No Mow May: A Bee City Canada Perspective

No Mow May: A Bee City Canada Perspective

No Mow May

No Mow May is an initiative that was first popularized by Plantlife, a UK-based conservation charity, and it is now widely known about and participated in throughout North America. The goal of No Mow May is simple: to discourage people from mowing lawns in May, when spontaneous perennial flowers occurring in lawns provide important food and habitat for pollinators. Variations on this concept, such as the ‘Dandelion Challenge’ in Quebec, may seem different, but encourage the same core principle of reduced spring mowing.

However, with growing popularity, there has been uncertainty around No Mow May’s effectiveness to support pollinators, as well as concern that No Mow May could be drawing attention away from more beneficial and intentional actions, such as actively planting native plants for pollinators. In this article, we provide Bee City Canada’s perspective on No Mow May, including its benefits, where it falls short, and our recommendations about how to support pollinators and ecosystems through reduced mowing, thoughtful management, and intentionally introducing native plants. 


Benefits of No Mow May

No Mow May has been an incredible tool for promoting the lack of ecological value associated with the conventional manicured turf lawn, which has been encouraged as a social norm for far too long. Conventional lawns are close to dead zones for pollinators, providing little to no food and nesting opportunities. No Mow May has not only educated people about this fact, but it has also provided people with a narrative that has empowered them to break the social norm of the conventional lawn, and experiment with inviting nature back into their yards, however imperfect the approach may be. Beyond individuals, No Mow May has had systemic benefits, encouraging many municipalities to endorse the concept of reduced mowing, at least during May. Bit by bit, the narrative of No Mow May has encouraged individuals and governments to shift away from the conventional lawn as the way to manage a yard, and to welcome management approaches that are more ecologically beneficial.  

At Bee City Canada, we see No Mow May as a step in the right direction, and not a destination. The concept can act as a gateway to learning about the actions that can be taken to support pollinators and ecosystems.

Of course, by not constantly mowing a lawn, it is more likely that some spontaneously occurring  flowers will survive and have the opportunity to bloom and provide food for pollinators. This, of course, is something – more than what is offered by a manicured lawn. But many of the flowers that spontaneously appear are non-native in Canada, such as dandelions, crocuses, and white clover. In the UK, where No Mow May originated, dandelions and white clover are native and pollinators have had the opportunity to co-evolve with them, but in North America, that is not the case. These plants do still provide pollen and nectar, which is beneficial, but they are not ideal food sources for native pollinators in North America; for example, dandelion pollen can help to supplement bees’ diets, but on its own, it is a relatively poor protein source. 

Despite the benefits of No Mow May to pollinators having limitations in terms of food and shelter, No Mow May does have some other important benefits. For example, by simply encouraging people to leave mowers in the shed, No Mow May is reducing greenhouse gas emissions associated with mowing – a step toward climate change mitigation. This benefit can be especially powerful when mowing is reduced at a large scale, such as in the case of municipal land management. By encouraging a more natural aesthetic, No Mow May also reduces the motivation for some people to use chemicals, such as pesticides and herbicides, and excessive amounts of water for yard maintenance. 


Where No Mow May falls short

As we began to discuss, spontaneously occurring plants are often non-native and not ideal food sources for bees and other pollinators. In some cases, the approach of allowing spontaneously occurring plants to grow could even contribute to the spread of invasive species, which is something that should be avoided. The more intentional approach of actively planting native plants in your yard and nurturing a diverse plant community will always be the best choice if your goal is to support pollinators, and we will explore this more in the section that follows. 

Another area where No Mow May falls short is the time window. May is indeed a critical time for pollinators in need of food sources, but so is March and April, when some pollinators emerge from hibernation, and later from August to October, when many pollinators are reproducing and preparing for hibernation. Though No Mow May is a catchy title that helps to spread the word, limiting action to such a brief window is not ideal if your goal is to support pollinators. 

Perhaps most importantly, while No Mow May brings people into the conversation, it may leave some people with a limited understanding of how to most effectively support pollinators and ecosystems in their yard. While the initiative was clearly designed to get people in the door, and not across the finish line, there is some risk that No Mow May could be giving some people the feeling that they are taking a significant step to support pollinators, when more realistically they are taking a first step. In the section that follows, we will provide more nuanced recommendations to support pollinators and ecosystems. 


Our recommendation

Once you have opened your mind to the possibilities of what a yard beyond manicured turf can look like, there is no reason to limit yourself to reducing mowing during May. We encourage the active management of yards for pollinators throughout the growing season, from early spring to fall. The best way to do this is by actively planting and managing native plant pollinator gardens. You may wish to start small and plant a few native plants in your yard. Perhaps you would like to plant a larger native plant garden along the sides of your backyard while keeping some turfgrass for recreation. Maybe you would even like to go as far as converting the entire yard into a native plant pollinator garden, as many of us at Bee City Canada have done! Regardless of how much space you would like to devote to gardening for pollinators, here is how we recommend that you go about creating these spaces:

  • Prioritize plants that are native to your region. Native plants have evolved with native pollinators to provide valuable pollen and nectar resources, and to thrive in your climate without the need for excessive watering and chemical inputs. Native plants will support the wonderful diversity of native pollinators that are indigenous to your area. Check out Pollinator Partnership Canada’s Ecoregional Planting Guides and Find Your Roots plant selection tool to learn which plants to plant where you live. 
  • Incorporate a range of plants that provide food for pollinators from spring to fall. Early spring and late fall can be difficult times for pollinators to find blooming plants, despite being critical periods in many pollinators’ lifecycles. For example, most bumble bee species emerge from hibernation in early spring and produce new queens in late fall, and therefore these are critical times in their lifecycle where they need floral resources in order to initiate colonies (spring) and produce reproductive bees (late summer and fall) that will initiate colonies the next year. 
  • Include pollinator host plants. Many pollinators have evolved specialized relationships with particular plant species, and depend on them to lay their eggs. A well known example of this is the reliance of monarch butterfly larvae on milkweed. But many other native flowers, trees, and grasses provide larval food for hundreds of other types of butterflies, like the tiger swallowtails.
  • Leave bare soil patches, stems, and dead stalks as nesting space. While managed honeybees live in human-made hives, the vast majority of bee species (>90%) nest underground, in plant stems, in old beetle burrows in wood, and in other natural cavities. Be inspired by nature to include some of these elements in your garden. 
  • Avoid insecticides. Some insecticides can harm pollinators when they come into contact with them. Always read pesticide labels, follow pesticide restrictions, and look for warnings that they may be harmful to bees.


No Mow May: Some final thoughts

No Mow May has had a profound positive impact across Canada, primarily by opening up the hearts and minds of people to the idea that yards can be havens for nature. Reduced mowing, when done right (check out the Canadian Wildlife Federation’s Rethinking Mowing document for some tips!), has many benefits, including increased food availability for pollinators. But it is important to view reduced mowing as a first step, not a major leap, when it comes to supporting pollinators. To best support pollinators, we highly recommend actively planting and managing native plant pollinator gardens; by doing this, you can be certain that you are providing critical food and shelter for local pollinators. 

Bee City Canada is merging with Pollinator Partnership Canada

Bee City Canada is merging with Pollinator Partnership Canada

NAPPC Award Canada

By the end of this year, Bee City Canada will come under Pollinator Partnership Canada’s guidance as a signature initiative.

Pollinator Partnership Canada (P2C) is a registered charity dedicated to the protection and promotion of pollinators and their ecosystems through conservation, education, and research. Bee City Canada will continue to offer our programs and reach more communities across the country.

What does this means?
Shelly Candel, Bee City Canada’s founder and Director is passing the torch on to Vicki Wojcik, Director of P2C to continue Bee City Canada’s important work.

Our current Bee City Canada programs and our website at will remain the same as we continue our mission to protect Canada’s pollinators through education and community action. Most of the changes are behind the scenes. Expect the same enthusiasm and commitment to serve and support our Bee City Partners.

A Message From Shelly Candel, Founder & Director of Bee City Canada.

A Message From Vicki Wojcik, Director of Pollinator Partnership Canada.

2020 NAPPC Pollinator Advocate Canada Award

2020 NAPPC Pollinator Advocate Canada Award

NAPPC Award Canada
Shelly Candel is proud to accept the 2020 NAPPC Pollinator Advocate Canada award from Pollinator Partnership.

Thank you so much, Vicki, for your very kind introduction.

Good day everyone!! I wish to congratulate all the other recipients on receiving this bee-utiful award.

I wouldn’t be here today if not for Phyllis Stiles. A dear friend, my mentor, the founder, long-time director, and the brilliance and passion behind Bee City USA.

So, I’d like to share with you the 3 important things I have learned since starting Bee City Canada almost 5 years ago.

Shelly Candel Pollinator Partnership Award

SHARE POSITIVE MESSAGES…and the world-wide movement of “Regenerative Agricuture” is a message we all need to be sharing and promoting. If you are not sure what it is all about,  there is a new film out called  “KISS THE GROUND”,  available on Netflix.

BUILD RELATIONSHIPS with our indigenous brothers and sisters across the Americas.   There is so much we can learn from their ancestoral wisdom.  I am so honoured and proud that  2 First Nation Communites, T’it’q’et and Xwisten, both in British Columbia,  joined the Bee City Family.  Through them and an Anishinaabe elder, Mary Anne Caibaiosai, I learned the meaning of relationships, whether about our relationship to the land, or the plants, or the flyers, or the crawlers, or the swimmers, or the 4-legged, or even the 2-legged,…All relationships should have qualities of respect, reciprocity and responsibility.

TO BUILD A BETTER FUTURE WE NEED TO FOCUS ON EDUCATING OUR CHILDREN…  Children. care and they want to make a positive difference on this planet.   Let’s give them the tools to make this happen.   Every school should have a garden, and every child should feel their hands in mother earth and plant the seeds needed for a healthier landscape for our pollinators.   And every child, should be EXCITED, not afraid when they see a bee!

Thank you so much.

Shelly Candel

Director, Bee City Canada

2019: A Year in Review from Our Director

2019: A Year in Review from Our Director

Bee City Canada founder and director Shelly Candel on the strides we made in 2019:

Many thanks to all of you for supporting Bee City Canada in 2019 and especially our Bee City volunteers including our board directors for offering their time, passion and wisdom.

Over this past year, 39 new Bee City family members across Canada committed to protecting pollinators. Yippbee! This included 4 new Bee Campuses, 12 Bee Cities, 10 Businesses and 13 Schools. If you are looking to feel inspired, please take some time and look through these applications. You will find them on our web site. Our newest Bee City, The City of Calgary, has an exceptional and ambitious application committed to restore 20% of open spaces (832 ha) by 2025.

The beautiful pollinator gardens at Wintergreen Studios, who joined the Bee City family in 2019.

Although we are mainly a volunteer organization, we have brought on a talented young staff person, Caitlin Brant. She holds a Masters degree in Conservation Biology and I hope you will get the opportunity to meet and speak with her in the coming year.

When I started Bee City Canada close to 4 years ago, my main objective was simply to help our pollinators. What was clear, however, was that Phyllis Stiles, the founder and director of Bee City USA, had created something really. I am truly grateful to call her a friend and I can’t thank her enough for the difference she has made in my life and also the impact the Bee City phenomena has had on over 200 Bee City affiliates across Canada and the USA. Phyllis will soon retire and Bee City USA will be taken over by the Xerces Society. Knowing Phyllis, she will continue to work for pollinators in other capacities.

From the start, this has been a journey of love and passion for pollinators and people, a philosophy which is still deeply important to us here at Bee City Canada today. I continue to get such a thrill visiting new Bee Cities across Canada and chatting with pollinator champions, who are making such a tremendous difference in their communities. I love learning about bees and other pollinators, as well as the plants who depend on them for the life-giving process we call pollination.

Stein Valley Nlakapamux School in BC also joined Bee City in 2019. They have their very own farm to teach kids about the importance of pollinators!

The role of farmers and gardeners across Canada, and indeed the world, are vital to the success of pollinators going forward. We, as consumers, have the responsibility to ensure that we buy into regenerative agriculture and support farmers who support our environment . Regenerative agriculture encourages biodiversity of microbial life below the ground and at the same time encourages buzzing of all kinds of beneficial insects above ground, including those glorious bees!! The benefits of regenerative farming not only aid our pollinators but also mitigates climate change through carbon storage and a reduction in flooding.

I’m extremely excited to introduce several new initiatives for 2020. As a way of recognising the impact we as individuals have on the wellbeing of pollinators across Canada we have created the “Pollinator Pledge”. The pledge is a designation given to people who commit their yard, garde or balcony to the benefit of pollinators. Another initiative were introducing is the “Bee School Ambassador Program” which will see pollinator champions running workshops at schools nationwide. We also look forward to hosting the “Ontario Bee City Campus” summit where experts in the field of pollinator conservation will be sharing their findings on the state of pollinators and what Canadians can do to help.

“Mother Earth is so generous. If only we give her a chance, she will restore everything in absolute abundance and beauty.” Sadghuru

I wish all of our pollinator friends a very joyous holiday season!


Pollinator Champion Feature: Grace of Bumble Kids

Pollinator Champion Feature: Grace of Bumble Kids

Grace, of New Brunswick, is a 10-year-old entrepreneur who created a pollinator-friendly initiative to get kids across Canada into gardening! We interviewed Grace on how she learnt about pollinators and why they are so special to her. Grace and her mom, Cheryl, started Bumble Kids in 2019, a gardening kit for kids that includes native sunflowers.


At such a young age it’s incredible that you are so devoted to helping bees. What was it that first got you so interested in protecting pollinators?

In grade 4, I was asked to do an entrepreneur project about whatever I wanted. I decided to create sunflower kits to help our pollinators.

Grace and mom Cheryl, created Bumble Kid Kits to get kids into gardening and help pollinators.

My mom and I planted flowers and we talked about bees and pollinators she told me people were concerned that they weren’t getting enough food. We watched a few videos and found Bee City’s website. It was sad to learn about what is happening to bee colonies, but I liked that my flowers could help.

When you tell your friends at school what you do at Bumble Kids, such as sending ‘Sunflower Starter Kits’ all over Canada for pollinators, how do they react?

They think it’s cool and want to help too. Lots of kids like planting the seeds and a few friends want to help me make the kits for others.

How does it make you feel when you see birds, bees, butterflies and other insects enjoying your garden at home?

It makes me feel happy because they’re getting their breakfast, lunch or dinner and all we had to do was plant flowers. Mom likes to let the dandelions grow in the spring. She says that they are the bees first meal when they wake up. Not everyone likes seeing them on lawns, but I’m happy they’re getting some food.

What’s the most important part about protecting Bees in your opinion?

Bees and other pollinators help our flowers grow, but they also help our fruit grow too. If we help protect them, they will help us. Without them, food would be more expensive or even worse, some foods like fruit may be harder to get.

When you are older, what job do you want to do? Do you think it will be related to helping bees or maybe other animals?

I want to be a teacher because it would be a good way to help kids like me learn about what’s happening in the world around them. I think most kids care about animals, our planet and the environment. It would be fun to help them learn more and even start their own projects that could help make lives better for us and our environment.


I know that your mom is so supportive of your commitment to pollinators through Bumble Kids, was it so easy to convince other members of your family, or even your friends, To help out?

I’m lucky. I have a lot of help and support from my family. My older sister helps with the Bumble Kits too. I have some great friends who love animals. My best friend Chloe wants to be a veterinarian… she loves all animals and isn’t afraid to pick up any insect! She’s a lot of fun and we have a lot in common. She’s looking forward to helping Bumble Kids in the Spring.

Some children might be a little nervous or shy about getting their hands dirty with soil or maybe they are even scared of bees, what would you say to them to help them overcome their fears?

It’s fun to plant flowers. You can get gardening gloves in so many colours and it’s fun to use the spade to dig up the earth. We make flower beds with new soil too. We get it from the gardening store. It’s fluffy and feels clean. Getting a little dirty is fun and it’s good exercise too. I used to be afraid of bees, but then I noticed they really don’t even know I’m watching them and Bumblebees are very cute. They’re a little chubby and furry, while honeybees are smaller and thinner (I guess that’s because they get a lot of exercise working to get honey for the colony).

Getting stuck in.

Bees will only sting you if they were scared. So if you calmly walk away and just watch them working you’ll see how sweet and pretty they really are.

Bumble Kids is already a HUGE success that’s no doubt helped soo many bees already all over Canada. What does the future hold for Bumble Kids going into 2020?

I would like more schools to teach kids about our pollinators and how gardens and planting flowers can help. It would be fun for schools to have their own gardens. Some schools have vegetable gardens while other schools have flowers. My school plants marigolds in the spring, but it would be fun to have more projects that would teach kids about our climate and protecting our environment. We are talking to organizations and teachers who can help create classroom tools that can help bring more focus to our pollinators and make learning about our environment fun!

Visit Grace’s website and get your Bumble Kid Sunflower Kits today:

Interested in becoming a Bee School? Check out our application page for more details:

About the Author:

Caitlin Brant joined Bee City Canada in 2019 as Program Director. Caitlin’s expertise lies in science education and awareness, including youth engagement. She graduated with a Master’s of Science in Conservation Biology from the University of Kent in 2018.

Another Great Year!

Another Great Year!

Dear friends,

2018 proved to be another exciting and encouraging year at Bee City Canada, with an ever-expanding list of cities, towns, schools, businesses and other organizations stepping forward and committing to protect the health of our pollinators. By year’s end:

Looking Ahead

Early signs for things to come in 2019 have us further excited!

  • More Bee City Communities – We have been in contact with several new cities, businesses and schools that plan to join our growing Bee City family in the new year.
  • Free Webinars – Look out for our free, public webinars featuring experts on pollinators, plants and other subjects.                     

We close off by wholeheartedly thanking you, our friends across Canada and elsewhere, for your continued support and commitment to protecting our cherished pollinators. 2019 promises to be another busy year and we look forward to it with much anticipation.

Happy Holidays!

The Bee City Canada team

Please Support our Work

Bee City Canada depends on the generosity of our donors and sponsors. With your help, we can continue to support our school programs, educational activities and work towards creating a more pollinator-friendly Canada.

Bee City Canada is a federally-recognized charity, registration number 745761692 RR0001.