Mowing less frequently along Florida’s highways may boost pollinator biodiversity, according to new research in the journal Florida Entomologist.
Pollinators visit flowers searching for food in the forms of nectar and pollen, and mowing less would increase the natural food supply for bees, butterflies, and other pollinators, the study finds.
Officials from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) supported scientists from the University of Florida because they want to create an environment that fosters biodiversity and conserves critical ecosystem services like pollination.
The department must mow to maintain aesthetics and clear an area of safety for pedestrians, but reduced mowing could cut costs by 30 percent in addition to the benefits for pollinators.
“Our new study will provide mowing recommendations for the FDOT,” said Jaret Daniels, one of the co-authors. “FDOT is committed to biodiversity conservation and ecological services that roadsides can offer. They additionally have a strong commitment to pollinator and monarch butterfly conservation. Mowing less frequently has the potential to accomplish the FDOT’s objectives and enhance the abundance of floral resources.”
For the study, the researchers examined stretches of road that were mowed every six weeks, every three weeks, or not at all.
“The no-mow treatment yielded the greatest numbers of live butterflies from late summer into early fall,” they wrote. “The results suggest a less frequent mowing regime would increase butterfly numbers in roadside margins.”
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