but drains well.

Nasturtiums

University of Maine Sustainable Agriculture program student Ian MacLellan weeds a bed of nasturtiums while working at Rogers Farm in Old Town in this 2017 file photo. Credit: Gabor Degre / BDN

Nasturtiums come in a variety of bright colors, spread to cover quite a bit of ground and are edible. They taste peppery and reminiscent of radishes, so once you and the bees have enjoyed their blooms, toss them in a spring salad. They should be planted in full sun for the best blooms, and should have well-draining soil. Some varieties will crawl as they grow, and can be left on the ground or guided onto a trellis.

The Cooperative Extension and MOFGA also encourages growing alfalfa, daisies, dandelions, goldenrod, hollyhock, mints, marjoram, mums, clover, sunflowers, sweet milkweed and wild mustard, among other plants. For more information on how to support pollinators, MOFGA can be contacted at 207-568-4142, and the Cooperative Extension can be contacted at 207-581-3188.


Leela Stockley

Leela Stockley is an alumna of the University of Maine. She was raised in northern Maine, and loves her cat Wesley, her puppy Percy and staying active in the Maine outdoors.