Blog written by Young Ambassador Charlie Murphy

Helping insect populations is a positive change that all in society should desire to have, and No Mow May is a fantastic opportunity to make that impact and see the difference non-intervention can make.

The overall objective of No Mow May involves just reducing or completely stopping your mowing regime to allow any wildflowers present to grow, to emerge and to then to benefit insects. Run by Plantlife, it’s an initiative that aims to encourage homeowners, councils, and businesses alike to let lawns and green spaces grow throughout May, as well as to promote and celebrate the biodiversity that the UK has to offer in spaces that are left for nature to thrive. 

The desire and temptation of the great British gardener is one of a neatly manicured lawn, immaculately striped and looking impeccable with flowering plants strictly restricted to the borders- this sanitised way of thinking can easily be seen as the pinnacle of ‘ecological tidiness disorder’. Contrary to the popular norms of a British garden, our green spaces can play a vital role in the protection of wildlife and provide a simple building block and evidence of slight behavioural changes that can lead to a fantastic array of biodiversity gains.

Photo of the sign which says Bee Careful, wildflower garden at work

Our homemade sign to inform passing villagers about what we’re doing do help wildlife- hopefully who also see it will join suit.

Collectively we can make a difference in solving the biodiversity crisis; gardens cover more land than all the country’s nature reserves combined. Leaving your mower in the shed, allowing grass to grow and stopping chemical input during May can be a very entertaining and is amazing to see what can rebound in such a short space of time - a true testament to the ability for nature to recover.

The idea of allowing nature to take its course is gaining traction with private households and councils taking part, and the popularity of nature growing throughout the COVID-19 pandemic only further pushes the emphasis on simple nature-friendly lifestyle changes.

Personally, my family and I decided to do No Mow May last year and the results have been mind-blowing.

We started with an area of grass, in a cut off area of a side garden, that was obnoxious to mow and had always been neglected involving any planting or change - it was effectively a blank canvas. Within a week, small patches of flowers appeared.

Germander speedwell was one of the first and a plant that I had never really noted in detail but now, with it flourishing in an area of the garden, I am able to note all the intricate touches and delicate violet details of a delightful garden plant.

Other wildflowers showed in quick succession with dandelions and daisies becoming prominent and small areas of buttercups providing a smattering of colour that had been missing from this area of land for so long.

The nondescript patch of grassland had become ablaze with the vibrant colours of spring, to such an extent that we decided there was no need to mow it again in the summer, to extend No Mow May beyond May and become more fascinated by the life generated from what was once a species-poor patch of land.

The longer we left it, the better it seemed to become and by the end of the summer there were huge stands of Oxeye daises with White Deadnettle dotted around, and best of all, a distinct hum coming from this area of the garden. Clearly there were others taking enjoyment, making a home and finding food from our laziness.

Photo of germander speedwell

Germander Speedwell (Veronica chamaedrys) poking through. Traditionally believed to be good luck for travellers, giving them ‘speed’ on their journey.

This year we have done the same; after one mow in October and one in March, we’ve left this patch to its own devices again. New species are appearing with a cowslip appearing early and now red clover popping up from previously mundane patches of grassland. All the wildflowers have not only an aesthetic value but provide the vital ecological requirement of helping insects. They are pivotal for the survival of the natural world and ensuring that an ecological collapse isn’t to occur.

Photo of white nettlePhoto of red clover

Stands of White Dead-nettle , Red Clover and Oxeye Daises have littered the area and their flowers provide  bursts of colour and, most importantly, an food source for those at the bottom of the food chain.

The notion of ecological abundance is a missing idea in the current landscape.

Insects are a part of that - the abundance of UK flying insects has fallen by over 60% in the last seventeen years. Shifting baseline syndrome is in full effect with people forgetting what the state of nature was like merely years ago. Windscreens would be covered on a warm summers evening in years gone by, but that has now been reduced to barely a scant remainder of former insect populations.

In defiant resilience, I’ve seen in our own little patch the continual use by all insect groups. Small Tortoiseshell butterflies have laid eggs on a patch of stinging nettles, there are anthills dotted throughout the area and a wide spectrum of other invertebrates are seen to make the long grass home based upon the buzz that emanates from the long grass. This is a soundscape that has been lost from so much of the countryside and it’s the silence that shouts the loudest with ecological deterioration.

Photo of yellow meadow ants

Numerous Yellow Meadow Ant (Lasius flavus) nests have shown up just in our small patch and it’s fascinating to watch their daily workings.

Whilst a small patch of ground may seem so insignificant in the wider environmental decline, it’s the collective power of campaigns like No Mow May and the Wildlife Trust’s Action for Insects project that can firstly put the spotlight on the decline and then put it into reverse.

By promoting the growth of wildflowers and enthusing over it, one can then influence over those close to them. This engagement is key to the success of continuing the British publics love for nature. If this can be nurtured, then the small change of leaving a small parcel of land for wildlife to take control can be replicated exponentially.

No one is too small to make a difference and that difference is a vital one.

Discover more about our Action For Insects project

Find out how to make your own meadow